Hot List: Day 37 of the Legislature

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The Lead:

CPRIT has been the big issue of the session so far. The Senate Health and Human Services Committee yesterday approved a bill to reform the troubled Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) authored by Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound). “Our laws and rules have been twisted in ways that are disappointing and unacceptable,” Nelson said in a press release.

This bill “reinforces our clear legislative intent that CPRIT be operated in a fair, transparent manner that is befitting of its lifesaving mission. We will not allow the actions of a few individuals to stand in the way of our effort to find treatments and cures for this terrible disease,” she continued.

According to the Texas Tribune, SB 149 would completely restructure the leadership staff in the institute, create provisions that would prevent conflicts of interest and remove Greg Abbott and Susan Combs from their positions on the oversight committee. The bill will now go before the full Senate.

Yesterday’s Headlines:

1. Yesterday morning Sen. Troy Fraser (R-Horseshoe Bay), chair of the Senate Natural Resources Committee, presented SB 4. Fraser seeks $2 billion to aid the state in recovering from its severe drought, the Houston Chronicle reports. He also called for the Texas Water Development Board to upgrade from part-time to full-time and scolded the group for failing to appropriately set and fulfill priorities. The committee heard invited testimony, with the expectation that public testimony will follow in the coming weeks.

2. Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa (D-McAllen) filed a measure on Monday to legalize civil unions in Texas by 2014 and partially repeal Texas’ Defense of Marriage Act. SB 480 would require first changing Texas’ 2005 constitutional amendment prohibiting both same-sex marriage and civil unions, the Dallas Voice reports. Sen. Jose Rodriguez (D-El Paso) and Reps. Rafael Anchia (D-Dallas) and Garnet Coleman (D-Houston) have already filed resolutions to lift the ban. That seems unlikely. The measures would require a two-thirds majority in both chambers before being placed on statewide ballots.

Line of the Day:

“The creation of civil unions in Texas is critical for same-gender couples so they can be afforded the same benefits and protections that married couples enjoy. Providing legal protections, including property rights, homestead rights, child custody and support, adoption, group insurance for state employees, and worker compensation benefits, would treat same-gender couples with the dignity and respect they deserve as well as allow them the benefits to take care of their families,.” Sen. Juan Hinojosa (D-McAllen) said in a press release on Monday.

What We’re Watching Today:

1. The Senate Finance Committee, which meets this morning at 9 a.m., will hear from the Commission on Jail Standards about public safety and criminal justice, and the Department of Agriculture will present on natural resources.

2. The Senate Committee on Transportation will meet this morning at 8 a.m. and will hear testimony from the Texas Department of Transportation, the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles and the Texas Department of Public Safety.

3. The House Public Health Committee meets today to discuss, among other issues, Obamacare and its effect on Texas.