SENATE COMMITTEE ON NOMINATIONS
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
1:00 p.m. or thirty minutes upon adjournment
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, May 6, 2009, in the Senate Chamber.
Senator Mike Jackson
Senator Kevin Eltife
Senator Glenn Hegar
Senator Robert Nichols
Senator Eliot Shapleigh
Senator Jane Nelson
Senator Kirk Watson
The chair called the meeting to order at 3:07 p.m. There being a quorum present, the following business was transacted:
Chairman Jackson called to the table Michael Geeslin, nominated as the Texas Commissioner of Insurance. Chairman Jackson invited Gesslin to address the committee.
Geeslin thanked the committee members and briefly detailed the issues and challenges facing the Texas Department of Insurance.
Chairman Jackson commented on the developing problem of insurance companies retreating from offering insurance to people in the coastal counties.
Chairman Jackson asked Geeslin to comment on the Legislature's proposed changes to the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association.
Geeslin responded that this issue has been coming to a head for decades and, as a result, is a difficult situation to remedy. Geeslin continued to say that the Legislature needs to decide what type of statute it wants to adopt to deal with the situation.
Geeslin mentioned uniform building codes as a legislative decision that could entice more private insurers into the market in the coastal counties.
Chairman Jackson asked if there is a trend developing in certain areas that shows a decrease in privately issued wind insurance.
Geeslin responded that the issue is more pronounced on the Galveston island and along the waterfront as opposed to the back of the county.
Chairman Jackson recognized Senator Hegar for a comment.
Senator Hegar thanked Geeslin for the job he is doing and commented on the need for common sense regulation of the insurance industry.
Senator Hegar moved adoption of the minutes from the previous hearing held on April 29, 2009; without objection, it was so ordered.
Chairman Jackson recognized Senator Nichols for questions.
Senator Nichols commented on a problem that has been brought to him by his constituents. Senator Nichols explained that some of his constituents have both windstorm and flood insurance yet are still unable to recoup damages from the companies that hold the policies.
Senator Nichols asked where he should direct his constituents who have these complaints.
Geeslin answered that the Texas Department of Insurance's complaint resolution process can be effective in avoiding litigation. Geeslin continued to say that there is an appeals process with TWIA that can be effective in resolving claims in the area of windstorm insurance.
Senator Eltife moved that the committee vote to approve the nomination of Michael Geeslin as the Texas Commissioner of Insurance. At 3:32 p.m., by a vote of 4 ayes and 0 nays, Geeslin was recommended to the full Senate for confirmation.
Chairman Jackson called to the table Juanita Gonzalez, Thomas Leeper, Rissie Owens, and Shanda Perkins nominated to the Board of Pardons and Paroles.
Chairman Jackson invited each nominee to address the committee. All the nominees offered comments to the committee.
Chairman Jackson asked the nominees to comment on SB 166 that would require all Pardons and Paroles board members to meet with a convicted capital murderer to vote on a reprieve recommendation. Currently only one member is required to meet with the convict.
Owens responded that the board has been working on this legislation with the House and the Senate over the last few sessions. Owens described some of the issues that are presented by the legislation. Owens mentioned that most likely the meetings would have to be set up by video conference.
Chairman Jackson asked the nominees to comment on the issue of prison overcrowding and the Board of Pardons and Paroles' role in managing the prison population.
Owens responded that the state's prison population right now is about 154,000. Owens continued to say that the prison population is flat because the revocation rates are down and the release rates are up.
Chairman Jackson confirmed with Owens that the state's prison capacity is about 156,000 inmates.
Chairman Jackson recognized Senator Shapleigh for questions.
Senator Shapleigh commented on the importance of the Board of Pardons and Paroles.
Senator Shapleigh asked each nominee to list their qualifications and explain why they are qualified for this board. All of the nominees described their qualifications and explained how their skills will translate to the board.
Senator Shapleigh asked Owens to describe the information the board members receive with regards to the mental capacity of an inmate up for review.
Owens answered that the board is always presented with an inmate's mental health problems.
Senator Shapleigh asked Perkins if empathy is an important factor in the decision making process of a board member.
Perkins responded that she believes empathy is an important quality for a board member.
Senator Shapleigh confirmed with Perkins that she is familiar with a Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling on a case that originated in Perkins' home town of Burleson.
Senator Shapleigh asked Perkins to share her version of the facts of that case.
Perkins answered that her involvement in the case was minimal. Perkins continued to say that she presented the Chairman of the City Chamber of Commerce with a copy of the city ordinance that applied to this case. Perkins also mentioned that she voted to change the dress code requirement for the Chamber of Commerce members.
Senator Shapleigh confirmed with Perkins that she did not file the complaint against Joanne Webb.
Senator Shapleigh asked Perkins what of Webb's actions she objected to that caused her to involve herself in the situation.
Perkins described the city ordinance and noted that Webb was not in compliance with it.
Senator Shapleigh asked Perkins to comment on the perception that her appointment is a political appointment.
Perkins answered that she does not believe her appointment is political. Perkins continued to say that her experience in counseling qualifies her for the position.
Senator Shapleigh asked if the Lighthouse Church of Burleson received a contribution from the Governor.
Perkins responded that she has no knowledge of a contribution.
Senator Shapleigh asked Perkins what her philosophy will be as a member of the board.
Senator Shapleigh specifically asked Perkins how she would approach a case involving a mentally impaired criminal.
Perkins answered that she would take a case-by-case approach and analyze all the appropriate information, including the mental health of the criminal.
Senator Shapleigh asked Perkins what her decision would be in a case where there is overwhelming expert testimony that a person was mentally incapacitated at the time of the crime.
Perkins responded that she would vote against execution in that situation.
Chairman Jackson called to the table The Honorable Kenneth Shetter representing the City of Burleson. Shetter submitted a form to testify in support of the nomination of Shanda Perkins to the Board of Pardons and Paroles.
Chairman Jackson called to the table The Honorable Arlene Wohlgemuth representing herself. Wohlgemuth submitted a form to testify in support of the nomination of Shanda Perkins to the Board of Pardons and Paroles.
Senator Shapleigh moved that the committee vote to approve the nominations of the individuals appointed to the following entities: Texas Appraiser Licensing and Certification Board, Texas Board of Architectural Examiners, Automobile Burglary and Theft Prevention Authority, Council on Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke, Crime Stoppers Advisory Council, State Board of Dental Examiners, Texas Diabetes Council, Finance Commission of Texas, Texas Commission on Fire Protection, Upper Guadalupe River Authority, State Commission on Judicial Conduct, Texas Board of Physical Therapy Examiners, Private Sector Prison Industries Oversight Authority, Produce Recovery Fund Board, Product Development and Small Business Incubator Board, Texas Council on Purchasing from People with Disabilities, Office of Rural Community Affairs, School Safety Center Board, Council on Sex Offender Treatment, and the Texas State Technical College System Board of Regents. At 4:20 p.m., by a vote of 5 ayes and 0 nays, the nominees were recommended to the full Senate for confirmation.
Chairman Jackson moved that the committee vote to approve the nominations of Juanita Gonzalez, Thomas Leeper, and Rissie Owens to the Board of Pardons and Paroles. At 4:21 p.m., by a vote of 5 ayes and 0 nays, the nominees were recommended to the full Senate for confirmation.
Chairman Jackson moved that the committee vote to approve the nomination of Shanda Perkins to the Board of Pardons and Paroles. At 4:22 p.m., by a vote of 4 ayes and 1 nay, the nominee was recommended to the full Senate for confirmation.
There being no further business, at 4:22 p.m. Chairman 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