SHAPIRO PASSES SCHOOL FINANCE

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SHAPIRO PASSES SCHOOL FINANCE Powered By Docstoc
					MAY 13, 2005
CONTACT: florence.shapiro@senate.state.tx.us or 512/463-0108

SHAPIRO PASSES SCHOOL FINANCE
Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-District 8, this week passed CSHB 2, the school finance plan,
by a vote of 27-4. The bill raises education standards, increases academic and
financial accountability and offers a teacher pay raise, puts in place a "P-16 Pipeline"
for educational excellence from pre-K through college, and reduces property taxes for
homeowners and businesses.


                                                  "This bill is the embodiment of the
                                                  hard work we in the Senate have put
                                                  in over the past two years," Shapiro
                                                  said of the plan, called Texas
                                                  Children First. "Our plan aptly
                                                  demonstrates that our priorities are
                                                  in the right order--educational
                                                  reform and excellence in the
                                                  classroom, and a decreased burden
                                                  on property taxpayers."

                                                  Shapiro reiterated her commitment
                                                  to the schoolchildren and taxpayers
                                                  of Texas, and offered up a plan that
                                                  directs dollars where they can have
the greatest impact--in the classroom. The bill gives teachers an average salary
increase of $4,000 by 2007, with an across-the-board pay raise of $1000 in 2005-2006
and the restoration of the $1,000 pass-through as salary with the option for
employees to use this as a tax-free health care supplement.

In addition, teachers will receive another $1,500 pay raise in 2006-2007. An
additional $500 per teacher would be available for performance-based incentives.

"We can agree to disagree on taxes or transportation, on the budget or even on the
border," Shapiro said, "but we must never disagree when it comes to our children. We
owe it to our children to give them the kind of education we all desire and that they
all deserve."



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Aside from money in the classroom, CSHB 2 reduces school property taxes to $1.15 in
2005-2006 and $1.10 beginning in 2007. It also significantly reduces recapture by
more than 60 percent.

Shapiro's plan shifts the focus from finances to educational reform by creating a "P-16
Pipeline" to help ensure post-secondary success for high school students. The bill
contains several reform measures to help Texas high school students earn college
credit through completion of the high school curriculum and provides links between K-
12 schools and institutions of higher education through the provision of electronic
transcripts.

The bill also changes the landscape of accountability by measuring student
performance gains. Schools in need of technical assistance will receive it, and those
that repeatedly fall short will face consequences. The same holds true for charter
schools.

"We will encourage excellence by rewarding those high-performing charters that
produce outstanding results with students," Shapiro said. "And, we will hold public
charter districts accountable in the same manner we do public school districts. We
need to know what kinds of results are being produced in all public schools and we
need to close those that repeatedly do not make the grade."

In addition to performance accountability, Shapiro also focused on financial
accountability, recognizing the importance that taxpayer dollars be spent efficiently
and effectively. CSHB 2 includes provisions to increase taxpayer transparency,
accessible district and campus financial reporting and full disclosure of every dollar
spent.

"I am confident that this package will bring about meaningful reform that will make a
difference in the lives of all Texans, most importantly, our children," Shapiro said.


SHAPIRO PASSES EMERGING TECHNOLOGY FUND
Through passage of SB 831, which creates the Emerging Technology Fund, Sen.
Shapiro last week helped secure Texas' prominence in the global market place. The
bill helps to expedite the development of new technologies, as well as the marketing
and manufacturing of those products right here in Texas, through university, college
and private partnerships.

The bill originated with the idea by Gov. Rick Perry, as well as representatives of both
the academic world and the high tech industry.

"As the economy of tomorrow will be based on research and technological advances,"
Shapiro said, "and since Texas will be competing not only with California, New York,
Michigan and Pennsylvania, but Europe, Asia and India as well, now is the time to
provide our state with the ability to facilitate and incubate research growth and the
commercialization of advanced technologies."

The Emerging Technology Fund will help secure Texas' prominence in the global
market place by doing three things:

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   • Fostering and incentivizing public-private partnerships through Regional
     Centers of Innovation and Commercialization to be located throughout the
     state. This Fund will allow an idea to move from concept to marketplace
     quickly.

