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February 1st, 2013:

Friday random ten: That’s just super

Ten super songs for Super Sunday.

1. Super Freak – Big Daddy
2. Super Frog – Asylum Street Spankers
3. Super Trouper – from “Mamma Mia”
4. Champagne Supernova – Oasis
5. John Lee Supertaster – They Might Be Giants
6. Ode To A Superhero – Weird Al Yankovic
7. Sonic Superslide – The Go-Go’s
8. Superman – R.E.M.
9. Supernatural Thing – Part 1 – Ben E. King
10. Superstition – Stevie Ray Vaughan

I guess I’m rooting for the 49ers in the game, but I don’t really feel that strongly about it, and stuff like this is making me reconsider even my mostly unenthusiastic support. But hey, it’s the last meaningful football game for six months, so I may as well enjoy it. Who are you rooting for and why?

Smaller WHP provider list back up

Maybe they got it right this time.

Right there with them

A revised list of Texas Women’s Health Program providers — with 965 fewer doctors and clinics — has returned to the state’s website.


The HHSC had previously stated that the Texas WHP had 3,500 participating providers, roughly 1,000 more than the number of providers that participated in the former Medicaid WHP. That list has shrunk to 2,448 doctors and clinics, as 965 providers said they would not accept WHP patients, despite being certified for the program. The contact information for 700 other providers has also been updated on the state’s website.

“HHSC added the provider search back to the Texas Women’s Health Program website late Friday after thousands of calls were made to verify the information,” Linda Edwards-Gockel said in an email. “The search is now set up to display first those health care providers who can serve the greatest number of clients.”

State Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, said in an email that she remains skeptical of the list’s accuracy. Farrar requested a list of all WHP providers and the number of patients they can serve from the HHSC under the Public Information Act, but the agency is still processing her request. “After briefly going through part of the list for Houston providers, my staff already found numerous duplicates.”

Going from 3,500 providers to 2,448 is a reduction of thirty percent. If I’m reading this correctly, there are now as many providers in the replacement WHP as there were in the original, except that the single largest provider by far is no longer allowed in. Would someone please remind me how it is that this program could possibly be an adequate alternative to the perfectly functional one we used to have? Assuming that this “corrected” list of doctors and clinics is now in fact complete and accurate, which is not a sure bet. We’ve had our fun error-checking the HHSC’s work, but the real issue is still how many of the women who depend on this program will actually be able to receive adequate health care through it? We can’t lose sight of that. Trail Blazers has more.

Committee time

Now the real work gets started.

Joe Straus

House Speaker Joe Straus announced committee assignments for the Legislature’s lower chamber on Thursday, ending speculation over key chairmanships and giving lawmakers the go-ahead to start considering bills.

Here’s his list.

Of the standing committees, 32 are chaired by men, six by women. That’s one more female chair than the 2011 session.

Among the committee chairs, 26 are white, five are black and seven are Hispanic, one more than last session.
State Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock takes over the Public Education Committee as battle lines are already being drawn over accountability, student testing and school choice reforms. He is well-regarded in public education circles and has drawn support from advocacy groups that oppose private school vouchers — an indication that any legislation enacting such a policy, a priority for his counterpart in the Senate, Dan Patrick, might encounter a hurdle when it comes to the lower chamber.

As noted, the list of committees and members is here. Burka notes where committee chairs were changed, in most cases because the previous Chair is no longer in the House. The Public Ed committee looks reasonably promising – Chair Aycock, and members Dan Huberty and Bennett Ratliff are all ParentPAC endorsees; member Marsha Farney was the non-crazy Republican to emerge from the GOP primary for SBOE10 in 2010. If a voucher bill makes it out of the Senate this is the kind of committee one might hope would bottle it up. If there’s a committee to watch for possible shenanigans, it’s the Corrections committee, which has Debbie Riddle and Steve Toth among its seven members. There is a Redistricting committee, which may or may not have much to do but which will have a couple of bills relating to how prison inmates are counted for redistricting purposes to consider. The Elections committee will have a bill to repeal voter ID and several others to make voting easier on its list of things to ponder. Rep. Eric Johnson, author of the latter and one of the former, is on the Elections committee. We’ll see if he can get any action on those bills of his. Take a look at the committee list and see what you think about it. BOR has more.

Crocodile tears over the school finance lawsuit

This is little more than blaming the victim.

Sen. Tommy Williams

A state judge is expected to rule next week on whether the school finance system is broken, but lawmakers aren’t anywhere near ready to launch repairs.

