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Capitol Briefs

Fri., May 25, 2007

Members of the House of Representatives had to run this gauntlet of
TV-bearing activists at the House chamber entrance on Tuesday. They were
pushing for a provision to require television manufacturers selling
products in Texas to take back and recycle customers’ old televisions,
to be added to Angleton Republican Dennis Bonnen’s widely popular House
Bill 2714, and its identical Senate companion, Kirk Watson’s Senate Bill
1324, which establish statewide take-back standards for computers,
monitors, and laptops, at the behest of already-recycling computer
makers Dell and Hewlett-Packard.
 <br>      E-waste crusaders Texas Campaign for the Environment led the charge
to include TVs in the e-recycling bills; TCE director Robin Schneider
accused Bonnen, under pressure from manufacturers, of threatening to
kill the original bill if his colleagues amended it. Schneider said four
states have passed TV-inclusive take-back laws so far, and emphasized
the urgency of a TV take-back measure as the approaching advent of
digital TV is expected to make many old sets obsolete. TCE contends that
take-back laws push manufacturers to make more recyclable, less-toxic
machines and create jobs in the growing e-recycling industry.
<br>       Having already passed the House, the computer take-back legislation
passed the Senate late Tuesday night, but without including TVs.
   – <i>Daniel Mottola</i>
Members of the House of Representatives had to run this gauntlet of TV-bearing activists at the House chamber entrance on Tuesday. They were pushing for a provision to require television manufacturers selling products in Texas to take back and recycle customers’ old televisions, to be added to Angleton Republican Dennis Bonnen’s widely popular House Bill 2714, and its identical Senate companion, Kirk Watson’s Senate Bill 1324, which establish statewide take-back standards for computers, monitors, and laptops, at the behest of already-recycling computer makers Dell and Hewlett-Packard.
E-waste crusaders Texas Campaign for the Environment led the charge to include TVs in the e-recycling bills; TCE director Robin Schneider accused Bonnen, under pressure from manufacturers, of threatening to kill the original bill if his colleagues amended it. Schneider said four states have passed TV-inclusive take-back laws so far, and emphasized the urgency of a TV take-back measure as the approaching advent of digital TV is expected to make many old sets obsolete. TCE contends that take-back laws push manufacturers to make more recyclable, less-toxic machines and create jobs in the growing e-recycling industry.
Having already passed the House, the computer take-back legislation passed the Senate late Tuesday night, but without including TVs. – Daniel Mottola

• A bill granting meet-and-confer contract negotiations to Austin's rank and file, non-public-safety employees, looks dead in the water. House Bill 2184, which would let municipal employee union American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees represent the city's workers in bargaining, seemed destined to pass the Senate until Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, intervened. No Senate bill can come up for consideration unless two-thirds of senators agree to hear it. Shapiro objected to sponsor Kirk Watson's motion to bring the bill for a vote, citing vague concerns that meet and confer was being overimplemented throughout the state. The two-thirds vote narrowly failed, 18-10, preventing senators from voting on it; with sine die Monday, it's unlikely to get further consideration. – Wells Dunbar

• The Lege has voted to include the Elgin and Smithville ISDs in the Austin Community College District. The legislation, HB 3236, was authored by Rep. Robert Cook, D-Eagle Lake. The change means that Elgin and Smithville high school students will have access to ACC's Early College Start Program, which lets high school students take college classes at a discount. "The change allows Elgin and Smithville school administrators to transition their students into higher education," said ACC district President Dr. Stephen B. Kinslow. – Michael May

• A bill to provide additional oversight to the Health and Human Services Commission's Texas Integrated Eligibility Redesign System, or TIERS, passed through the Senate Tuesday night. The TIERS system, which combines enrollment in state social-service programs through upgraded computer software, has been under heavy attack this session, especially after critical state audits and the cancellation of a contract with vendor Accenture. HB 3575, carried by Jane Nelson, R-Lewisville, in the Senate, would provide increased monitoring and a legislative oversight committee. Specifically, the committee would ensure the agency makes progress in making enrollment faster and simpler. – Kimberly Reeves

• A bill to tweak the city's homestead preservation district, HB 470, passed the Senate on Tuesday night with only minor adjustments. Kirk Watson, who carried the bill, said last session's homestead preservation district bill created the concept and boundaries of an Eastside district. This session's bill set out some practical enabling legislation. Austin Dems Eddie Rodriguez and Dawnna Dukes carried the bill in the House. Austin's homestead preservation district, which is in both Reps' districts, is intended to create a land trust to preserve long-term affordability for local housing. – K.R.

• With numerous bills killed on a backlog of the House calendar – the House passed eight bills on Tuesday in the same time the Senate passed almost 150 – Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, offered up her dropout intervention bill as a vehicle for Senate education bills that were lost on the House calendars. Some of the bills amended included Shapiro's charter school accountability bill, three bills aimed at training and certifying teachers for students with disabilities, plus a bill supporting teacher reading academies, among others. – K.R.

• Lawmakers in the Texas House killed two questionable abortion-related bills, using technical moves to avoid bringing them up for a vote. Harold Dutton, D-Houston, successfully raised a point of order to kill Florence Shapiro's SB 785, which would require doctors to collect a litany of personal information about their clients seeking abortion. Lawmakers opposed to Dan Patrick's SB 920, which would force women seeking abortion to first view an ultrasound image of their fetus, squashed that measure by promising to bring a host of amendments to the floor debate – thus holding up the stream of other bills waiting to be heard before the midnight deadline for Reps to consider and pass Senate-originated bills. As of midnight, both measures were dead, done, and buried. – Jordan Smith

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