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Hot List: Day 57 of the Legislature

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The Lead:

Medicaid has been perhaps the most-discussed issue of the 83rd session so far—with the possible exception of education. And today will be a big day in the debate over Medicaid—the state-federal program that provides health insurance to the poor.

The Senate is scheduled to hear House Bill 10—the supplemental spending bill that would provide the funds to keep the program running for the final six months of fiscal year 2013. The House has already passed the bill, and the Senate is expected to as well. Lawmakers really don’t have a choice—it’s about as automatic as spending more than $4 billion can ever be. They have to pass the bill in the next few weeks to keep the Medicaid program going.

The more controversial issue is whether to expand Medicaid by accepting federal funds under Obamacare to cover more people. Medicaid expansion could insure more than a million Texans in the the state with the highest percentage of uninsured citizens. Supporters of Medicaid expansion will hold a large rally at 11:30 a.m. at the Capitol. Meanwhile, many lawmakers inside the Pink Dome like the idea of a deal with the feds to expand Medicaid in exchange for loosening some program restrictions. Republican Sens. Bob Deuell and Jane Nelson have broached this idea. (The House Republican caucus announced yesterday that it’s a against Medicaid expansion—for whatever that’s worth).

The real impediment remains Gov. Rick Perry. While Republican governors in New Jersey, Florida and Arizona have taken Medicaid expansion—and Republicans in the Lege talk about making a deal—Perry remains firmly opposed. He calls it a broken system. It could be difficult to expand Medicaid in Texas unless Perry moderates his position.

Yesterday’s Headlines:

1. Lawmakers debated more funding for Texas’ state parks in House Ways and Means yesterday. No one wants to see parks close, but that’s about where the agreement ends.

2. Sen. Dan Patrick and the Higher Education Coordinating Board disagree on the cost of Patrick’s bill to encourage career prep courses in high school, as the Observer‘s Liz Farmer reports.

3. The Dallas Morning-News points out that Gov. Perry remains a major obstacle to Medicaid expansion in Texas.

4. Religious leaders yesterday endorsed a restoration of family planning cuts. The Statesman has details.

Line of the Day:

“No, no. They’re just wrong, OK? God love ‘em. They’re just wrong.” —Sen. Dan Patrick on his disagreement with higher ed leaders over the cost of his new high school graduation plan.

What We’re Watching Today:

1. The Senate Education Committee meets today to discuss Sen. Ken Paxton’s bill that would ban groups like Planned Parenthood from contributing materials to high school sex ed classes.

2. The Medicaid expansion rally—11:30 a.m. on the south steps of the Capitol. Protestors will march up Congress Avenue beginning at 10:45 a.m.

3. House Bill 10—the supplemental spending bill for Medicaid—will be on the Senate floor today. Senate convenes at 11 a.m.

4. The House Appropriations Committee is hearing budget recommendations for most of the big health and human service agencies this morning.