Instead, Republican leaders plan to wait for an appeal and a final Texas Supreme Court ruling so they know exactly what they are forced to do.

In a twist, some of their rhetoric seems to suggest school districts have only themselves to blame for the postponement of hopes of restoring funds cut back from education two years ago.

The delay in acting is business-as-usual for the Legislature, which as an institution typically waits as education funding problems get bad enough to prompt a lawsuit by school districts. Then lawmakers wait some more, until the state’s highest court outlines the parameters of the mess they must fix.

Senate Finance Chairman Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, said at a hearing last week that lawmakers should pay attention to those who want funding restored for key education programs.

But Williams also stressed the need to weigh that against other education-related funding demands, and he repeated his belief that the ongoing lawsuit makes it difficult for lawmakers to put in additional money for anything other than enrollment growth.

He also seemed to suggest that school districts used the courthouse as an alternative to discussion, odd to those who remember quite a school funding debate in the 2011 legislative session.

“I wish the school districts would sit down and talk to us,” Williams said. “It really ties our hands when they file a lawsuit.”

Please. There was plenty of talk two years ago when the Lege slashed $5.4 billion from public education. How much did you or your colleagues listen then, Tommy? It’s only now that the schools may have the upper hand that the Legislature is talking about the importance of having a dialog. Well, it’s too late now, but I’m sure after Judge Dietz issues his ruling next week there will be opportunity anew for discussion. Let’s not waste it then.

Sidelining themselves on immigration reform

I don’t know what’s going to happen with the comprehensive immigration reform proposals that are out there now. It’s long overdue, and the political stars all seem to be aligned for it, but we said the same things about health care reform back in 2009, and look how close that came to be scuppered. In any even, the one place we should not expect to see any leadership on the issue is the Texas delegation.

Texas Republican senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz were not enthusiastic about the [bipartisan Senate] proposal.

Cornyn will review the Senate plan, but first and foremost, a focus must be placed on the “porous border,” said his spokeswoman Megan Mitchell.

“I appreciate the good work that senators in both parties have put into trying to fix our broken immigration system,” Cruz said in a statement. “There are some good elements in this proposal, especially increasing the resources and manpower to secure our border and also improving and streamlining legal immigration. However, I have deep concerns with the proposed path to citizenship. ”

Immigrant rights groups are watching Cornyn and Cruz, who oppose citizenship proposals, to see how their positions play politically in Texas.

“How the Texas Senate duo handles immigration in the coming debate will set the course for the future of the GOP” in the state, said Frank Sharry, executive director of the pro-immigrant advocacy group, America’s Voice.

Well, then, all you GOP immigration realists had better pucker up, because Cornyn and Cruz are on the more restrained end of the spectrum right now. You’ve still got the likes of Lamar Smith and Steve Stockman to cope with, and we haven’t even heard from Louie Gohmert yet, God help us all. If this was supposed to be your moment to take the initiative, you blew it.

“The congressional Republicans from Texas sidelined themselves with their anti-immigrant campaign rhetoric, which has no place in a fast-moving debate in which suddenly the debate has shifted to ‘how much citizenship,’” said Democratic consultant Harold Cook of Austin. “The result is a shameful outcome in which these members of Congress, representing a state with tremendous border real estate, have sidelined themselves completely. That’s not leadership, and it’s not even adequate representation. It’s just ideologues telling far-right voters what they want to hear, at the expense of mainstream Texans.”

Some Republican strategists say that the GOP must find a way to play a constructive role in the ongoing debate — or suffer the consequences at the polls for years to come.

“Comprehensive immigration reform is going to happen this year and Republicans should embrace it and work to improve it,” said Republican consultant Matt Mackowiak. “At stake is re-branding the Republican Party with Hispanics, an absolutely critical and urgent task, especially so in border states like Texas.”


Mackowiak predicted that the Senate will “ultimately pass a bill with 80 votes, putting pressure on the House to pass a similar measure.” He suggested a way that Texas House Republicans can finesse their aversion to anything remotely sounding like amnesty.

“You can make the case that granting a temporary legal status to those here illegally, while they pass a background check and pay a fine and back taxes until those in line legally are processed first, does not qualify as amnesty,” he said.

Denial is your friend here. This shouldn’t be too difficult for the average GOP member of Congress to pull off – just imagine that we’re talking about climate change or something similar. Bone up on the Rove memo, I’m sure that’ll help. And good luck dealing with your primary voters. BOR has more.