AUSTIN — The Texas Senate on May 14 approved legislation that requires automobile passengers of all ages to buckle their seatbelts, no matter where they sit.
Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, author of SB 1028, said, “This is about safety; it’s about making sure that people don’t end up dying or in the hospital.”
Watson said Texas Department of Transportation figures show that in 2006 there were nearly 400 traffic fatalities that could have been prevented by wearing a seatbelt, and that passengers not wearing seatbelts are twice as likely to be hospitalized after a crash.
Texas would join 35 other states that mandate seatbelts for all passengers if the bill is approved by the House and signed by the governor.
Sales tax holiday set to expand
The House on May 13 passed HB 1801, legislation that would expand the Aug. 21-23 state sales tax holiday to include school supplies. Current law limits the sales tax holiday to clothing and shoes.
“School clothes and sneakers are already eligible for tax-exemption and we think crayons and paper ought to be too,” said Rep. Trey Martinez-Fisher, D-San Antonio. “We have been working since 2005 to make school supplies more affordable for Texas families, and I am pleased that through a bi-partisan effort we are about to make that a reality.” Rep. Dwayne Bohac, R-Houston, is coauthor of the bill.
The state comptroller’s office estimates that those who purchase clothing and school supplies during the upcoming sales tax holiday would save a total of $9.5 million in sales taxes if HB 1801 passes.
Senate passes stem cell measure
The state Senate on May 14 approved a bill intended to help lawmakers determine the extent of stem cell research being performed by state agencies.
SB 2573 by Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, would require all state agencies involved in biomedical research to submit a report detailing any research involving stem cells or human cloning.
State representative hospitalized
Rep. Edmund Kuempel, R-Seguin, was found collapsed in a state Capitol elevator on May 12, after suffering an apparent heart attack.
Rep. John Zerwas, R-Houston, a physician, and Texas Department of Public Safety officers, rendered first aid on the spot. Kuempel was transported to an Austin hospital where he was put into a medically induced coma as part of ongoing treatment.
Kuempel, 66, is chairman of the House Committee on Licensing and Administrative Procedure.
Texas remembers fallen officers
On May 15, Peace Officer Memorial Day, state Capitol Complex flags were flown at half staff in memory of fallen police officers. The day is part of National Police Week.
Human Services chief retires
Texas Health and Human Services Commissioner Albert Hawkins announced his retirement after a 35-year career in state government.
Hawkins, head of the agency since January 2003, earlier served as a senior White House aide to then-President George W. Bush. >From 1995 to 2000 he was governor’s office budget director for then-Gov. Bush. Before that, Hawkins was an employee of the state Legislative Budget Board for 16 years.
Parks & Wildlife cancels Expo
Carter Smith, executive director of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, announced that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Expo scheduled for Oct. 3-4 has been canceled and plans for the 2010 Expo have been suspended.
Smith said costs of putting on the events previously were underwritten by sponsors, but sponsorship has been adversely affected by the economic downturn.
AG charges telemarketing firms
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott on May 14 charged three telemarketing firms with participating in an illegal scheme to sell vehicle service contracts that were falsely marketed as extended warranties.
Two California-based telemarketing firms, SCM Media Inc. and On Point Media Inc., along with a Nevada company, Pacific Guard Warranty LLC, are named defendants in the state’s enforcement action.