Briefs Local news notes

Parental consent, speeding the PGA bill, and mercury testing

Parental consent laws pass

Last week HB 1212, the parental consent bill passed through the Texas State House and Senate Committees, and now goes to the floor for a vote `See "Reproductive Rights Bills Pending" April 21-27, 2005`. Meanwhile, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act, which makes it a federal crime for non-parent family members, such as siblings and grandparents, to help teens obtain abortions in a non-home state unless the girl has notified her parents in their home state. It also requires doctors to give parents 24-72-hour notice before performing an abortion on a teen who is a resident of another state.

Opponents, including Planned Parenthood and the Center for Reproductive Rights, have called CIANA unconstitutional because it does not provide health exemptions to the waiting period or parental notification. It would trap teens in a mire of conflicting laws, forcing them to obtain judicial bypass, or court-ordered exemption from the law, from two different states, and it would impose federal requirements on 27 states that have made contradicting public policy judgments.

CIANA risks the safety of girls under 18 by undermining their ability to seek help from trusted family members, and forcing them to rely on potentially abusive or dysfunctional parents. In a recent study on Family Planning Perspectives by the Alan Guttmacher Insitute, nearly one-third of young women who chose not to inform their parents of an abortion did so because they feared abuse or were afraid of being forced to leave their house.

Susan Pagani

PGA bill could be fast-tracked

On Monday afternoon, opponents of SB 1879, which would establish a special taxing district for Lumbermen's and the PGA Tour, were appealing to Senator Leticia Van de Putte to knock it off the legislature's Local and Uncontested Calendar. Bills on that calendar are essentially fast-tracked for approval.

Senator Jeff Wentworth (R-San Antonio) authored the controversial bill, which empowers district directors to impose sales and hotel occupancy taxes and to issue bonds in order to cover infrastructure costs. The directors, who would be appointed by the county judge and commissioners, could also enter into development agreements with land owners.

This is a sweet back-door deal for Lumbermen's, who can slip from under its financial obligations to build roads and infrastructure in their golfoplex. The Austin-based developer already received special treatment last year when City Council agreed to a 29-year non-annexation agreement, freeing it from paying city property taxes until 2033.

Mercury testing could be mandatory

On a promising note, HB1303, which would mandate that the State to test fish and shellfish within its jurisdictional waters for mercury . The State would also be required to broadcast public service announcements, and distribute educational booklets containing fish consumption advisories and health effects of the contamination to Texas Parks & Wildlife and to those who sell fishing licenses. Schools, medical personnel, and the public could receive the booklets by request.

Sampling would be conducted every three years by the Texas A&M Geochemical and Environmental Research Group Laboratory. According to a fiscal analysis, it would cost an estimated $322,000 (or $53 per sample) for the Department of State Health Services to collect 6,083 samples over three years. Approximately 1,100 water bodies would be sampled. The money would come from the State's general fund.

Lisa Sorg

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