New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - April 7, 2005, New Braunfels, Texas
Page 4A — Herald-Zeitung — Thursday, April 7, 2005
House begins debate on $137 billion state budget
AUSTIN (AP) — The Texas House took its turn Wednesday debating the state budget, considering a $137.5 billion spending plan that increases funding for public education and health and human services over the next two years.
The bill proposes $42 billion for education, including $3 billion in new spending for schools. Another large chunk of money, $19 billion, would go to health and human services.
Debate was devoid of the rancor and acrimony of two years ago, when the Legislature faced a $10 billion revenue shortfall and lawmakers adjusted with sweeping cuts to state agencies and social services.
Like the Senate plan, the House proposal would restore many cuts made to health care programs made by the cash-strapped Legislature two years ago.
Dental, vision, and hospice benefits were restored to the
Children’s Health Insurance Program.
The bill maintains the eligibility period of sue months, rather than the previous enrollment period of a year for the low cost health plan. Critics have argued that cutting the enrollment period results in thousands of kids going without health care coverage.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, called the spending plan strong, sound and responsible.
The budget “meets basic needs and spends billions to improve our public schools, our health care and public safety,” Pitts said.
An additional $100 million was earmarked to pay for projected growth in the state’s prison population.
A separate supplemental bill would use about $2 billit ii from the state’s Rainy Day
■ To follow the Legislature, visit capitol.state. tx.us
Fund to plug holes in the current budget.
Of that money, $300 million would be used for reform of the troubled Child and Adult Protective Services. Restructuring the agencies was deemed an emergency issue following recent high-profile cases of child homicides after caseworkers who investigated possible neglect or abuse decided the children were safe in their homes.
Textbooks for Spanishspeaking students, which had been delayed two years ago, also will be purchased with that money.
One amendment that was approved would use money from the advertising budget of 11 ie Texas Lottery Commis-ion, to increase a monthly allowance of $75 a month for nursing home residents on
Medicaid. The allowance was cut to $45 two years ago.
Another proposal, by Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, would have used money from the Texas Enterprise Fund to restore children’s slots to CHIP. The proposal was rejected.
Many of the amendments Filed by Democrats seemed aimed at forcing Republicans, the party in power, to take votes against GOP priority issues. For instance, an amendment by Rep. Tfey Martinez-Fischer, D-San Antonio, would have required 20 percent of the governor’s probusiness Texas Enterprise Fund to be used as grants for small businesses in Texas to provide health insurance to their employees.
“If you value small businesses in Texas, like I do, this is an amendment you can vote for,” he said. But, the business-friendly GOP rejected adding the measure to the budget legislation.
Great Race participants head toward San Marcos
The Great Race Texas will wind its way into downtown San Marcos Saturday as part of a three-day rally in preparation for the 2005 national Great Race.
Approximately 76 racers from 20 states will begin arriving at 4:30 p.m. at the finish line in front of the Hays County Courthouse on Hopkins Street. Vintage automobiles will be on display around the square until about 7:30 p.m.
Streets around the Courthouse Square will be closed from 1:30 to 8:30 p.m. Saturday. East Hopkins from LBJ to Edward Gary Street also will be closed.
Before the racers arrive, the Great Race Car and Truck Show will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Square with set up starting at 2 p.m. The show will feature custom cars and
trucks, original vehicles, classic Mustangs and Corvettes, and antique vehicles.
Great Race Texas 2005 will be a cloverleaf regional rally run out of San Marcos and returning to the headquarters hotel, the Hampton Inn, each evening. It is open to all street-legal vehicles. Registration, vehicle inspection, and a rally school will be held today.
The Great Race is an annual transcontinental vintage car rally-race with a 22-year history.
The headquarters have moved to San Marcos under the leadership of Dick Burdick, chair of Rally Partners, Inc.
The 2005 national Great Race will run from the nation’s capital to Tacoma, Wash., from June 25 to July 9.State Senate approves womens health bill Saddam watches as Kurd elected president
AUSTIN (AP) — More women would have access to preventative health and family planning services under legislation the Senate tentatively approved Wednesday after a debate about abortion and emergency contraception.
Women on Medicaid are now ineligible to receive those services if they make more than $3,300 a year in a family of four, or 17 percent of the federal poverty level.
Ihe bill by Sen. John (Sarona, R-Dallas, would require the Health and I luman Services Commission to create a Medicaid waiver program expanding
eligibility to women whose families make no more than $34,800 for a family of four, or 185 percent of the poverty level.
Under the waiver, the state would get $9 in federal money for every $1 in state money spent. The bill, which was tentatively approved on a 20-9 vote, would save Texas about $135 million in fiscal years 2006-2007 based on an estimate that about 500,000 women would participate in tile program each year.
Services covered under the plan include routine screenings for cervical and breast cancer, sexually transmitted diseases,
hypertension, cholesterol and tuberculosis.
Women also could get birth control through the program, but under an amendment Sen. Bob Deuell, R-Greenville, added to the bill, they could not get emergency contraception.
Deuell’s amendment also said that the money allocated for the program cannot go to entities that perform or promote elective abortions.
The amendment potentially could ban Planned Parenthood from participating in the program because seven of its 82 clinics in Texas provide abortion services.
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) — IWo months after elections, Iraq’s new government finally began to take shape Wednesday as lawmakers elected as president a Kurdish leader who promised to represent all ethnic and religious groups in a session broadcast across the country — and shown to Saddam Hussein in his jail cell.
A prominent Shiite Arab was expected to be named Thursday as prime minister, the most powerful post in what will be Iraq’s first democratically elected government in 50 years. That would
open the way to picking a Cabinet.
Kurdish leader [alai Tala-bani was chosen for the largely ceremonial job of president, while Adel Abdul-Mah-di, a Shiite, and current interim President Ghazi al-Yawer, a Sunni Arab, were elected vice presidents.
Talabani’s selection and the expected choice of Ibrahim al-Jaafari as prime minister further consolidate the power shift in Iraq, where both the Shiite Arab majority and the Kurdish minority were oppressed, often brutally, under Saddam’s Sunni-dom
Talabani, 71, reached out to all sectors of the country, appealing for them to join with fellow Iraqis who are working “to found a new Iraq, free of sectarian and ethnic persecution, free of hegemony and oppression."
I Ie also urged Iraqi insurgents, who are believed to be mostly Sunni Arabs, to sit down and talk with the new government.
President Bush called Wednesday’s session a “momentous step forward in Iraq’s transition to democracy.”
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