Archive for April, 2013

Budget bill passes out of House with overwhelming support

After more than 12 hours of debate on almost 200 amendments, House lawmakers voted 135-12 to pass Senate Bill 1, laying out the state’s next two-year budget.

Rep. Lon Burnam spoke in opposition to the bill, saying it failed to restore funding cut from education and other programs.

“What we’re not doing in this state, is we’re not investing in the future,” Burnam said.

However, Rep. Sylvester Turner urged his fellow lawmakers to vote in favor, saying it came a long way from the baseline bill laid out at the beginning of session, especially when it comes to mental health programs.

The bill puts back $2.5 billion of the $5.4 billion cut from public education, and it beefs up spending on mental health and higher education.

One amendment that would have left the door open for Medicaid expansion was passed earlier in the night, then later withdrawn.

Capital Tonight: House budget battle stretches into evening

Endless Amendments

As of 9 p.m. Thursday, House lawmakers were still busy debating the state’s budget bill.
The $193.8 billion package would fund the state’s finances over the next two-year budget cycle.

Although it lays out a spending plan for the future, much of the debate involved revisiting the cuts made last go-round.  

  

Grading Education Reform

As a native Texan with more than 30 years of educational experience, Round Rock ISD Superintendent Jesús Chávez could be better suited than anyone to evaluate this session’s education proposals. We spoke to him about funding needs, graduation requirements and more. 

 

Possible Pocket Veto

It’s a bill filed in the Senate that aims to ban employer discrimination based on sexual orientation. Yesterday, a veteran of the Iraq war testified in favor of it, but no one testified in person against.

Now, the bill remains in committee, and some believe it could stay there in spite of public support. Chuck Smith of Equality Texas spoke about what the bill does and responds to its detractors. 

 

Senate passes CPRIT reform bills

The Texas Senate has unanimously passed two bills to overhaul the state’s embattled cancer fighting agency. Republican Sen. Jane Nelson authored both bills, which will in part, restructure CPRIT’s leadership to make sure agency rules are followed and ban agency executives from having business relationships with award recipients.

CPRIT has been under fire for several grants being awarded without going through the proper approval process. Tuesday, the private foundation linked to the state agency announced it was shutting down. The move follows an investigation by the State Attorney General’s Office over what it calls “serious legal concerns” surrounding the nonprofit.

On today’s legislation, Sen. Nelson said she’s pleased the Senate unanimously passed a bill she believes will restore confidence to the public.

In 2007, Texas voters approved spending $3 billion on cancer research.

The bill to overhaul the agency now goes to the House for consideration.

Capital Tonight: Cancer foundation to close

The CPRIT foundation announced Tuesday they will shutter their doors in 60 days. This comes after they announced last month they would be changing their name to the Texas Cancer Coalition. The institute itself is not shutting down, just the fundraising organization.

A hit-and-run bill is moving forward through the Legislature. Written by Sen. Kirk Watson and Sen. Wendy Davis, Senate Bill 275 changes leaving the scene of an accident from a third-degree felony to a second-degree felony.

CSCOPE

Kyle Wargo, a CSCOPE governing board member, sat down with Paul Brown. The online curriculum management tool is used by 70 percent of Texas schools.

Capital Commentators

Harold Cook and Ted Delisi sat down with Paul Brown to discuss the CPRIT Foundation’s announcement Tuesday. They also discussed Medicaid expansion in Texas.

Capital Tonight: Doing the math on Medicaid expansion

It was a day of dueling Medicaid events at the State Capitol Monday.

Republican Gov. Rick Perry, along with US Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, teamed up to talk about why Texas should not expand the program under the rules of the Affordable Care Act. Meanwhile, the Castro twins were quick to point out how many of the state’s uninsured it could help.

Medicaid Math

After all the speeches, one state lawmaker may wind up having more say than anyone. Rep. Lois Kolkhorst was the voice of the entire Texas House in Monday’s roundtable discussion among Republicans.

As chair of the House Public Health Committee, Rep. Kolkhorst has looked closely at the costs and gains associated with expansion, through data available to the public. She says lawmakers are ignoring one key element in the debate: Texas’ high rate of uninsured would drop whether the state agrees to expansion or not.

 
 

High Alert

Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife were found shot to death in their home over the weekend, just two months after McLelland’s assistant prosecutor was also gunned down.

Gov. Perry is now tasked with assigning a new district attorney, and as the investigation into who is responsible for the shootings continues, public officials and courtrooms across the state are on alert.