March 8th was the last day to file a bill without suspending the rules. On Thursday, 752 bills and resolutions were filed and we expect at least that many to be filed on Friday!Three important budget bills passed the Senate this week. HB 10 allocates $6.6 billion in current general revenue to cover Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. SB 758 helps pay off a balance of $1.75 billion from the Permanent School Fund, but does not increase per student entitlement or affect current school funding. Sen. Robert Duncan’s SB 559 reverses a part of last session’s budget that would have collected a number of state taxes early. The House GOP caucus voted to oppose Medicaid expansion but a flurry of bills hopes to reform Medicaid while allowing some room for expansion. The House Appropriations Committee took invited testimony Friday on Medicaid expansion and Speaker Straus announced that legislators should submit ideas on what can be done to better state Medicaid.On Tuesday, Senator John Carona and Representative Mike Villarreal filed SB 1247 and HB 2706 to regulate payday and auto title lending industries. Villarreal comments, “These bills will provide uniformity throughout the state, maintain Texans’ access to credit, and take a significant step forward in protecting consumers from an irreversible cycle of debt.”
News of the Week
The Lone Star State Left Out To Dry
The economic impact of the sequester on Texas will be enormous. Texas receives 8 percent of its state revenue through federal grants, well above the national average of 6.6 percent. One study showed that Texas is among the top three states that will lose out most as a result of the sequester, both in terms of jobs and GDP. The cuts could cost Texas $16 billion in gross state product and as many as 159,000 jobs. -Read full article-
Senate panel, in big rush, adds a few billion to original budget
Senate budget writers, fine-tuning their addition of a few billion in extra spending, tentatively approved and sent to the printer a two-year state budget on Thursday.
Senate approves more funds for Medicaid, schools
House Bill 10, which now heads back to the House for consideration of Senate changes, provides supplemental funding this budget year of more than $4.5 million for Medicaid and children’s health care, and more than $1.7 billion for public schools. It reverses two gimmicks the Legislature used two years ago to balance the budget, and its approval was expected.
House Panel Reveals Divide on Medicaid Expansion
Although the House GOP caucus overwhelmingly voted on Monday to reject the version of the Medicaid expansion called for under the Affordable Care Act, lawmakers left the door open to discussing other possibilities for reforming Medicaid and drawing down dollars from the federal government to do it. Since that vote, Speaker Joe Straus has put pressure on legislators to present a proposal for how Texas should reform Medicaid. -Read full article-
Former legislators kicking off new careers as Texas lobbyists
Nearly a dozen former House members who lost their re-election bids or opted not to run again roam the Capitol wielding a different kind of clout — as well-connected Texas lobbyists, often for big-money clients.
Former Rick Perry Aide Got $162,500 Bonus
But shortly before Gov. Rick Perry announced Ann Bishop would become his chief of staff late last year — a post she held only briefly before returning to ERS — agency records indicate she received something of a parting gift: a $162,500 bonus.-Read full article-
Dewhurst sues former campaign manager over missing money
The suit in Travis County state court claims that Kenneth “Buddy” Barfield — a well-known Austinite who managed Dewhurst’s successful campaigns for more than a decade — began the skimming sometime prior to 2010 by collecting payments for false invoices from a Barfield consulting company, Alexander Consulting.
Committee takes aim at state employee bonuses
Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Van, Thursday filed legislation that would require state agencies to post online the compensation of their executive staff and would prohibit them from accepting donations — including from foundations — to supplement an employee’s salary.
In Texas, Water Use for Fracking Stirs Concerns
In this South Texas stretch of mesquite trees and cactus, where the land is sometimes too dry to grow crops, the local aquifer is being strained in the search for oil. The reason is hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a drilling process that requires massive amounts of water.
Senator proposes bill to raise legal smoking age
Sen. Carlos Uresti (D-San Antonio) says more than 503,000 kids under the age of 18 will die prematurely from tobacco. That’s why Uresti has authored a bill aimed at changing the legal smoking age to 21.