   • Acquiring research superiority. Texas will actively seek out-of-state research
     experts and transplant them to Texas.

   • Matching federal research grants in order to bring more projects to Texas. Not
     only will out of state researchers be recruited, but those already calling Texas
     home will be rewarded as well.


"Not only will these programs benefit academic researchers and private industries,"
Shapiro said, "the ideas of today will become the innovative technologies of
tomorrow; and through the Emerging Tech Fund we can ensure that they will be
researched, developed and ultimately marketed right here in the Lone Star State."

The bill now goes to the House, where it is being sponsored by Rep. Geanie Morrison,
R-Victoria.


SHAPIRO FOCUSES ON HIGHER EDUCATION

                                                      In an effort to improve
                                                      education on all levels, pre-K
                                                      through college and beyond,
                                                      Sen. Shapiro recently passed
                                                      two measures focusing on higher
                                                      education. Among those was a
                                                      statewide assessment and
                                                      accountability system for public
                                                      institutions of higher education.

                                                       Senate Bill 1228, passed by
                                                       Shapiro last week, addresses
                                                       concerns surrounding increased
                                                       tuition rates over the last year
as a result of tuition deregulation. She says Texans deserve to know how well their
institutions are performing both against other state schools and on a national scale
with this new system.

Such comparisons will allow legislators to determine whether a school should spend
current revenue more efficiently or if tuition increases will help them perform at a
higher level.

"I believe that an effective accountability system will bring about improved
performance," Shapiro said. "It is only through this system that we can determine if
tuition increases are appropriate or outrageous, and can clearly see where Texans
dollars are going."

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This bill directs the Higher Education Coordinating Board to develop composite or
similar measures for each of the four 'Closing the Gaps' goals, as well as create
efficiency and effectiveness measures to better track progress. The goals include:
       • Participation--increase the number of students to 500,000 by 2015;
       • Success--increase the number of degrees awarded;
       • Excellence--increase the number of nationally recognized programs and
            services;
       • Research--increase the level of research funding awarded to schools; and
       • Financial--increase efficiency and effectiveness in managing and using
            funds.

The other bill was a financial aid measure, Senate Bill 1227, which streamlines the
enrollment requirements and years of eligibility to receive TEXAS Grants and Texas
Equalization Grants (TEG). It also requires TEG recipients to maintain a 2.5 GPA to
remain eligible and provides institutions the flexibility to offer less than the maximum
award for TEXAS Grants.

"Financial aid is essential for promoting participation and encouraging success by
allowing students to prepare for, enroll in, and graduate from institutions of higher
education," Shapiro said. "And, it is essential in the state's goals of Closing the Gaps,"
an initiative to increase college enrollment by 2015.

The bill also allows students to enroll on an accounts-receivable basis for tuition and
fees; it expands the state's emergency tuition and fee loan program to allow awards
for textbooks; and it renames the TEXAS Grant II Program the Texas Educational
Opportunity Grant.

Additionally, Shapiro's bill directs the Higher Education Coordinating Board to develop
and provide comprehensive financial aid training for public school counselors,
community-based organizations and others to ensure a reliable and consistent source
of information. Finally, the bill requires the Coordinating Board to provide a report
on the cost of attendance an major sources of financial aid, including grants, loans,
scholarships, gifts, work study and private sources.

SHAPIRO STRENGTHENS SEX OFFENDER LAWS
Continuing her battle against sexual predators in Texas, Sen. Shapiro authored SB
912, which has passed out of the Senate and is expected to be voted out of the
House as early as next week, and expands the civil commitment procedure for
sexually violent predators.

In 1999, Shapiro created a process of civil commitment. The Legislature found that
there was a small but extremely dangerous group of sexually violent predators with a
behavior abnormality that wasn't amenable to traditional treatment, and
subsequently found it in the best interest of the public to create a system which
would monitor and treat these individuals--even after their prison sentences are over.

"This commitment is a civil process in which an offender is found by a court to be a
sexually violent predator," Shapiro said.

Civil commitment requires lifelong electronic tracking and intense rehabilitative
therapy, and prohibits these predators from activities and areas involving children.
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The judge can also add any other conditions he deems necessary, with violation of
such conditions carrying the penalty of a third degree felony.

