News of the Week
Agenda Texas: Behind the Scenes of the Budget Debate
The Texas House began its debate on a $193 billion budget bill Thursday morning. And as lead budget writer Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, laid out the bill, he reminded lawmakers of the shaky economic ground the state was on just two years ago, when they had to tackle a $27 billion revenue shortfall.
A Familiar Reluctance to Health Care Expansion in Texas
Go back to 1997. The federal government offered to send piles of money to states to start a new health care and insurance program. In Texas, a majority of the state’s officeholders and lawmakers were skeptical, worried about creating new entitlements and wary of creating a program that started with attractive federal enticements but could end up draining the state budget.
House OKs Budget, Nixes Vouchers, Medicaid Expansion
After roughly 12 hours of debate that included a crushing defeat of school vouchers, a serious setback for Medicaid expansion and far fewer floor fights than expected, the Texas House passed a $193.8 billion budget Thursday on a 135-12 vote.
House Backtracks on Medicaid Amendment
Hours after approving the measure, the Texas House backpedaled on an amendment to the 2013-14 budget that would have opened the door to negotiations on expanding Medicaid, a key provision of federal health care reform.
In Bipartisan Truce, House Members Pulling Amendments
While the Texas House began working through 267 amendments on the proposed budget Thursday morning, Democratic and Republican House members confirmed that potentially divisive amendments related to funding for women’s health are being withdrawn as part of a bipartisan truce.
A Voucher Showdown During House Budget Debate
An amendment from state Rep. Abel Herrero, D-Corpus Christi, that would ban the use of public dollars for private schools, passed 103-43 with bipartisan support.
House Freshmen Launch Coordinated Strike on Budget
As the Texas House prepares to debate the state budget Thursday, a group of Republican freshman members are planning to use the amendment process to try to drain funding from dozens of state programs.
Bill limiting payday loans advances in Texas Senate; some argue it’s too weak
A Senate committee endorsed modest restrictions on payday lenders Tuesday, but the proposed law would erase much tougher ordinances already in place in Dallas and four other cities.
CPRIT Nonprofit Board Members Resign
Members of the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas oversight committee who served on the board of the former CPRIT Foundation have left the organization in an effort to cut ties with the nonprofit that supplemented the salaries of CPRIT officials.
Lawmakers Examine High-Stakes Testing in Lower Grades
When it comes to high-stakes testing, Texas lawmakers have so far focused most of their attention on high school students. But as more than 3 million students across the state begin to take standardized exams this week, some members of the Legislature are examining the plight of younger test-takers.
HAMMOND: Texas poised to go backward on education standards
A letter sent to lawmakers from the National Council of La Raza and the Education Trust begged them not to weaken standards, saying that Texas’ economy needs high-level workers to stay strong. It also points out that the changes set forth in HB5 will hurt low-income and minority students.
Williams Certifies Ban on Social Promotion
Fifth and eighth graders in the midst of taking their first round of state standardized exams now know that they must pass those tests to move on to the next grade.
Retired-Teachers Group Not Endorsing Budget Amendments
About a dozen House freshmen have filed more than three dozen amendments that would defund various state programs and shift the money to TRS-Care, the Teacher Retirement System’s retiree group health insurance plan.
Healthcare an obstacle as Republicans court Latinos
As Republican leaders try to woo Latino voters with a new openness to legal status for the nation’s illegal immigrants, the party remains at odds with America’s fastest-growing ethnic community on another key issue: healthcare.
Zerwas: House Medicaid Bill Will Include Williams’ Plan
State Rep. John Zerwas, R-Simonton, confirmed Wednesday that he will incorporate into his own Medicaid reform bill a proposal by Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, to use premium tax revenue to subsidize private health policies for the uninsured.
Senate passes legislation to overhaul Texas cancer-fighting agency
The Senate moved Wednesday to clean up the state’s troubled cancer-fighting agency, passing legislation that would restructure its leadership and impose new conflict-of-interest prohibitions on agency officials, donors and grant recipients.
Democrats, families, hospitals plead for enlarged Medicaid
Democrats in Congress and the Legislature, uninsured parents, the head of the state’s main hospital trade group and top local officials in Dallas and San Antonio urged state GOP leaders Monday to negotiate with the Obama administration to expand Texas’ Medicaid program for the poor.
Senate fight erupts over prison health care
A proposal to remove two state medical schools from their long-held membership on a panel that oversees prison health care was derailed Tuesday, as the Texas Senate voted against a plan touted as a way to increase competition and cut costs.
Legislature considers raising funding for mental health
So far, the Senate’s two-year budget proposal contains about $226 million in new funds for treatment, prevention and education. Billions more could eventually come from an experimental federal program.
Perry, on Kaufman County slayings, says violence against criminal justice officials “a clear concern”
Gov. Rick Perry says a weekend attack that left the Kaufman County district attorney and his wife dead highlights “a clear concern” Texans should have about violence against prosecutors and others working in the criminal justice system.
Lawmakers Grapple With End-of-Life Legislation
Texas lawmakers have grappled year after year over whether families or medical professionals should make the final decision on when to end a terminally ill patient’s life-sustaining care. This year, they seem closer to a compromise.
Legislative push for highway cash hitting roadblocks
This was going to be the session when legislators began weaning the Texas Department of Transportation off its decade-long reliance on debt and found a substantial and sustainable source of money to build and repair roads.
Senate approves increased penalty for hit-run deaths
The Texas Senate on Wednesday unanimously approved legislation to increase the penalty for drivers who leave the scene of an accident involving a death, a measure hastened by the tragic death of a Tarrytown pedestrian in 2011.
UT Regent Hall Failed to Disclose Lawsuits
University of Texas System Regent Wallace Hall Jr., who has pressured UT-Austin to be more transparent and accountable, is coming under fire for failing to disclose a long history of courtroom battles before he was appointed to the board.
Conservative Think Tank Supports Less Sex Offender Disclosure
Texas lawmakers have filed more than a dozen bills this session that augment or add restrictions to the behavior of registered sex offenders, of whom Texas now has over 72,000. That’s normal—sex offenders don’t have a lot of constituent clout and making them list their status on a driver’s license or social media profile is a low-cost, low-risk way to look tough on crime.
TxDOT rolls out colorful trash barrels for new Don’t Mess with Texas anti-litter ‘CANpaign’
The Texas Department of Transportation has kicked off the updated anti-litter campaign meant to appeal to young adults. The first “Don’t Mess with Texas” public service announcement aired in 1986 and featured blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Feds give Texas $31.2 million for 2011 wildfires
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has given Texas $31.2 million to help cover the costs of devastating wildfires that spread across the state during a historic drought in 2011.
Bills would eliminate or limit straight-ticket voting
Voters looking for the straight-ticket option on future ballots wouldn’t find it, or would have to make individual selections in some races, if the state legislature approves one of several proposals introduced in committees Monday.
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