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Hot List: Day 59 of the Texas Legislature

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The Lead:

Should be a light day at the Capitol. The Senate is giving itself another four-day weekend, starting today—maybe some of them are checking out SXSW events—and the House will once again hear “congratulatory resolutions.”

While the full House and Senate won’t meet this Friday, the House Appropriations Committee will hear invited testimony tomorrow on Medicaid Funding—one of this session’s hottest issues. Medicaid expansion could provide the state with $100 billion in federal money over 10 years and insure at least 1.5 million Texans. But Gov. Rick Perry refuses to entertain the idea. Millions of uninsured Texans still have a chance if the Legislature decides to push to expand the program—or cut a deal with the federal government.

Yesterday’s Headlines:

1. The Senate Higher Education Committee approved a bill merging UT-Brownsville and UT-Pan American, which would create a new medical school in the Valley and allow the schools to receive infrastructure money from the Permanent University Fund.

2. The Texas Tribune reports that Texas university chancellors asked the Senate Veterans Affairs and Military Installations Committee for more money to support education programs that exempt veterans from tuition payments.

3. Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson called on the Legislature to reform the criminal justice system yesterday in his biennial State of the Judiciary address. He said lawmakers needed to reduce criminalization of school kids, and provide more funding for legal aid, juvenile justice system reforms, and more programs to stop abuse of the elderly, as reported by Quorum Report (subscription needed).

4. On Tuesday the Austin American-Statesman posted this article on bills filed in the House and Senate by Rep. Giovanni Capriglione (R-Southlake) and Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston). HB 1938 and SB 1128 would amend an old state law to allow only American or Texas history courses to count toward the required six history credits in higher education. Yesterday, Texas Monthly‘s Paul Burka editorialized on the absurdity of leaving out race, class and gender studies and the Lege’s need to control higher ed curricula at such a detailed level.

Line of the Day:

“Do we have liberty and justice for all? Or have we come to accept liberty and justice only for some?” —Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson in his State of the Judiciary speech yesterday, as quoted in the Statesman.

What We’re Watching Today:

1. The House Committee on Homeland Security will hear a slew of bills ranging topics from funding for a DWI-prevention executive commissioner to creating a natural or man-made disaster response task force for the Rio Grande Valley.

2. The Senate Health and Human Services Committee will hear bills that would expand assistance and care to the elderly and people with disabilities.

3. The House Appropriations Committee is already meeting this morning and hearing invited testimony from K-12 and higher education agencies.