Hot List: Day 58 of the Legislature


The Lead:

It was controversial-bill day in the Senate Education Committee yesterday. The committee dealt with vouchers, sex-ed (and Planned Parenthood’s role in it), and, for good measure, a debate about parochial school students who can’t play baseball in the University Interscholastic League (UIL) that included a comment by Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston) equating the plight of private-school kids kept out of UIL to the fight against racial injustice during segregation. It was that kind of day.

The Observer‘s Patrick Michels reports on Sen. Patrick’s latest “civil rights issue.” Sen. Patrick said, “When you say that UIL has functioned for 100 years and everyone’s been happy—if you were black in this state before the civil rights movement, it didn’t function for you…. And now I feel there’s discrimination against Catholics and Christians in these parochial schools. And the same testimony would’ve been given before this committee in the 1950s: ‘It’s gonna be on an unlevel playing field if we let those black players play.’ Traditions must be broken. People must be accepted. And no one should be discriminated against in Texas.”

That was a tough act to follow, but the anti-abortion crowd proved up to the challenge in the afternoon. The committee heard testimony on tea partier Ken Paxton’s (R-McKinney) latest controversial bill, SB 521, which would prevent any organization that offers abortion services from providing “human sexuality” or family planning instruction (or instruction materials) in public schools (that’s code for Planned Parenthood).

The hearing on SB 521 included this comment from Sen. Donna Campbell, “I’m amazed at those who make a point of promoting abortion. They’re all a lie. Your mom didn’t abort you.”

Yes, it was quite a day in Senate Education. The House and Senate are both back at it today.

Yesterday’s Headlines:

1. Yesterday’s Medicaid expansion rally was loud enough to be heard inside the walls of the Senate chamber. The Observer‘s Melissa del Bosque writes that 2,000 people rallied for Medicaid expansion, but Gov. Rick Perry remains firmly opposed to it.

2.  State Sen. Tommy Williams (R-The Woodlands) pitched his voucher proposal to give state-funded grants to parents of children with special needs to attend private school, the Observer’s Patrick Michels reports. Things went south very quickly, with Sen. Patrick lambasting anyone who disagreed with him and asking opposition witnesses things like “Do you have a child with a disability?” before dismissing their opinions.

3. House Bill 10 passed in the Senate after a brief scuffle between Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) and Sen. Williams, as the Austin American-Statesman reports. Davis withdrew her attempts to involve the Rainy Day Fund and the supplemental spending bill for Medicaid passed.

Line of the Day:

“Is there a condom for their innocence?” —Terry Johnson, mother of four and development coordinator at Austin Life Care, testifying against Planned Parenthood contributing to sex ed for public school children.

What We’re Watching Today:

1. The Senate Higher Education Committee, which meets at 9 a.m. is tackling Sen. Chuy Hinojosa’s bill to create a new University of Texas branch in South Texas.

2. Senate Finance will continue discussing workgroup recommendations on the budget this afternoon.

3.  The House Public Health Committee meets this morning to consider a slate of bills, including one by Rep. Dawnna Dukes (D-Austin) that would require doctors to provide pregnant women with information about the dangers of drinking while pregnant.

4. And the House Select Committee on Federalism and Fiscal Responsibility will meet this afternoon to discuss impacts of the federal sequestration budget cuts.