Day 32 of the 82nd Texas Legislature
Has it been a busy week, or what? House members finally got their committee assignments Wednesday and the Appropriations Committee met that very afternoon. No wasting time this session it seems. The Senate Finance Committee continued its public testimony on higher education and next week a subcommittee will begin discussing what to do with Medicaid. Other Senate committees like Health and Human Services and Higher Education are also on the calendar to meet starting Monday. The Senate made Gov. Rick Perry happy this week by successfully moving forward two more of his emergency items. Members unanimously passed the eminent domain bill, now headed to the House, and the State Affairs committee voted 7-2 to send the sonogram bill to the Senate floor.
1. Calling Judge Judy
It’s no secret that the drastic cuts in the proposed budget bills may mean a slew of lawsuits for the state, and that couldn’t more true in the arena of public education funding. In yesterday’s House Appropriations Committee meeting, state Rep. Mike Villareal pointed out that if the budget passes as is, the state would only be footing 45 percent of the public education bill. No money for instructional materials. Is the stage set for a lawsuit? [Texas Observer]
2. Not So Fast
Though eminent domain flew through the Senate this week, opponents hope to slow the bill now that it will soon hit the House. If passed, the bill would allow the state or another private entity to acquire private property for public use after negotiating a fair price with the owner. Gov. Rick Perry made eminent domain an emergency item early in the session and claims the bill will further strengthen private property rights. However, critics say that’s not the whole story. [Houston Chronicle]
3. Set Them Free
At yesterday’s House Appropriations Committee meeting, members heard from experts representing the three programs that cost Texas the most money—Medicaid, the prison system and public education. As they listened to testimony, members asked prison chief Brad Livingston to release some of the most sickly inmates from jail as a way to save money. Texas’ prison system has been highly criticized for the medical care inmates receive (or lack thereof), not to mention it racks up a pretty penny. [Dallas Morning News]
4. Hands off Healthcare
Aside from cuts to programs and jobs and the potential closure of four campuses, community colleges are also wincing at proposed budget cuts to employee health benefits. The Senate budget bill only pays for 50 percent of healthcare costs for employees while right now the state covers 83 percent. The House version suggests covering even less than that. While they’re already tightening their belts in other areas, community college officials wonder if things can get any worse. [Texas Tribune]
5. Can I Take Your Order?
Critics of Sen. Dan Patrick’s sonogram bill (which requires that women get a sonogram and detailed description of the image two hours before having an abortion) have taken the legislation to mean that the ladies can’t make their own decisions about simple things like their health or bodies. Or in this case, their lunches. At a luncheon yesterday, members of the Capital Area Democratic Women organization phoned Patrick’s office asking what kind of taco filling they should be eating, just to prove a point. “The sonogram bill is a clear indicator that Sen. Patrick does not trust women to make major life decisions. If we can’t be trusted with the big ones, how can we possibly carry on living our lives without government consultation for all the decisions we make every day,” the group’s president said in a statement. [Burnt Orange Report]