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Public Policy – May 2009

May 26th, 2009 at 7:57 pm

Prayer request for Rep. Kuempel and Family

Late on the night of Tuesday, May 12, Rep. Edmund Kuempel (R-Seguin) was found collapsed near an elevator just off the House floor after suffering an apparent heart attack. Rep. Kuempel was quickly and heroically attended to by House staff members, DPS officers and Rep. Zerwas and Rep. Shelton who are both medical doctors. At this time, Rep. Kuempel is continuing recovery in an Austin hospital where he recently had a pacemaker implanted.

Rep. Kuempel has been a member of the Texas House since 1983 and currently serves as chairman of the House Licensing and Administrative Procedures committee. He has been an outspoken advocate for the expansion of gambling this session. Although we may not always agree, we appreciate the chairman, continue to pray for him, and ask for your prayers for Rep. Kuempel and his family. He is surely one of the most well liked members of the legislature. He has a great sense of humor that always eases tensions during a hearing. He has been gracious to gambling opponents and has ensured all sides of an issue had an equal opportunity to be heard. We wish him a full, speedy recovery. The Capitol is just not the same without him.

High Priority Bills

The following is a short list of bills that the CLC is strongly encouraging passage. At this point in the session many good bills have already “died” and have no hope for passage this session. Fortunately, many bills we opposed, including all major gambling expansion bills, have met the same fate. We will continue to work hard and watch for ways to amend good legislation to bills that are likely to pass and will be vigilant that no bad bills sneak through the same way.  This list is not exhaustive, many other bills we support deserve your attention, however at this point in the session these remain our highest priority and have a chance to pass and can be helped along in that process by constituent calls. 

Health Care:  SB 6 by Duncan is the Healthy Texas Plan. This bill provides small business owners and non-profits with access to quality, affordable health insurance through a public private partnership with the state. This bill has passed the Senate and was left pending in House Insurance on May 5.

Human Trafficking:   HB 4009 by Weber establishes a grant program, maintained by Health and Human Services Commission, for non-governmental organizations who provide direct services to victims of domestic trafficking. This bill passed the House unanimously on May 14.

Criminal Justice:   HB 498 by McClendon, also known as the Timothy Cole Innocence Commission, is named in memory of a young man falsely convicted of a rape and found innocent after his death in prison. The newly created Commission would investigate all post-conviction exonerations, including convictions vacated on a plea to time served.  Its charge would include determination of errors or defects in the criminal procedures and process that caused the wrongful convictions.  The Commission is to develop methods and procedures to prevent mistakes and report findings to the Governor. It was passed to its third reading in the House on May 14.

Children and Family:  HB 2962 by Coleman would expand healthcare eligibility for uninsured children in Texas. The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is a state subsidized health insurance product where eligible families pay based on their income.  This bill expands the CHIP program to allow a sliding scale buy-in program for families who earn from 200% to 300% of the federal poverty level and a full cost buy-in program from 300% to 400%. One important provision included in the bill requires the state to increase community outreach, promotion, and education of CHIP’s expanded eligibility. HB 2962 passed the House on May 14 and is awaiting consideration in the Senate.

Environment – HB 4261  by Rodriguez would establish a zero-interest consumer loan program for energy efficiency and renewable energy with stimulus funds (up to $50 million). While this program failed to pass as a stand alone bill, the provisions in this bill are expected to be added to another environment bill.  This program specifically includes houses of worship as qualified recipients. In addition, this bill would help create new energy efficiency and renewable energy jobs at all levels, while helping taxpayers benefit directly from the stimulus money.

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