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From Dewhurst-Care to Sonograms

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Day 38 of the 82nd Texas Legislature

Gov. Rick Perry is probably looking forward to today. He’s likely to see the two more of his emergency items—those issues he fast-tracked at the beginning of session—addressed in some form. The Senate is on tap to debate the sonogram bill one the floor and the Senate State Affairs Committee will take up a bill calling for the federal government to balance its budget. Speaking of emergency items, a bill related to “sanctuary city” policy has been filed in both the House and Senate. 

Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst stood by Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound yesterday, as they introduced their own versions of healthcare reform bills yesterday. And don’t forget—Census data is likely to (finally!) be released this afternoon, a celebration for redistricting and map lovers alike.

1. Dewhurst-Care

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, introduced two bills yesterday that would reform healthcare their way. Senate Bill 7 calls for paying doctors based on patient outcomes rather than the number of procedures performed. Senate Bill 8 would create a “healthcare collaborative” that would allow doctors and hospitals to work together to keep costs low and then share the savings. Dewhurst hailed the legislation as being the antithesis of the federal healthcare reform bill, but some in the medical community say there are more similarities than differences. [Austin American-Statesman] [Houston Chronicle]

2. No Sacred Cows?!

Gov. Rick Perry has been singing the same tune since his campaign and into the session—Texas must tighten its belt to deal with the budget crisis. He’s told lawmakers not to consider raising taxes or using the Rainy Day Fund.  But while the proposed widespread budget cuts are causing panic, the Governor’s Office asked the Senate Finance Committee for an $81.5 million in funding for things like business incentive programs. Perry’s approach may not fly with the lawmakers who have seen what the budget cuts would do to most Texans. [Texas Observer]

3. Sonogram Bill Hits the Floor

The Senate is scheduled to debate the third of Gov. Perry’s emergency items today—Sen. Dan Patrick’s infamous sonogram bill. An alternative version of the bill, which requires that doctors provide women with a sonogram and the option to hear a verbal description of the image at least two hours before performing an abortion, was passed out of committee last week after a 7-2 vote. Things might get a bit contentious. Patrick says “empowers” women and keeps them more informed, while critics argue it’s nothing more than a political move. [Fort Worth Star-Telegram]

 4. Legal Aid No More?

On top of leaving health and human service and education programs bleeding, the proposed budget cuts would also devastate funding for legal aid for low-income Texans. Only 20 percent of poor Texans who need basic legal services use get help now, and that number would significantly dwindle should lawmakers pass the $23 million cut to legal aid. The solution may be increasing fees to raise revenue, and Sen. Eddie Rodriguez, D-El Paso, has taken the lead by filing a bill requiring a fee to filing certain documents with the state. [Texas Observer] [Houston Chronicle]

5. Sanctuary City Saga

Rep. Burt Solomons, R-Carrollton, and Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, filed identical legislation yesterday relating to “sanctuary cities.” It calls for local law enforcement agencies to follow federal and state immigration policies or lose state grant money. Gov. Perry called for the abolishment of “sanctuary cities”—so-called havens for undocumented immigrants—on the first day of the legislative session. Critics of these and other related legislation worry the bills effectively allow for racial profiling. [San Antonio Express-News]