Agenda Texas
8:46 am
Tue April 9, 2013

Education, gambling on tap this week

Schooling and gambling are hot topics at the state legislature this week.

Texas Tribune Executive Editor Ross Ramsey talks about the big items in the week ahead. This week, much of the action moves from the House and Senate floors back to the committee rooms.

"Now that both chambers have the budget out of the way they can concentrate on bills they have been working on. For example, in the Senate this week, they're going to take on all of the gambling bills probably on Wednesday. They're having some behind the scenes discussions over some of the things they've done in the budget and how those roll into the things that they're working on in committee," Ramsey said.

Senators may also finally get around to a bill that changes graduation requirements for Texas high school students. The bill has been sitting on the Senate Intent Calendar for several days.

"There's a conversation about what the standards ought to be for graduation from high school. In the House they moved them back some and said college prep courses like Algebra II maybe shouldn't have to be included. Students could take them if they want to, but maybe they shouldn't be required. In the Senate, there's a push for keeping the current higher standards where everybody getting out of high school would have to have those college prep course," Ramsey said.

During last week's budget debate in the House, an amendment was added, then removed, that would have allowed the state to negotiate with the federal government on Medicaid expansion. Removing the amendment could make it a little harder to have off-session negotiations. But there's another bill in the House that would also allow the federal/state debate to happen.

House Bill 3791 from State Representative John Zerwas (R-Simonton) would create a way for Texas to pay its part of Medicaid expansion. But only if the state and federal governments come to an agreement on what expansion would look like in Texas.

Zerwas would use revenues from insurance plans bought through the state’s new health care exchange to pay the state’s eventual 10 percent match.

"This allows us to comfortably draw down the money from the Federal government attributed to providing insurance, and really bring some relief to the people that are providing the healthcare services to the uninsured. But you know most importantly, what this is about is bringing insurance policies to people that don’t have access to them right now," Zerwas said.

The goal of Zerwas’ bill and a similar Senate budget provision is to just make sure the state and Feds can continue to negotiate over Medicaid expansion after lawmakers leave at the end of May.

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