Hot List: Day 78 of the Legislature

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The Lead:

It’s a big day at the Capitol. Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock’s House Bill 5 goes to the House floor for debate today. This is one of the myriad of bills that proposes to lower STAAR testing requirements for high school graduation. As it is, thousands of students are currently off-track to graduate because of testing requirements, and lawmakers are expected to at least reduce the number end-of-course tests students must take to graduate. But pro-testing advocates have been pushing back lately. It should be quite the debate. House members have filed more than 160 amendments.

Not to be outdone, senators will be hearing a high-profile bill today too. Sen. Jane Nelson’s Senate Bill 11 will be debated in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee this morning. That’s the bill that would require drug tests for welfare applicants. Should be a fun day at the Capitol.

Yesterday’s Headlines:

1.The federal government announced its decision to take the Title X family-planning grant away from the state of Texas yesterday and award it instead to a coalition of providers,  the Women’s Health and Family Planning Association of Texas. The initial grant is for $6.5 million dollars to cover birth control, wellness exams and other family-planning services. After the deep cuts to family planning in 2011, the feds apparently decided the state wasn’t the best steward of family-planning funds.

1. The Senate Committee on Open Government approved a bill yesterday that proposes to set up public online message boards on which legislators can communicate between meetings, The Houston Chronicle reports.

2. Rep. Ron Reynolds was formally accused of barratry—otherwise known as “ambulance chasing.”

4. In other news, hosting an ex-president in Texas is apparently pretty expensive. Here’s looking at you, Dubya.

Line of the Day:

“We cannot continue to fund the same inefficient, unsustainable long-term care system and expect a different result.” —Sen. Jane Nelson in yesterday’s debate over Medicaid service, as quoted by The Texas Tribune.

What We’re Watching Today:

1. HB 5, one of this session’s major testing-reform bills, hits the House floor.

2. Some pretty heavy bills will be heard in the Senate Education Committee today, including bills that would aim to prevent cheating scandals, and a handful of charter school bills.

3. SB 11, which would require drug tests for some welfare applicants, will be heard in Senate Health and Human Services.