Associated Press Writer
AUSTIN - Swamped by a weekend power struggle at the state Capitol was a bill that could impact every high school athlete in the state: mandatory random steroid tests.
The Senate has already given its final approval. The bill needs only one last vote by the House before it would be sent to Gov. Rick Perry.
But a House walkout early Monday morning led by lawmakers upset with Speaker Tom Craddick's leadership left what would be the nation's largest high school steroid testing program in doubt.
The legislative session ends Monday. Judging by the volatile emotions in the House, any bills still pending run the risk of dying without a vote.
The House sponsor of the measure, Rep. Dan Flynn, a Van Republican, said he'll try to muster one last vote.
"It will help secure healthy and safe lives for our young people," said Flynn. "Coaches, parents and fans are going to appreciate it."
Steroid testing has been a major component of Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst's campaign to protect children. Under the bill, athletes who test positive, or refuse to be tested, could be suspended from play. Athletes in all sports, from football to wrestling to tennis, could be tested.
The bill requires the state pay to pay for testing, rather than force schools to raise ticket prices to cover the cost. The University Interscholastic League, the state's governing body for public school sports, will run the program.
The Senate's original plan was to test at least 22,000 students - about 3 percent of the 730,000 of high school athletes - for about $4 million per year.
Budget planners set aside only $3 million per year and the bill now only requires testing of a "statistically significant sample" of students, said Sen. Kyle Janek, a Houston Republican who sponsored the bill. The UIL would determine penalties for positive tests.
Flynn said athletes should be suspended from play if they test positive or refuse to take a test.
The Texas High School Coaches Association, the Texas Medical Association, and groups representing public school districts and administrators support a testing program.
New Jersey became the first state in the country to start a statewide testing policy for high school athletes last year. Its initial testing for performance-enhancing drugs among 150 random samples taken last fall didn't produce a positive result, the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association reported earlier this year.
Florida lawmakers recently approved a one-year pilot program to test 1 percent of high school athletes who compete in football, baseball and weightlifting.