Senate Bill 912 expands eligible offenders to include those charged with sexually-
motivated homicides. Current law states that if a person is released with two or
more sexually violent offenses they are eligible for commitment. SB 912 amends this
statute to specify that a "sexually motivated homicide" will count towards these two
offenses.

"As shocking as it is, some of the worst predators will be released from our criminal
justice system because they were tried under the old sentencing laws of the 70s and
80s," Shapiro said. "We must have a mechanism to ensure that these individuals are
monitored upon release, and SB 912 strengthens the civil commitment process and
fills this need."

SB 912 was sponsored by Rep. Ray Allen, R-Grand Prairie, in the House.




                                    STATE NEWS

SENATE PASSES TAX REFORM PLAN
The Texas Senate this week approved a plan to drastically change the state's tax
assessment system, in order to fund public education, reduce property taxes and
create a level playing field for all businesses. The Committee Substitute to House Bill
3, by Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, makes up the finance component of the Senate's
plan for public education funding reform, found in Sen. Shapiro's CSHB 3.



                                        The final bill eliminated the proposed state
                                        property tax, which had been a provision of
                                        the Senate plan since the beginning of
                                        session. The bill would lower property taxes
                                        to $1.10 per $100 valuation over the next
                                        biennium, with a 15 cent local enrichment
                                        subject to voter approval.

                                        While Shapiro believes creating a statewide
                                        property tax is "the best way to have the most
                                        equitable system," and end recapture. The
votes were not there to do so.

She believes the compromises allow the bill to move forward, as well as put forth a
good working product for a conference committee.

"This bill meets each of the goals we set for ourselves in January," Shapiro said, "and
provides funding for the reforms we will make in the classroom."


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The bill includes a choice plan that applies to all business entities, other than sole
proprietorships, for the privilege of doing business in Texas.

Under the bill, a business entity may elect to pay the lesser of the revised franchise
tax or a payroll tax, however the tax liability may not be less than 0.25% of a
business's gross receipts (.25 cents per $100 of total receipts).

The components of the plan are as follows:

The Revised Franchise Tax

The revised franchise tax is the current franchise tax with the following changes:
   • In calculating earned surplus, employee compensation is added to federal
      taxable income; a $30,000 deduction is provided for each full-time employee,
      up to 50% of compensation
   • A deduction is provided for health benefits paid for Texas employees; the
      deduction is limited to $150,000 or 10% of the apportioned earned surplus
   • The rate is reduced to 2.5 % (from 4.5%)

The Payroll Tax

The payroll tax is applied to all wages paid to full-time and part-time employees of a
business entity.
   • The rate is 1.75%
The tax may not exceed $1,500 per employee

As with the current franchise tax, a business entity with annual gross receipts of less
than $150,000 is not required to pay tax.

"This is a work in progress," Shapiro said, "and our conference committee work will be
of the utmost importance."

TRANSPORTATION NEWS
The Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee last week passed
Senate Bill 1706, an omnibus transportation bill. The bill addressed various
transportation issues, including toll roads.

After meeting with constituents and listening to their concerns over toll road
revenue, Sen Shapiro amended the bill to keep excess toll revenue at the local level.
Her amendment requires surplus revenue for toll roads--above the cost of
maintenance--be used to fund another project in the same TxDOT district in which
the toll road is located.

"This provision will ensure that toll dollars generated in North Texas will stay in North
Texas to further our infrastructure needs," Shapiro said.


Senate Unanimously Passes Asbestos Lawsuit Reform
After ten years of searching for a balanced, bipartisan solution to the increasing
number of asbestos lawsuits clogging the state's courts, the Senate unanimously

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passed a measure today that proposes to reduce the number of claims while
protecting the rights of the afflicted. Senate Bill 15 would address a number of
problems associated with asbestos and silica litigations.

People who inhale asbestos or silica matter in the course of their work over a number
of years are prone to a number of different disorders, ranging from decreased lung
capacity to mesothelioma, a deadly kind of lung cancer. Workers who are exposed to
asbestos or silica are entitled to damages, but there are some problems surrounding
these claims. Currently, once someone knows that they have been exposed to
asbestos or silica, they must file a claim within two years or they forfeit their right to
sue. Because many of the diseases associated with asbestos or silica exposure take
years to develop, someone who sues before actual impairment can be demonstrated
may receive damages that are less than they would have received if they were
actually sick. That settlement might not cover the health-care costs incurred once
actual illness develops.

