The Texas House of Representatives saw one of its biggest debates of the session Thursday. At issue was a rules change that blocked Democrats from reallocating the funding in a Medicaid spending bill toward other areas, like education.

Last session, the state legislature didn’t set aside enough money to pay for Medicaid through the end of this year, which means they still need to pass a supplemental bill to fill the gap.

 

Democrats had been trying to force a quick vote on public school funding, and there was talk of using some of the money to pay down the debt accrued during the historic Bastrop County wildfires. The rule blocking those plans passed overwhelmingly, meaning the bill in question will remain focused on funding Medicaid.

Democrats we spoke to say there was never any question of support for the supplemental appropriations bill, but that there was a point to be made.

“Clearly we all knew we’d be supporting this bill, so voting for the rule didn’t really impact things there,” Rep. Donna Howard said. “However, I think there was a lot to be said for voting against the rule, making the statement that this precluded us from adding things, such as the Bastrop fires to this must-pass bill. So quite frankly I think you could justify voting either way.”

A supplemental bill that includes education funding could still be brought to the House floor later this session.

Paying for prisons

Another challenge facing lawmakers is how to fund the state’s adult and juvenile justice systems. Thursday, lawmakers in one subcommittee listened to hours of testimony from various agencies and advocacy groups, all in the midst of some dramatic changes affecting the entire criminal justice system.

We caught up with the subcommittee’s chairman, Rep. Sylvester Turner, after the day’s hearings.

Sex education

Another piece of legislation being talked about at the State Capitol deals with sex education in the classroom.

If the Texas Parental Control Accountability Act passes into law, students would need a parent’s permission to take part in any human sexuality instruction administered by anyone other than a public school employee. The bill would also ban the use of any educational materials that are affiliated with an abortion provider.

Click the image below to hear more about the bill, along with reaction from Kathy Miller of the Texas Freedom Network.