AUSTIN - Students in sixth through eighth grade would be required to participate in moderate to vigorous activity for at least 30 minutes a day under a bill given final approval by the House on Wednesday.

The legislation also would require school districts to perform an annual physical fitness test of all students and report the results with students’ names deleted to the Texas Education Agency.

The TEA would be required to analyze the results by school district to determine whether the activity has any impact on student academic achievement, attendance, obesity and discipline.

The measure now goes back to the Senate. The House version differs from the Senate version, which would require physical education starting in kindergarten. If the Senate agrees with the House changes, it can be sent to the governor to sign. Otherwise, negotiators will be appointed to negotiate a compromise.

Current law requires 30 minutes of physical activity per day or 135 minutes per week for children up to the sixth grade. But some critics say that no checks are in place and schools have too much wiggle room to avoid the physical activity requirement.

Recess also wouldn’t count under the new rule, said Sen. Jane Nelson, a Republican from Lewisville.

Bible Classes

High schools will be able to offer elective Bible courses under a bill the Texas Senate sent to the governor on Wednesday.

Republican Rep. Warren Chisum originally wanted to require high schools to offer the elective courses. But the House passed a watered-down plan and the Senate voted 28-2 to approve that version.

The legislation would allow schools to offer courses about the Old and New Testament that familiarize students with the contents, history and literary style of the scriptures and the influence they have had on everything from government to art.

“I think students that are not educated in Biblical literature have a real hard time understanding what motivated our founding fathers, what motivated Abraham Lincoln, what motivated Martin Luther King Jr.,” said Sen. Craig Estes, the bill’s Senate sponsor.

Estes tried to amend the bill to require school districts to offer the course unless fewer than 20 students enrolled in it. But he withdrew that proposal after running into resistance from several senators who preferred the House version.

Internet Predators

A measure approved Wednesday in the House would strengthen the penalties for Internet solicitation of children and would make it easier for prosecutors to acquire information from Internet service providers.

Offenses involving sexually explicit communication or distributing certain material would be raised from a state jail felony to a third-degree felony, unless the minor was younger than 14 years old. That would remain a second-degree felony.

Soliciting a minor to a meeting would be made second-degree felonies.

Top 10 Percent

Students who finish in the top 10 percent of their high school class would no longer be guaranteed a spot at a flagship state university under legislation the Texas House gave final approval to Wednesday.

The legislation caps the amount of students who can be admitted under the top 10 percent law.

A number of Democrats argued against the measure, saying Texas’ top 10 percent law has improved ethnic and geographic diversity at major universities over the past decade and shouldn’t be changed.

Top 10 supporters said the existing law is race neutral and gives students of all backgrounds the message that if they work hard and get good grades, they can get into one of the best schools.

Currently, Texas students who graduate in the top 10 percent of their high school class are guaranteed admission to the state university of their choice.

The House also adopted a proposal setting the cap at 67 percent of an incoming class, rather than a previously proposed 50 percent.

Futile Care

A proposal to extend the time for medically futile patients before a hospital can cut off their life support has died in the Texas House, a victim of legislative deadlines and backroom disputes.

“It’s dead — dead for now,” Rep. Dianne White Delisi, a Temple Republican who sponsored the measure, said Wednesday morning. She said the detailed proposal needed more time for debate than was available before the House gavel fell Tuesday night, the deadline for House passage of certain bills.

Delisi said she doesn’t envision the proposal piggybacking onto another bill for passage this legislative session, as sometimes happens to dead bills. The current session ends Monday.

The legislation that would have extended the existing 10-day deadline was a compromise reached by a coalition of disparate groups. But the powerful Texas Right to Life, better known for its anti-abortion efforts, was a holdout much of the way.

The proposal would have given the patient's family seven days’ notice before a hospital ethics committee meets to discuss the case, then a 21-day notice if life support were to be discontinued. There would also be a minimum of another 20 days during which the issue could be brought up in court. All together, that’s a minimum of 48 days.

Under existing law, the family is guaranteed only two days before the hospital ethics committee meeting then 10 days before the termination of life-sustaining treatment — a total of 12 days, unless a court intervenes.

Hospitals point out that the law is rarely invoked because often patients’ families agree with medical providers on treatment.

CPS Reform

The House gave final approval Wednesday to a measure that would strengthen protection of foster children and repeal much of the foster care privatization lawmakers ordered last session.

The legislation calls for annual inspections of foster homes. Currently, about one-third are inspected each year. It also would provide money to families considered at risk of abusing or neglecting their youngsters because of their poverty, with the authors hoping to reduce the need for competent foster homes, which are scarce.

Rep. Patrick Rose, D-Dripping Springs, said the Legislature is “learning from the mistakes of the past, where children were kept in placements that proved to be unsafe and even deadly.”

In the wake of a handful of beating deaths of foster children, officials have found spotty state oversight of foster care contractors and state officials' lack of information about Texas' nearly 10,000 foster homes.

The bill now returns to the Senate. Rose, who introduced the bill in the House, said the Senate is likely to refuse to accept House changes.

