Hot List: Day 79 of the Legislature

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The Lead:

The Senate Health and Human Services Committee heard testimony yesterday morning on one of the session’s more controversial proposals, Senate Bill 11, which would subject some welfare applicants to drug screening. Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), the bill’s author, presented a toned-down committee substitute that would bar only adults from receiving benefits in the event of a failed drug screening, meaning their children would still be eligible for benefits. That had been opponents’ main objection to the bill. Adults could still be subject to a lifetime ban from benefits but only after testing positive for drugs three times. And a “protective payee” provision was added that would allow a relative, like a grandmother, to receive benefits on a child’s behalf, if the parent had failed drug tests. The changes satisfied Scott McCown from the liberal Center for Public Policy Priorities and Democrats on the committee. The committee passed the revised bill 9-0. Let’s hear it for compromise.

Yesterday’s Headlines:

1. The House floor yesterday saw its first major debate, which dragged into Tuesday night, with representatives amending Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock’s HB 5. The bill would change Texas’ high school graduation requirements as well as its accountability and testing systems. The House passed the measure 145-2.

2. The Texas Tribune compared the current House and Senate versions of the budget. The big difference:  The House spends more on public ed and less on Medicaid. That could change next week when the budget reaches the House floor.

Line of the Day:

“If they don’t want to go to college, they shouldn’t have to get a permission slip signed by their parents if they want to do something else with their lives.” —Rep. Joe Deshotel (D-Beaumont) while debating HB 5 yesterday.

What We’re Watching Today:

 1. No rest for the weary today. The full House will be back at it debating HB 4, a big water bill that would fund certain infrastructure projects in the state water plan.

 2. House State Affairs will hear two anti-abortion bills. HB 2816 would require physicians to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. This is quickly becoming a big anti-abortion session.

3.  Sen. Kel Seliger’s  SB 15 will be up for hearing in Senate Higher Education. A lot of people have their eyes on this bill, which would restrict powers of university governing boards. Looking at you, University of Texas.