- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 3, 2015

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - Sitting behind pictures of loved ones killed in crashes, 15 Texas families tearfully pleaded with lawmakers to support a statewide texting-while-driving ban.

The scene at the Texas Capitol on Tuesday supported a measure filed for the fourth consecutive session by Democratic Sen. Judith Zaffirini of Laredo. It would prohibit motorists from using a wireless device to read, write or send a text message while driving unless the vehicle is stopped.

The Texas Department of Transportation says 459 people died in 2013 crashes in which a driver was distracted, either by a cell phone or something else.

Since 2009, similar legislation has failed to become law. Some stalled in committee. One passed both chambers in 2011 but was vetoed by former Gov. Rick Perry.

New Gov. Greg Abbott said Tuesday “it’s premature” to say whether he’ll veto a ban.



Gov. Greg Abbott is abolishing one of Rick Perry’s pet business programs, planning to reform another and sounding like his predecessor when it comes to cutting taxes.

Abbott told a group of Texas small business owners Tuesday that he won’t sign a state budget without tax cuts for businesses. Perry similarly demanded tax cuts in 2013 and told lawmaker he’d keep them working until they delivered.

But Abbott later reiterated the need for changes to Perry’s Texas Enterprise Fund - the “deal-closing” trough of taxpayer dollars that was available to big businesses willing to relocate to the Lone Star State.

Abbott said the fund needs more transparency to remove “any of this appearance that is being used inappropriately.” A similar program for startups, the Texas Emerging Technology Fund, has already been pegged for elimination by Abbott.



In a somber show of solidarity, Texas House members passed a resolution in honor of Houston Rep. Sylvester Turner’s mother, Ruby Mae Turner, who died at the age of 90 in December.

As the declaration was read, all lawmakers present rose and surrounded Turner, a Democrat, one of nine children mothered by Ruby Mae Turner. Despite not having graduated high school, Ruby Mae Turner pushed her children to become educated and worked for many years at Houston’s Old Rice Hotel.

Rep. Helen Giddings of Dallas said, “We lost in our state a treasure when we lost Mrs. Turner. She left a legacy of hard work, of determination, of principal, of character, and of love.”

His voice quivering, Sylvester Turner said that while his parents didn’t leave behind much when they died, they left a lasting legacy for him and his siblings. “Where do we go from here? We certainly have work to do,” he said.

The House adjourned Tuesday in Ruby Mae Turner’s honor.



The House reconvenes at 10 a.m. on Wednesday and the Senate is in an hour later. But other than ceremonial resolutions and floor salutes to visiting groups of school children or professional or student organizations, there’s not much on either’s agenda.



“When we pass legislation like this, we are basically deciding who will live and who will die. We will be saving lives,” Zaffirini, on why her colleagues should pass a statewide texting-while-driving ban.

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