Wednesday, March 4, 2009

1:30 p.m. or thirty minutes upon adjournment

Senate Chamber






Pursuant to a notice posted in accordance with Senate Rule 11.18, a public hearing of the Senate Committee on Nominations was held on Wednesday, March 4, 2009, in the Senate Chamber.







Senator Mike Jackson

Senator Glenn Hegar

Senator Jane Nelson

Senator Kirk Watson


Senator Kevin Eltife

Senator Robert Nichols

Senator Eliot Shapleigh




The chair called the meeting to order at 2:00 p.m.  There being a quorum present, the following business was transacted: 


Chairman Jackson recognized Senator Wentworth to speak on behalf of John Steen, who was unable to attend the hearing due to health reasons.  Senator Wentworth briefly detailed the accomplishments and career of Steen, and endorsed him as an outstanding asset to the Public Safety Commission. 


Chairman Jackson recognized Senator Carona to introduce Ada Brown.  Senator Carona briefly listed Brown's qualifications and accomplishments, and wholeheartedly endorsed her nomination to the Public Safety Commission.


Chairman Jackson recognized Senator Patrick to introduce Charlotte Foster.  Senator Patrick detailed the career of Foster, and recognized her as uniquely qualified to serve on the State Preservation Board.


Senator Jackson moved adoption of the minutes from the previous hearing held on February 25, 2009; without objection, it was so ordered. 


Chairman Jackson invited Charlotte Foster to share her comments with the committee.


Foster expressed her appreciation for the appointment.

Chairman Jackson questioned Foster on the Preservation Board's role in security for the Capitol complex. 


Foster answered that the Preservation Board works with the Department of Public Safety to implement security policies. 


Chairman Jackson continued by asking Foster to comment on the possibility of installing metal detectors at all of the Capitol entrances.


Foster responded that the Preservation Board's primary concern is maintaining the building as well as possible.


Chairman Jackson asked Foster what she sees as the foremost issue currently concerning the Preservation Board.


Foster responded that the restoration of the Governor's mansion is the highest priority of the Board at the moment.  Foster confirmed that the Preservation Board is responsible for accepting bids for the project once the allocation of funds is made by the Legislature. 


Chairman Jackson asked Foster to comment on the cost estimate of twenty-seven million dollars submitted by the Board to the Senate Finance and Appropriations committees.


Foster expressed her confidence in the accuracy of the estimate.


The chair recognized Senator Nelson for questions.


Senator Nelson expressed her concern over the cost of the restoration, and asked that Foster and the Preservation Board explore all means of lowering the cost.


Foster responded that she is hopeful that the bidding process will lower some costs.


Senator Nelson confirmed with Foster that security enhancements to the Governor's mansion are included in the restoration costs.


The chair recognized Senator Hegar for questions.


Senator Hegar asked Foster about the possibility of using federal stimulus dollars to fund the restoration project.


Foster responded that she is unaware of any specifics on that issue.


Senator Hegar asked Foster to comment on other projects of concern to the Preservation Board.


Foster reiterated the Governor's mansion as a priority, and mentioned the maintenance of the Capitol as an important focus.


Senator Nelson moved that the committee vote to approve the nomination of Charlotte Foster to the State Preservation Board.  At 2:10 p.m., by a vote of 6 ayes and 0 nays (Senators Eltife and Nichols submitted voting forms to be shown voting aye), the committee voted to recommend Charlotte Foster to the full Senate for confirmation.


Chairman Jackson recognized Senator Williams to introduce Melinda Fredricks.  Senator Williams briefly detailed Fredricks' accomplishments and career, and recommended her to the committee without reservation.


Chairman Jackson recognized Senator Nelson for a comment.  Senator Nelson recommended Fredricks to the committee.


Chairman Jackson recognized Senator Nelson to introduce Steven Weinberg.  Senator Nelson briefly detailed Weinberg's career, and expressed gratitude for his service.


Chairman Jackson recognized Weinberg to address the committee.


Weinberg remarked that he looks forward to continuing to serve the people of Texas.


