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Texas Press Association State Capital Highlights
Officials say women’s health program is ready
Wednesday, November 7, 2012 • Posted November 8, 2012

AUSTIN — Dr. Kyle Janek, chief of the state Health and Human Services agency, and Gov. Rick Perry on Oct. 31 announced a new state-funded Texas Women’s Health Program is ready to step in and deliver services to low-income women “if Washington cuts off funding to the Medicaid program.”

“We’ve got the state program ready to stand up at any time, and that transition would be seamless for patients and their doctors,” Janek said.

Since 2007, the program has been funded primarily with federal Medicaid dollars. The state plans to reject billions in Medicaid dollars in order to cut off funding to organizations affiliated with abortion providers in accordance with a state law passed in 2011.

Perry said that any lawsuit filed to challenge the state’s version of the women’s health program would “kill the program, and would be responsible for denying these important health services to the low-income women of Texas.”

Meanwhile, a temporary injunction put in effect by an Austin state district court on Oct. 26 prevents the state from following through on its “affiliate ban rule” until Nov. 8, when oral arguments in a case brought by Planned Parenthood will be heard.

Planned Parenthood called the injunction “a small victory for the approximately 50,000 Texas women who rely on Planned Parenthood for care through the Women’s Health Program, which includes lifesaving breast and cervical cancer screenings, birth control, and testing for sexually transmitted infections.”

Windstorm concerns aired

Hurricane Sandy’s recent ravage of the eastern seaboard reminds Texans of Hurricanes Rita, Katrina, Dolly, Ike, Alicia and others. Before and after mayhem hits, questions over who pays and who is responsible for what inevitably arise. On Nov. 1, the Joint Committee on Oversight Board of Windstorm Insurance met at the Capitol, hearing testimony from the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association (“TWIA”), the Texas Public Finance Authority, the Texas Department of Insurance and the State Auditor’s Office.

A few of many topics addressed were TWIA’s reserve fund, high administration costs, bookkeeping issues, the danger storms pose to coastal counties, slowness and other problems with recovery efforts, and how some coastal property owners struggle to pay high premiums. TWIA was established by legislative mandate to provide wind and hail insurance for Texas Gulf Coast property owners in the event of catastrophic loss. “We provide ‘basic’ coverage unavailable in traditional markets for consumers who might otherwise be left uninsured,” TWIA’s literature states.

Drought proclamation continues

Gov. Perry on Nov. 2 renewed his July 5, 2011, proclamation certifying that exceptional drought conditions pose a threat of imminent disaster in specified counties in Texas. The renewed proclamation, good for 30 days, applies to 121 of the state’s 254 counties.

Disaster relief to counties with population under 200,000 and cities under 50,000 that have suffered from severe drought and wildfire may come in the form of federal aid through the Community Development Block Grant Program.

For example, on Oct. 31, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples announced the award of $1.4 million in federal disaster relief grants to governmental bodies that applied and met the criteria: Bastrop County and the cities of Florence, Llano and Seymour.

Manufacturing panel forms

House Speaker Joe Straus on Oct. 22 created the Interim Committee on Manufacturing, a panel of 15 state House members tasked with recommending ways the Legislature can strengthen the manufacturing sector in Texas.

Straus said manufacturing is a $192 billion industry in Texas, accounting for 15 percent of the gross state product, adding that more than 800,000 Texans work in manufacturing.

Straus appointed Rep. Jim Murphy, R-Houston, as chair of the committee and Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, as vice chair.

TEA calls for applicants

Texas Education Agency last week posted notice that it is seeking qualified attorneys to act as independent hearing examiners in local school district employment hearings.

Examiners preside over hearings involving nonrenewal or termination of educator employment contracts and issue recommendations for a school district’s board of trustees to consider. Deadline for filing application is 5 p.m. Dec. 3.

Perry welcomes F1 racing

On Nov. 1, the governor participated in a public relations event to promote Formula 1 Grand Prix automobile racing at the Circuit of the Americas track near Austin, where racing events will take place Nov. 16-18.

“The U.S. Grand Prix will bring 1.2 million visitors to Central Texas,” Perry said, “and is an opportunity to demonstrate to people from around the world everything we have to offer in the Lone Star State as a tourism destination, and as a place to live and work.”

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