That would set up negotiations between the two chambers in the final days of the legislative session.

The measure also would require a database be kept on foster parents who have been dismissed by private child-placing agencies. Some law lawmakers fear that a small number of foster parents are evading detection by jumping from agency to agency.

Rose said the major disagreement with the Senate version was over a 2005 protective services overhaul’s mandate that about 100 child-placing agencies that contract with the state take over all recruitment of foster homes and arrangement of adoptions.

The House version “steers the state back in the right direction, away from the overly aggressive privatization” approved last session.

Phantom Fee

The Texas Senate approved legislation on Wednesday repealing a fee on phone bills that funds a technology program that no longer exists.

The Telecommunications Infrastructure Fund fee, known as TIF, is levied on telephone service providers and passed on to customers through phone bills. Its original purpose was to pay for a grant program to bring technology to public schools, hospitals and libraries in rural areas.

Gov. Rick Perry determined in 2003 that the need had been met, but lawmakers continued to reauthorize the fee for both cell phone and land line providers. Almost four years later, the 1.25-percent fee is bringing in an estimated $210 million a year to the state.

The Senate adopted a slightly different version than the House. Lawmakers there can either accept the change or ask for a conference committee to work out the differences.

Strip Club Fee

Patrons of sexually oriented businesses would be charged a $5 admission fee imposed by the state under legislation the Senate approved early Wednesday.

The money would go to sexual assault prevention and services, sexual assault research and indigent health care, said Sen. Royce West, a Dallas Democrat. Senators approved the measure 28-1 in the early morning hours as legislative bill passage deadlines approached.

“The victims of violent crimes and also those who cannot afford health care in the state of Texas thank you for your vote on this,” West told fellow lawmakers.

Rep. Ellen Cohen, a Democrat from Houston and president of the Houston Area Women’s Center, is the sponsor in the House, which approved a slightly different version of the bill earlier in May.

Under God

The words “under God” would be added to the Texas pledge of allegiance under legislation the House approved Wednesday and sent to Gov. Rick Perry. The House agreed with changes the Senate made to the bill.

With the new version, the Texas pledge would be: “Honor the Texas flag; I pledge allegiance to thee, Texas, one state under God, one and indivisible.”

Thousands of Texas school children recite the pledge every day as required by a previous state law.

College Admissions

Students would have to take the recommended or advanced high school curriculum to get into a Texas college unless their school doesn’t offer the necessary courses under a bill the Senate approved Wednesday.

The recommended curriculum is the default curriculum for Texas high schoolers, unless their parents and teachers agree they should opt into the less-rigorous minimum curriculum.

The bill also includes a tuition discount for students who graduate in the top 10 percent of their high school class. That provision was included in the Senate's version of a bill revising the automatic admissions program, but it was stripped from the legislation the House passed Tuesday.

The $50 per-credit discount would be worth about $1,500 a year for students taking a full course load.

The bill heads back to the House, which can accept the changes or ask for a conference committee to iron out the differences.

Funeral Protests

The Texas Senate on Wednesday adopted a bill that would increase the amount of space funeral protesters must give grieving families to 1,000 feet.

A law adopted last year made it a Class B misdemeanor to protest within 500 feet of the site of a funeral service from one hour before to one hour after the service.

The measure was aimed at the Westboro Baptist Church, a church group in Topeka, Kan., that claims God is killing U.S. soldiers who fight for a country that tolerates homosexuality.

The House likely will accept a small change the Senate made, and the bill could be sent to the governor later this week.

Drunken Driving

Drunken drivers who kill police officers, firefighters or emergency medical technicians could be sentenced to up to 99 years in jail under a bill the state Senate sent the governor on Wednesday.

Currently, people convicted of intoxication manslaughter can be sentenced to no more than 20 years in prison. The bill would make the charge a first-degree felony, punishable by five to 99 years behind bars.

The bill was inspired by the death of two North Texas police officers killed in alcohol-related crashes.

Family Violence

Judges would be able to deny bail for people accused of violating protective orders in domestic violence cases under a constitutional amendment the Texas Senate approved Wednesday.

Currently bail can only be denied for people who are charged with a felony and who meet certain criteria.

Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, said some judges told him they would like to be able to detain people if they fear releasing the suspect would put their spouses or children in danger.

Voters will be asked to approve the amendment on the November ballot.

Oyster Fight

Rep. Craig Eiland, a Galveston Democrat, arranged to have oysters, shrimp and crawfish served to fellow lawmakers for lunch Wednesday.

But before the feeding frenzy began, he ran into trouble with his bill declaring oysters an “inherently unsafe product.” Five lawmakers objected to it, so the oyster legislation couldn’t move through quickly on a local and consent agenda in the House.

Later, after dining on the seafood delicacies and after Eiland further explained the bill to his colleagues, legislators reconsidered and passed the measure. The legislation deals with product liability and states that a manufacturer or seller can’t be held liable if the product is considered inherently unsafe. So it’s friendly to the oyster industry.