Chairman Jackson commended the success of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, and asked the nominees to discuss the current legislative issues facing the Commission.


Weinberg cited the TABC budget as their first concern, and mentioned increased funds for employee retention and information technology as priorities. 


Fredricks listed Sunday sales and regulation of BYOB businesses as two important legislative issues.


Chairman Jackson asked Fredricks to comment on Sunday sales.


Fredricks responded that Sunday sales have been shown to increase short-term revenue for a community before leveling off in the long term.


Weinberg expressed confidence that the TABC would be able to smoothly incorporate any changes to alcohol regulation that come from the Legislature.  

Weinberg also recognized the alcohol industry in the state of Texas for its willingness to work with the Commission and to police itself.


Chairman Jackson confirmed with Weinberg that TABC increased its number of officers a few years ago.

Chairman Jackson asked the nominees if they have seen an increase in brew-pubs and wineries in the state, and to describe how they regulate them. 


Weinberg confirmed that every alcohol-related industry in Texas is expanding.


The chair recognized Senator Nelson for questions.


Senator Nelson inquired about the growing wine industry in Texas.


Weinberg responded that even with the increase in wineries there is still a lot of room for growth in that area.


Fredricks commented on the half-billion dollars of revenue brought in by the TABC in the last biennium.  Weinberg confirmed that the TABC budget for the same time period is about eighty million dollars.


Senator Nelson expressed her gratitude for the responsiveness of the Commission when issues have arisen in her district.


The nominees were left pending awaiting the arrival of a quorum.


Chairman Jackson recognized the nominees to the Public Safety Commission to offer comments to the committee.


Ada Brown, Carin Barth, and Tom Clowe introduced themselves and briefly described their backgrounds and careers.


Chairman Jackson asked the nominees to define the biggest challenge currently facing the Department of Public Safety.


Clowe described the stagnant culture of the agency as its biggest challenge.  He proceeded to describe ways in which the Commission is looking to modernize the department.  Clowe also listed border issues as a pressing issue.


Chairman Jackson inquired about the lack of black and white DPS cars in several areas of the state.


Clowe confirmed that the department has requested four hundred and fifty new black and white vehicles to ensure there is one automobile per trooper.


Chairman Jackson asked the nominees about compensation rates within the department.


Clowe responded that an increase in compensation rates in the department is their first priority in the budget request made to the Legislature.

Chairman Jackson noted the need for the Department of Public Safety to be competitive with other law enforcement agencies with regards to compensation. 


Clowe confirmed that currently the department is not competitive.  This has resulted in retention problems for the department.  Clowe described the common problem of the department hiring and training individuals, only to see them take jobs in other law enforcement agencies not long afterwards.


The chair recognized Senator Hegar for questions.  Senator Hegar expressed his desire to see the agency adopt major changes in the interest of modernizing its methods.  Senator Hegar emphasized compensation, technology, and driver's license issues as areas that need improvement in the department.


Senator Hegar asked the nominees to update the committee on the Deloitte study.


Brown responded that they are in the process of discussing the recommendations made by Deloitte and how best to implement them.


Barth stressed to the committee that implementing the changes will be a long process.


Senator Hegar asked the nominees to update him on the search for a new director.


Clowe responded that the search is ongoing.


Chairman Jackson recognized the presence of the Public Safety Commission Chairman Allan Polunsky.


Chairman Jackson recognized Rodney Hooker of the Texas Burglar and Fire Alarm Association to testify in support of the Public Safety Commission nominees.


Chairman Jackson recognized Gary Chandler of the Department of Public Safety Officers Association to testify in support of the Public Safety Commission nominees.


Chairman Jackson thanked the witnesses for taking the time to testify before the committee.


The nominees were left pending awaiting the arrival of a quorum.


Chairman Jackson announced a meeting of the committee at his desk on Monday, March 9 upon adjournment of the Senate, to vote on the pending nominees.


At 3:05 p.m. Senator Jackson moved that the committee stand recessed subject to the call of the chair; without objection, it was so ordered.




Senator Mike Jackson, Chair




Brian Carey, Clerk