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TX Sen. Janek's Asbestos Bill Passes Senate With One Amendment

By J. Lyn Carl,

Austin, TX –

Touting his legislation as a "new approach" to dealing with the large number of asbestos and silica-related illnesses in Texas and lawsuits relative to those illnesses, Sen. Kyle Janek (R-Houston) today passed his SB 15 out of the Texas Senate.

He said the bill provides a "medical criteria" that will allow the sickest persons suffering from these diseases to go to court and obtain damages. It also allows persons exposed to asbestos and silica to postpone possible lawsuits into the future, to see if they truly are sick. He said this provision will "preserve their rights into the future."

Acknowledging that "much work gone on into this bill," Janek called the bill "good legislation" and good public policy.

"We all recognize this bill as the work of significant compromise from all parties and all sides of this issue," said Sen. John Carona (R-Dallas), but like other members of the Senate he wanted assurance from Janek that the bill voted out of the Senate will not be brought back to the Senate floor unless it is in the same form that it left the Senate.

Carona asked for a commitment from Janek that if changes are made to the bill either in the House or in conference committee, "Unless it comes back in the identical language as it leaves today, you have no intention of bringing it back to the floor?"

"That is an accurate assessment," responded Janek. "When you see this again, it will be the committee substitute to Senate Bill 15 as you voted on it and with the changes we intend to make with Floor Amendment Number One." Janek said he would oppose any other amendments to the bill.

Noting there might be some things added to the bill that both sides of a conference committee might favor, Sen. Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) asked Janek if he would "ask for that in writing" to ensure that such agreed-to provisions were not simply an individual saying they were representing the interest of others.

"That is correct," said Janek. "We've got a good piece of legislation here - finely balanced. I'm very pleased with the product we've got and that's what I want to bring back to you."

"This is a national issue," said Janek of the need for asbestos litigation reform, noting there are safeguards in place for persons who filed lawsuits prior to certain dates, for pending cases and for those who will file in the future.

Janek laid out his floor amendment noting it should make the "pieces fit together," and took care of issues from all parties.

The amendment was passed and the bill was passed out of the Senate with a one-word benediction from Lt. Governor David Dewhurst - "Historic."