May 9, 2011

TMA Legislative News Hotline

Monday, May 9, 2011

Several members of the Texas House of Representatives are trying to gut successful programs that can help us stop Texas’ terrible obesity epidemic. Please contact your representative today. Ask him or her to “Vote No” on amendments to House Bill 400 by Rep. Rob Eissler (R-The Woodlands) that repeal school-based fitness measurements and coordinated school health education. You can use the TMA Grassroots Action Center for talking points and an easy way to send e-mails to your representative, senator, and Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst. Please act now. The bill will be on the House floor in the next few days. Help fight Texas’ growing childhood obesity epidemic.

Last week, the Senate’s budget plan, which calls for $12 billion more in spending than the House version, unraveled. The Senate budget bill passed last week only because it was one of those rare days on which the Senate can take up House bills and pass them with a simple majority. However, once the budget bill arrived in the House, representatives refused to accept the Senate’s amendments. The state budget bill goes to conference committee this week, as soon as Senate conferees are named. Speaker of the House Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) selected House conferees Friday. As of this morning, Lt. Gov. Dewhurst still had not selected Senate conferees. House conferees are Reps. Jim Pitts (R-Waxahachie), chair; Sylvester Turner (D-Houston); John Zerwas, MD (R-Simonton); John Otto (R-Dayton); and Myra Crownover (R-Denton).

Lawmakers are under a lot of pressure from outside groups to pass an extra lean budget —  more in line with the House version, which doesn’t provide basic health care services for many vulnerable patients. The House version slashes Medicaid payments to physicians, hospitals and nursing homes; eliminates both physician loan repayment programs; cuts funding for medical schools and residency programs; and much more.

A capitol reporter last week hinted one reason the House continues to postpone taking up its nontax revenue bills is that it doesn’t want to raise more money to cover any additional spending. This week is sure to present more challenges and surprises. Stay tuned.

The House is buried under a backlog of bills If these bills don’t pass this week, many of them soon could be dead. After an emotionally charged Saturday fueled by partisan politics, the House shut down early. Republicans have a super majority in the House. The only way Democrats can stop contentious bills from passing is to use parliamentary stall tactics, which worked to stop several bills last week. In frustration, Republicans suspended all House rules so it could take a straight up or down vote, with no debate or amendments, on HB 274. The legislation by Rep. Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe) would require lawsuit losers to pay the legal fees for both sides in both frivolous and legitimate cases. The bill received tentative approval. Today it’s before the House for a final vote. Several other controversial bills are on the House docket as well, which could slow down the House proceedings, such as the public education bill — HB 400, Texas Windstorm Insurance Association bill, and several state fiscal matter bills.

The physician of the day at the capitol is Kanaka Paladugu, MD, of Bastrop. Dr. Paladugu has practiced family medicine for four years. She graduated from Sri Devaraj Urs Medical College in India in 2000. Dr. Paladugu is a member of the Bastrop-Lee County Medical Society.

House Meltdown Ends in GOP Show of Force (Texas Tribune)
Sensitive topic of futile medical care faces long road in Legislature
(Austin-American Statesman)
Medicaid cuts could drive doctors from Valley
(The McAllen Monitor)
In chaotic vote, GOP-led Texas House OKs limits on lawsuits
(Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

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