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Hot List: Day 100 of the Legislature

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The Lead:

We’ve reached day 100 of the session. Just 40 days left to complete the state’s business for the next two years without a special session.

Two of the major issues coming into the session—Medicaid expansion and school testing reform—remain unresolved, though we saw progress on both fronts yesterday.

The Senate Education Committee passed House Bill 5, which would reduce the number of standardized tests high school kids must pass to graduate, yesterday morning. The measure was voted out with a few changes from the House version.

Meanwhile, Rep. John Zerwas (R-Richmond) continues to push Medicaid expansion—well, he’s not calling it that exactly. It’s more like expanding health insurance to Texans that don’t have it. In House Appropriations subcommittee yesterday, he laid out HB 3791, which would push a “Texas solution”  so state officials could design a Medicaid expansion as Texas sees fit—a block grant approach, as John Reynolds writes for Quorum Report, that Zerwas hopes will satisfy the conservatives at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. We’ll see.

Yesterday’s headlines:

1. The Senate Natural Resources Committee voted out Senate Bill 957 by Sen. Troy Fraser (R-Horseshoe Bay). The measure would “streamline” the process that communities and environmental groups currently use to challenge permits to pollute. And by “streamline,” we mean make it easier for polluters to gain permits without nuisance from concerned citizens.

2. The Observer‘s Forrest Wilder examines how the payday loan industry is dividing and conquering consumer advocates this session. Advocates and Democrats are deeply divided over Sen. John Carona’s bill that would impose light regulations on payday loans, but would also hand the industry a major victory by preempting all city ordinances restricting their lending. At the Capitol, money still talks.

3. The troubles for CPRIT, the cancer-fighting agency, just keep coming. Jay Root reports in the Texas Tribune that CPRIT hired a tobacco lobbyist to help its cause at the Legislature. Irony alert.

Line of the Day:

“Maybe the Legislature should just go home and let The New York Times represent the House and the Washington Post represent the Senate.” —Dan Patrick (R-Houston) in the Senate Education Committee on the newspapers’ opposition to Texas reducing standardized testing.

What We’re Watching Today:

1. Rep. Tom Craddick’s texting-while-driving ban hits the House floor.

2. Senate Criminal Justice will hear a bill to repeal “homosexual conduct” as a criminal offense.

3. Senate Criminal Justice will also debate SB 780 by Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa. The bill seeks to improve Texas’ indigent defense by ensuring that poor defendants eligible for counsel actually get a lawyer.