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Court puts cut to Planned Parenthood on hold
Wednesday, October 31, 2012 • Posted November 2, 2012

AUSTIN — A Travis County state District Court on Oct. 26 put a temporary restraining order on the state’s plan to cut off funding to Planned Parenthood.

Planned Parenthood for many years has been the largest of several organizations serving low-income women through the state-run Women’s Health Program funded mainly with federal Medicaid dollars.

Pursuant to the restraining order, funding will continue until Nov. 8, when the case will be heard again in the same court. At that time, State District Judge Amy Clark Meachum will consider the validity of the state’s effort to keep Planned Parenthood out of the Women’s Health Program.

Planned Parenthood sued the state over a rule enacted by the Health and Human Services Commission — in accordance with a law passed by the Texas Legislature in 2011 — that allows the agency to cut off state funding to organizations that are affiliated with abortion providers.

Plans are for the Women’s Health Program to forego some $40 million from Washington, D.C., by switching to state funding only. With this impending switch, the question is whether the state’s Human Resources Code, which requires federal approval to authorize the Women’s Health Program, still holds water and therefore prevents the state from striking Planned Parenthood from a list of providers.

Dr. Kyle Janek is chief executive of the Health and Human Services Commission, which oversees the Women’s Health Program. Janek said, “We remain committed to enforcing state law and making sure women have access to family planning services. We’ll proceed with our plans to launch a state program on Nov. 1 that achieves both those goals.”

The Commission on Oct. 26 began sending a brochure to current Women’s Health Program clients explaining how to find a doctor or clinic in the new program.

Travis letter to return

Texas State Library and Archives Commission on Oct. 24 voted to allow the return of Col. William Barret Travis’s “Victory or Death” letter to the Alamo in March.

This will be the first time for the letter to be at the Alamo since it was written there on Feb. 24, 1836, at the beginning of the historic battle. Travis wrote the letter as Mexican forces under President General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna laid siege.

Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson made the request for the historic return, the General Land Office reported. Patterson said he is working to raise $100,000 in private donations to pay for transportation and security expenses to display the letter.

Redistricting appeal is filed

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott on Oct. 19 filed an appeal asking the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse the D.C. District Court’s decision to deny preclearance to the redistricting maps enacted by the Texas Legislature during the 2011 legislative session.

Abbott claimed the Legislature satisfied legal requirements in drawing new district boundaries and asserted the lower court “improperly extended the Voting Rights Act beyond the limits imposed by the Constitution and created new standards that have never been recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court.”

85 mph extension opens

Texas Department of Transportation on Oct. 24 reported that it and the State Highway 130 Concession Company opened SH 130 between Austin and San Antonio.

The new roadway featuring a speed limit of 85 mph spans 41 miles from Mustang Ridge southeast of Austin to Interstate 10 in Seguin, with the idea being to relieve congestion on Interstate 35 in and around Austin.

State Highway 130 Concession Company is under contract to operate and maintain the roadway for 50 years at no cost to the state. Beginning Nov. 11, the toll rate will be 15 cents per mile for passenger vehicles using TxTag. Cars and trucks without a TxTag may also use the road and will be billed via TxDOT’s pay-by-mail service, the transportation agency reported.

Stem cell role is touted

Gov. Rick Perry on Oct. 26 spoke at the 1st annual Houston Stem Cell Summit, pointing out how Texas figures into the advancement of regenerative medicine “to produce safe, effective and ethical adult stem cell therapies.”

Perry said the Texas Legislature, Texas Medical Board and Texas Department of Health and Human Services “have set up a regulatory framework to guide companies, institutions and physicians collaborating to produce effective stem cell research.”

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