Lawmakers fail to pass redistricting plan

AUSTIN ‘ Too early yet for a full post mortem on the 77th Legislature, but one thing is certain: lawmakers failed to come up with a redistricting plan. That puts the matter before the Legislative Redistricting Board and probably into the courts down the road. Lawmakers did pass a $111 billion state budget. Included in that was a 4 percent or $100 a month (whichever is higher) pay raise for state employees. Contact lens settlement in sight’ If a proposed settlement goes through, many Texas contact lens wearers will be able to get cash rebates on lens purchases and eye exams. Texas Attorney General John Cornyn announced last week that his office had reached a settlement with Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, Inc. That company was the last non-settling defendant in an antitrust suit brought by Texas and 31 other states against contact lens makers and the American Optometric Association. The lawsuits alleged that retail prices of disposable contact lenses were too high because the defendants had agreed with the AOA that their lenses would be available only from eye care professionals, retail optical stores or mass merchandisers. The plaintiffs contended this made purchase of lenses via mail or from drug stores more difficult. Under the $60 million Johnson & Johnson settlement, benefits for eligible contact lens users will include $50 off the purchase of four six packs of disposable lenses and $25 off an eye examination and an additional $25 off a future purchase of four or more lens six packs. That amounts to about a one-third cost reduction. A settlement with another major producer of contact lenses, Baush & Lomb, already has been reached. To register for the Johnson & Johnson claim, or to get more information, call 1-888-437-1294 or go online to For Baush & Lomb, contact 1-888-811-0385 or visit www.freecontact Last call for open containers’ For years, Texas’ open container law was about as strong as 3.2 beer. The law said a driver could not drink from an open alcoholic beverage, but a peace officer had to actually see the person take a drink for it to be a ticketable offense. And any passenger in the vehicle was clear to drink, which meant a driver who spotted a police officer could merely hand his drink to one of the passengers. But House Bill 5, a measure that puts the plug in any in-vehicle drinking of an alcoholic beverage, has been passed by the Legislature and is expected to be signed into law by Gov. Rick Perry. The bill exempts passengers of limousines, charter buses and motor homes. The grass is greener Looking to grow some new business’ According to statistics compiled by the state comptroller, sellers of lawn care products and services have seen a gross sales growth from $377 million in 1990 to $1.1 billion in 1999. The number of lawn and garden businesses in Texas has sprouted from 3,473 a decade ago to 7,613. No nukes is good news for West Texas’ A bill that would have allowed a low-level nuclear graveyard in Andrews County in West Texas has gone to the legislative boot hill. Those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer’ Aging Baby Boomers may have their share of aches and pains these days, but there are happy memories. One of those memories is of the time when summer vacation amounted to a full three months of no school. In the good old days, at least from the perspective of those born between 1946 and 1964, school ended in late May and did not start again until after Labor Day. These days, while school ends a bit earlier than it used to, it resumes in early to mid-August. Some districts start classes during the first week of that month. But it looks like school children will be picking up a little extra summer time starting with the 2002 school year. The House has passed Senate Bill 108, a measure that will mandate that schools not begin prior to Aug. 21. But the version was weakened somewhat, at least in the eyes of its advocates, by addition of a provision that would allow school districts to get a three-year waiver of the rule from the state education commissioner. Even with the change, schools still must provide 180 days of instruction.

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