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Fiscal and health care bills pass

Here’s one less reason for a special session.

One key budget-related bill, Senate Bill 2, won final approval from both chambers this afternoon and is headed to the governor’s desk.

SB 2 is an appropriations bill that goes hand-in-hand with Senate Bill 1, the main revenue and school finance vehicle. SB 1 is expected to come to the floor on both sides of the Capitol tomorrow.

With the passage of both bills, “we will be able to go home,” said Senate Finance Chairman Steve Ogden, R-Bryan.

One provision that didn’t make in the final version of SB 2 was an amendment from Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, that called for $2 billion from the rainy day fund for schools if the fund brings in more than expected.

“A choice was made when we had money in the bank to say: ‘No, we’re not going to appropriate any more here to our schools’,” Howard said. “We’re going to leave billions in the bank when we’re asking our schools to cut.”

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Ogden said the Howard amendment had promise with some modifications, but the House members wanted it gone.

“They were for it and then they were against it,” Ogden said.

Yes, after they were reminded by the people who hate public education that they need to hate it, too. That’s the choice they made, and the voters need to be reminded about it every day between now and next November.

Meanwhile, there was more action taken by a group of legislators that clearly wants to get out of town.

The Texas House and Senate agreed today to a final version of an omnibus health bill that seeks to cut spending and makes wide-ranging changes to the state’s health-care system.

The House voted 96-48, along party lines, to agree with conference committee changes to Senate Bill 7. Senators followed with a 22-8 vote, and the bill’s next stop will be Gov. Rick Perry’s desk.

SB 7 includes $468 million in anticipated savings for the 2012-13 budget by expanding Medicaid managed care to South Texas and restructuring the payment system for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

The final bill includes language that would cut state funding from Central Health if the Travis County health district continued to finance abortions for low-income women. The measure also excludes Planned Parenthood from receiving about $38 million in state family planning money and from participating in the Medicaid Women’s Health Program, which provides contraceptive care to women who would be covered by Medicaid if they were to become pregnant.

A lot of what was in this bill was in similar legislation from the regular session. As it happens, on the same day this happened, the state of Indiana got swatted down by a federal judge for trying to legislatively de-fund Planned Parenthood. I don’t know enough about what either state has done to know how comparable the two situations are, but earlier this month Texas got some pushback from the feds over this, so there’s clearly some parallel. I feel confident there will be litigation here as well. The Trib has more on the legislation, and Jason Stanford has a righteous rant on what it does.

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