SB 15 would eliminate the statute of limitations, allowing anyone who is exposed to
asbestos or silica to preserve their right to sue when or if actual illness develops. In
fact, another provision of SB 15 would require a claimant to demonstrate actual
impairment before they could file a claim. This is an effort to reduce the backlog of
asbestos or silica lawsuits that are filling Texas courts.


OMNIBUS HOMELAND SECURITY BILL
The Senate has approved a measure to improve the state's homeland security system
through increased vigilance over Texas' agriculture and water supplies. Senate Bill 9
comes as a result of an interim charge to the Transportation and Homeland Security
Committee to formulate recommendations to reduce the danger to Texans from acts
of terrorism.

"Homeland security and protecting the physical safety of all 22 million men, women
and children who live here in the state of Texas is our highest priority," said Lt.
Governor David Dewhurst.

The unifying theme of this bill is mutual aid agreement, where communication and
cooperation between relevant state agencies is made easier. SB 9 would permit the
Texas Department of Agriculture to contract with private entities to set up
checkpoints on roads to ensure the safety of the state's food supply. It also increases
the number of state agencies represented on the Homeland Security Council and to
the Health Alert Network. The Governor's Office would oversee an interoperable radio
and computer communications program to keep the lines of communication open in
the event of a state emergency.

SB 9 also takes steps to protect the state's water supply. For example, public water
supply facilities would be required to notify authorities if security at a site is
compromised by an unauthorized trespasser. The bill also increases the penalty for
trespassing at a critical infrastructure facility, increasing the charge from a Class B to
a Class A misdemeanor for trespassing at a refinery, port, water supply or chemical
manufacturing plant.


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                            FOR YOUR INFORMATION…
HIGHER EDUCATION'S AFFECT ON TEXAS ECONOMY
More than 1.15 million students are enrolled in the state's public and private
institutions of higher education, according to the Perryman Texas Letter. This
includes 145 colleges and universities, technical schools and health-related
centers, with 90 percent of all students at publicly-funded schools.

Higher education affects the Texas economy in two major areas: the injection of
money from sales, income and employment sources; and by fostering a better-
educated workforce. A recent Comptroller study reported that for every dollar
spent on higher education, Texas gets $5.50 in return.

JOB-RATE UP ACROSS TEXAS
Some 136,800 new jobs have been added to the Texas economy over the past
year, the Perryman Texas Letter reports. This broad-based expansion reflects a
1.5 percent growth rate indicating more than 10 million Texans are now
employed.

Some of those new jobs have been created in Collin and Dallas Counties,
including a $100 million project for Baylor University Medical Center. Baylor's
main campus is expanding through a 75,000 square foot emergency room with 71
beds, as well as a 150,000 square foot outpatient facility and parking garage.

Additionally, Nextel Communications in Allen has leased a 46,000 square foot
space for a retrofit and refurbishment center, which is the only one of its kind in
the industry. And, Advanced Optical Component is planning a move to Allen, with
150 new jobs.


DPS REGISTERED SEX OFFENDER DATABASE AVAILABLE ONLINE
To search for any registered sex offenders living in your area--FOR FREE--go to the
DPS Crime Records Web site (http://records.txdps.state.tx.us/) and click on the link
that says “Sex Offender Registry” located on the right-hand side of the page. You
must read the caveats and click on the link at the bottom of the page.

Once inside the website, you may search by offender name or zip code, or you may
do an area search using mapping software. Information on registered sex offenders
includes their name and address, a photo, the law enforcement agency where the
offender is registered and information about the offense(s) for which the offender
was required to register as a sex offender.




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                                    A WORD FROM THE SENATOR…


                         "With only a few weeks left in the 79th Legislative
                         Session, I am pleased with the work our Collin
                         County delegation has accomplished thus far, and
                         I am excited by the opportunities that still lie
                         ahead. I remain committed to working toward an
                         excellent education for every Texas child, pre-K
                         through college and beyond."




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