The bill would end some of the eligibility and enrollment restrictions that helped shrink the number of recipients by about 182,000 since 2003.
It advanced by a lopsided vote of 126-16 after a day of contentious debate over budget priorities and how much responsibility to place on the working poor. After a final procedural vote in the House today, it advances to the Senate, where GOP leaders oppose a provision allowing families to renew coverage every year instead of every six months.
Rep. Sylvester Turner, a Houston Democrat and the measure's lead author, asked for a big show of bipartisan support to try to sway the Senate. He noted the bill has five Republican authors and co-authors, including Rep. Kirk England of Grand Prairie.
Rep. Charlie Howard, R-Sugar Land, expressed concern about a provision allowing families to deduct from income their child-care expenses.
For a family of four with two very young children, the change would raise the program's income ceiling to $46,100, from $41,300.
Asked Rep. Linda Harper-Brown, R-Irving: "Do we want the taxpayer to provide health insurance for people who make up to $50,000?"
Rep. Dan Gattis, R-Georgetown, countered that the state should allow the deduction because it encourages people to work. He was among 38 Republicans - including most of those in the Dallas-Fort Worth delegation - who joined Democrats in crushing Mr. Howard's attempt to disallow child-care deductions. That vote was 105-36.
There was more along these lines, mostly on the Republican efforts to maintain the tighter requirements that led to so many people being tossed off of CHIP. I'll refer you back to the article and to the many blog posts by the Capitol crew for the details. One to highlight, from the Statesman blog, concerns an argument made by Rep. Gattis in support of a different amendment:
Gattis argued that it's not fair to extend the eligibility period for CHIP, a program for working Texans who cannot afford private health insurance, when families on Medicaid -- "the oldest and sickest and poorest among us" -- have to apply every six months. His proposed amendment, modified by Frank Corte, R-San Antonio, to allow families to stay enrolled for a year and then after that require them to reapply every six months, failed 91-49.
Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, said it was unfair to hassle working poor families, when the state only requires first-time sex offenders to re-register every 12 months.
"Where is the justice in that?" Mr. Anchia said.
Anyway, the bill goes on to the Senate, where as we know it is sure to be undone in substantive ways. I'll let Burka bring it home from here, from his first post:
This entire exercise may have been meaningless anyway. This was the number one priority for Turner and the Craddick Ds. Turner told Craddick that it wouldn't be enough for this bill just to pass the House, that he wanted Craddick to go to bat for the bill in the Senate, which doesn't like the restoration of twelve months of eligibility. Turner may have felt he had Craddick's support--after all, Craddick wouldn't be speaker without him and the other Craddick Ds--but Craddick insisted in a heated meeting with the Craddick Ds that he had promised only to facilitate passage through the House and make it possible for Turner to argue for his bill in the Senate. (Yeah, those House members have a lot of stroke in the Senate.) This scenario was related to me by another of the Craddick Ds, and if it is true, I would say that the Craddick Ds have been had.
Statement by Rep. Garnet Coleman on the passage of HB109:
"I like progress, because I'm a progressive, and HB 109 is progress. We took an excellent first step today by restoring CHIP coverage to 102,000 Texas children.
I'm proud of the work done by Rep. Turner, Speaker Craddick, Chairman Davis, Chairman Rose, and others on this bill -- and I trust that they will fight for this bill to stay in its form as it goes through the Senate.
The next step will be for Lieutenant Governor Dewhurst and the Texas Senate to maintain CHIP restoration as it passed out of the House. Governor Dewhurst has said this is the 'session of the children.' Now we get to see if he means it."