AUSTIN — * George W. Bush vows to stay close to Texas - and not become a national figure any more than will be inevitable for a president's son who is governor of the nation's second-largest state. That means, for the moment, fashioning a legislative strategy. The Texas Legislature convenes a week before Bush takes office Jan. 17, and he doesn't want to lose the initiative. Following are some of his priorities for the next four years. @SIDECOL =
Crime: No parole for rapists and child molesters. No mandatory early release. Tougher sentences for juveniles. More beds in juvenile justice institutions. Minimum age for trial as adult reduced to 14.
Welfare: Two-year limit. No increase in payments when a recipient with two children has another child. Mandatory identification of children's father. Easier collection of child support. Mandatory work or education. No automatic loss of benefits for working recipients.
Lawsuit abuse: Incentives to settle. Higher standard of proof to win punitive damages. Cap on punitive damages of greater of $200,000 or three times actual damages. No collecting two or more times for same injury from different parties. No venue shopping. Limits on inmate lawsuits. Some arbitration required.
Home rule education districts: Freedom from state education rules, except student performance standards, for districts electing home rule.
Property rights: Creation of Office of Private Property Rights to discourage federal policies that diminish property values without just compensation.
State government: Downsized.