Study shows sonogram law does little to prevent abortions
Preliminary results from a recent study on the 24-hour waiting period before having an abortion show that the time did not deter the woman’s final decision to have the abortion. Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, said she will file a bill this week that would overturn the waiting period passed by the Legislature in 2011.-Read full article-
Sex-ed plan would keep groups like Planned Parenthood out of schools
A Texas Senate education panel heard details Tuesday on a proposal to prohibit organizations linked to abortion providers from teaching sex education in public schools statewide — even though critics say there are very few cases where that’s actually occurring.-Read full article-
Perry endorses efforts to reevaluate STAAR exams
Gov. Rick Perry on Tuesday added his voice to a chorus of bipartisan state lawmakers, parents, teachers and educational professionals who say it’s time for Texas to take a hard look at the standardized tests it requires students to pass in order to graduate from high school.
Texas Senate Expends $1.75 Billion to Change a Payment Date to School Districts, While Restoring Zero Dollars for Public SchoolsThe Texas Senate on Tuesday accomplished a rare feat. It managed to pass a supplemental spending bill, HB 10, bearing $1.75 billion for school districts, without using a single dime of it to restore school funding that was severely cut in 2011.-Read full article-
TSTA poll: Texas voters strongly support using Rainy Day Fund to restore school cuts
A strong majority of Texas voters support using some of the $12 billion in the state’s Rainy Day Fund to restore the $5.4 billion cut from the public education budget two years ago, and the support is strong across party lines, a poll commissioned by the Texas State Teachers Association shows.-Read full article-
Two School Voucher Bills Emerge, While Lucio Denies Support
Paxton’s SB 1015 would let companies steer up to 75% of what they owe in state taxes to a nonprofit that, in turn, awards private school scholarships for low-income students. Williams’ SB 115 would provide a voucher for parents of children in special education programs, with its value tied to the special education funding the school district would receive from the state.-Read full article-Truitt’s lobbying job draws fire from DavisState Sen. Wendy Davis raised ethics concerns Wednesday about former state Rep. Vicki Truitt for serving as a lobbyist for the payday loan industry that she oversaw as a lawmaker until recently.-Read full article-
Support ban on texting while driving
A proposal to ban texting while driving made its way out of a Texas House committee Tuesday, with only one vote in opposition. A vote in the full House awaits. The bill enjoys broad, bipartisan support and while its fate this session remains to be seen, there is reason to expect lawmakers will pass the ban, just as they passed a similar prohibition two years ago.-Read full editorial-
Senate approves emergency spending bill for Medicaid, education
The Texas Senate, after a brief fight over whether to fully restore school-funding cuts two years ago, approved a bill Tuesday afternoon that will restore about $6.6 billion for the health care and education budgets.-Read full article-
Texas AG’s office blasts Watkins over handling of Medicaid fraud case
The Texas attorney general’s office has blasted Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins over his handling of a major fraud case against a Dallas dentist, citing the DA’s lack of cooperation and the “sweetheart deal” he offered the dentist.-Read full article-
Cancer agency chief recommends review of moratorium
The interim executive director of CPRIT recommended that lawmakers reconsider a moratorium on grants from the agency. Director Wayne Roberts also recommended fast-tracking 25 grants intended to lure first-class researchers.-Read full article-
Texas House GOP opposes Medicaid expansion
In a private caucus meeting Monday, Texas House Republicans voted overwhelmingly to oppose Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act “in its current form,” a distinction that raises the possibility of a compromise on one of the few hot-button issues in a relatively quiet legislative session.-Read full article-
Conservatives Revive Proposal for Term Limits
Texas conservatives were pushing for term limits 20 years ago, in an effort easy to dismiss as an attempt to flush Democrats out of the Legislature, the congressional delegation and even out of some executive offices.-Read full article-