We’re on to the next chapter of the 83rd legislative session. Friday was the deadline to file bills, and, as the Austin American-Statesman reports, legislators and their staffers scrambled to file hundreds of bills at the last minute, some of which were on controversial subjects such as school vouchers. Lawmakers also filed “shell” bills—vessels whose details will come later. It’ll take some time to sort through everything that was filed, and we can expect some surprises down the line.
After another lengthy weekend, the House and Senate will convene at 2 p.m. today.
1. One of those shells filed on Friday is House Bill 3791, which allows the Health and Human Services Commission to negotiate a Medicaid-expansion deal with the Obama administration, writes the Texas Tribune. Conservative states like Florida, Arizona and Arkansas have struck deals with the feds to expand Medicaid, but Gov. Rick Perry is still holding out.
2. Rep. Harvey Hilderbran (R-Kerrville), chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, told the Statesman that he’s interested in fixing the main business tax instead of ridding the state of it.
3. The Joint Oversight Committee on Higher Education Governance (that’s JOCHEG, if you’re scoring at home) will be up and running soon in response to the UT System Board of Regents’ continued micromanaging of UT Austin and efforts against President Bill Powers, reports the Austin American-Statesman.
Line of the Day:
“There’s a couple who, I used to say, their desks would qualify as a gun show.” –Alice Tripp, legislative director of the Texas State Rifle Association, told The New York Times about legislators’ toting guns in the Capitol.
What We’re Watching Today:
1. The House Appropriations subcommittee on budget transparency will hear a bill on tapping the Rainy Day Fund for water projects and a bill to redirect System Benefit Fund money to actually help lower-income families with electric bills—the purpose for which the fund was intended.
2. Senate Finance subcommittee on fiscal matters will hear the Water Development Board bill filed by Sen. Troy Fraser (R-Horseshoe Bay), which would also tap money from the Rainy Day Fund for water projects.
Health care advocates were optimistic that the Legislature would do something this year to address high, and rising, uninsured rates; high rates of maternal mortality; and the rural hospital closure crisis.