Ed Sterling

AUSTIN - No surprise: On April 24 the Senate refused to concur with

House amendments to SB 1, the 2010-2011 proposed state budget. The next step is for a conference committee on SB 1 to reconcile differences in the $178 billion House version and the Senate’s $182.2 billion version.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who presides over the Senate, appointed five senators to the conference committee:

• Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, chair of the Senate Finance Committee;

• Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, vice chair, Senate Finance Committee;

• Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, chair of the Senate Education Committee;

• Royce West, D-Dallas, chair of the Senate Intergovernmental

Relations Committee; and

• Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, chair of the Senate Administration Committee.

House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, will name five House members to the conference committee.

Nine bills hit governor’s desk

As of April 24, a total of nine bills had been passed by both the House and Senate and had been signed or were ready to be signed by the governor.

• One of the three House bills makes it easier for film studios to get state grant money to do their work in Texas.

• Another bill helps to implement a better security system in and around the Houston Ship Channel.

• And, another amends current law by increasing the number of hours that alcoholic beverages can be delivered wholesale or sold in Harris County or its contiguous counties.

• One of six Senate bills to make it to the governor’s desk enhances educational opportunities for the children of military families.

• Another bill preserves citizens’ immunization records kept in the state immunization registry past the age of 18.

• And, another bill amends the utilities code so that a power company can recover in a timely manner its post-disaster system restoration costs by charging higher rates to customers.

The governor also has signed a total of 45 House and Senate proclamations and resolutions, most of which are congratulatory or memorial in nature.

Compensation bill approved

The House on April 24 voted in favor of the Tim Cole Act, HB 1736, legislation to increase lump-sum compensation for persons convicted for crimes they did not commit.

The amount would increase from $50,000 to $80,000 per year of incarceration.

Cole died in a Texas prison for a crime he did not commit.

Driver’s license format debuts

The Texas Department of Public Safety on April 22 announced it had switched to a new driver’s license format, effective April 15.

The size and shape of the plastic cards are the same, but the cards contain “numerous security features” that the agency announced it would reveal only to law enforcement agencies, financial institutions and other state agencies.

Current licenses are valid but will be phased out as they expire, the DPS said.

Natural gas fuel money sought

Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson on April 21 said the Texas General Land Office will seek $15 million in federal money to be matched by T. Boone Pickens’ Clean Energy Inc. to build natural gas fuel stations across Texas.

Patterson said natural gas vehicles emit about 25 percent less greenhouse gases than vehicles powered by gasoline.

The public-private effort also has a goal to increase the size of natural gas vehicle fleets.

AG files suit against business

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott on April 23 charged Eyal Siman-Tov with violating the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act for operating a fraudulent water-as-fuel scheme.

Siman-Tov, a southern California businessman, operates 1 Freedom Inc. and a Web site, water4gas.com.

The defendant’s do-it-yourself manuals on installing water-to-fuel devices in vehicles do not reduce fuel costs, increase gas mileage or enhance engine performance, according to the state’s enforcement action.