Among the other “unsafe” products under the state law are sugar, alcohol and tobacco.

But the mood remained ripe in the House for some ribbing. Eiland joked that oysters are unsafe - for Republicans. Rep. John Smithee, R-Amarillo, chimed in, saying, "It's my understanding that you can only reconsider oyster bills in months that end in an R."


Texas public school athletes will be randomly tested for steroids before next football season under legislation approved Wednesday by the Texas House.

The Senate has already passed a similar version, and the only remaining obstacle will be deciding who pays for it: the state or the ticket-buying public.

If approved, Texas would have the largest high school steroid testing program in the country, targeting at least 22,000 students a year at a cost of about $4 million. Athletes in every sport would be subject to testing.

The Senate version calls for the state to pay for the program. The House version would apply a fee to the cost of high school football and basketball games, a method some critics have called a "ticket tax."


Mandatory random steroid testing of Texas public school athletes got a boost Monday when the state House of Representatives tentatively approved a plan to start before next football season.

The Senate has already passed a similar version, and once the House takes an expected final vote Tuesday, the only obstacle will be deciding who pays for it: the state or the ticket-buying public.

If approved, Texas would have the largest high school steroid testing program in the country, targeting at least 22,000 students a year at a cost of about $4 million. Athletes in every sport would be subject to testing.

The Senate version calls for the state to pay for the program. The House version would apply a fee to the cost of high school football and basketball games, a method some critics have called a "ticket tax."

"This is an opportunity to go in and do something for our kids," said Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Van, the House sponsor of the measure.


A needle exchange program was revived in the House - on a limited basis.

Needle exchange programs are designed to curb the spread of hepatitis, HIV and other diseases through intravenous drug use by giving users clean hypodermic needles. Texas is currently the only state that doesn't allow such programs.

The Senate had previously voted to allow needle exchange programs statewide, but that issue appeared dead in the House until it voted to allow a pilot project only in Bexar County, which includes San Antonio.


The House approved requiring Texas schools to have heart-saving automated external defibrillators and keep one on hand during athletic practices and events on campus.

An AED, which is about the size of a laptop computer, analyzes a heart's rhythm for any abnormalities and, if necessary, directs the user to deliver an electrical shock.

The bill still needs a final House vote and for the Senate to approve some small changes in the bill before it goes to Gov. Rick Perry for his consideration.


Dog owners whose pets attack people could face prison time under legislation the Texas House approved Monday and sent to Gov. Rick Perry.

The measure by Rep. Dan Gattis, R-Georgetown, provides for charging a dog owner with a third-degree felony - punishable by up to two to 10 years in prison and a possible $10,000 fine upon conviction - if the dog makes an unprovoked attack and seriously injures someone.

If the victim dies, the charge could be a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 20 years in prison.


The House signed off Monday on a compromise with the Senate calling for the state to assist in plans for the humane evacuation, transport and temporary sheltering of pets during times of disaster. Sponsors of the measure noted that during hurricanes Katrina and Rita many people didn't want to evacuate because they couldn't bring along their pets.


The House agreed with the Senate on Monday and gave final legislative approval to a bill requiring school buses to be equipped with seat belts. The bill would apply to buses purchased on or after Sept. 1, 2010.

School districts would have to require students to wear their seat belts. Districts would be allowed to make their own disciplinary policies to enforce the rule.

The bill goes to Gov. Rick Perry.


Texas could regain some of the movie business it has been losing to other states under film-making grant legislation approved Monday. The House signed off on the Senate's version of the proposal, sending it to Gov. Rick Perry.

About two dozen states offer financial incentives to the movie industry, including neighboring Louisiana and New Mexico.


Local governments would be barred from using automated cameras to issue speeding tickets through the mail under a bill the Senate approved Monday and sent to the governor.

Several communities have begun using digital equipment to detect and photograph speeding vehicles. Officials can then trace the vehicle's license plate number to issue a ticket to its registered owner.

"By any definition this is a speed trap," said Sen. John Carona, a Republican from Dallas who sponsored the measure in the Senate.

Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, opposed the bill, saying some small towns have tiny police forces and can't enforce the law without speeding cameras. But Carona dismissed that concern, saying he saw the cameras as little more than "a big grab for money."

The Senate also approved a bill that would require cities that use red-light cameras to post signs warning drivers. That bill also is headed to the governor's desk.


The Texas Residential Construction Commission would have more power to discipline problem homebuilders under a bill the Texas Senate approved Monday.

The bill would give the commission the ability to punish builders for violations such as failing to register with the state or failing to offer to repair construction defects in the home. The legislation also sets up fines of up to $100,000 for violations involving the misappropriation of funds or engaging in fraud.

Consumer advocates have criticized the 4-year-old commission, saying it limits home buyers' legal recourse and lacks the power to enforce its own rules.

Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, said the proposals would be an improvement but wouldn't solve all the problems at the agency. The bill now returns to the House, which can sign off on changes made by the Senate or appoint a committee to work out the differences.