Lawmakers negotiated late into the night in an attempt to finalize the 2014-2015 state budget. Conference committee members have agreed on a number of spending issues, including how much money to put into public education ($3.2 billion) and water infrastructure projects ($2 billion).
But as the Texas Tribune reports, Medicaid expansion remains a problem. The budget doesn’t include money to expand Medicaid for working poor families under Obamacare (don’t be silly). But conference committee members have included a rider that would set up a framework under which Texas would expand Medicaid if it chose to. That’s apparently too much for some House Republicans. The House GOP caucus voted earlier in the session against Medicaid expansion. And some Republicans are threatening to vote against the budget if it includes the Medicaid provision. Now’s the time for deal-making. Once the conference committee sends the budget back to House and Senate, the bill can’t be changed.
1. Yesterday, the House voted down a proposal to impose term limits on elected officials. SJR 13 would have limited the governor, lieutenant governor and four other statewide officials to two consecutive terms in office. So much for that.
2. The House did approve an amendment by Rep. Matt Krause that would allow university student groups to discriminate against prospective members. We had termed this proposal a “bad bill.” As the Observer‘s Patrick Michels reports, Krause’s bill had died, but he brought it back as an amendment to the Higher Ed Coordinating Board sunset bill.
3. The Senate gave final approval to SB 15, a bill that would place stricter limits on university regents’ power to fire campus presidents, the Associated Press reports. The subtext of this bill has been the fight between the UT Regents and President Bill Powers.
4. The story of the day came from the Texas Tribune‘s Emily Ramshaw, who reported that doctor and GOP activist Steve Hotze has recorded songs (yes, you read that correctly) about his opposition to Obamacare. The Trib story includes a sampling of Hotze’s heavily autotuned tracks.
5. And congratulations to Quorum Report, which turned 30 yesterday.
Line of the Day:
“Let’s say there’s a red hat club. Anybody who wants to come in and subvert that, ‘I don’t like red hats.’” —Rep. Matt Krause, torturing an analogy during House floor debate trying to explain why university student groups should be allowed to discriminate against who can join.
What We’re Watching Today:
1. The House is scheduled to debate Sen. Dan Patrick’s charter school bill today. SB 2 would increase the number of open-enrollment charter schools in Texas.
2. The Senate Finance Subcommittee on Fiscal Matters will hear HB 500 this morning. The bill reforms the franchise tax, including hundreds of millions in tax exemptions for businesses. The franchise tax’s less-than-expected collections have contributed to the state’s budget woes since its creation in 2006.
3. Gov. Rick Perry will ceremonially sign SB 1611—the Michal Morton Act—this afternoon. Sens. Robert Duncan (R-Lubbock) and Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) and Reps. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) and Tryon Lewis (R-Odessa) will be present for the ceremony. So will Michael Morton, who was wrongfully convicted of murder in 1987 and exonerated with DNA evidence in 2011. The bill aims to improve Texas’ criminal justice system by ensuring that defense attorneys have access to all key evidence.