Senate Passes Broad Water Policy Bill
AUSTIN - The Senate today voted to pass the Committee Substitute for Senate Bill (CSSB) 2, a measure authored by Lake Jackson Sen. J.E. "Buster" Brown that focuses on statewide water policy.
A key provision of the bill is the creation of a fund to finance water management strategies of Texas' 16 regional water planning groups. The fund would be supported by a 5-cent per container surcharge levied on water bottlers.
The bill would also create the Texas Water Policy Council which would coordinate state water policy initiatives.
One of the sticking points during floor debate on CSSB 2 was whether industry or agriculture would have priority when it comes to water that is not already earmarked for domestic and municipal uses. An amendment sponsored by Lubbock Sen. Robert Duncan was added to the bill that would give industry and agriculture equal priority in such cases.
The Senate also passed today CSSB 8, authored by Dallas Sen. David Cain, that would ban gender discrimination in health care reimbursement rates. Cain cited a study conducted by Texas Woman's University that found that insurance reimbursement rates for female-specific surgeries average 32 percent lower than other procedures.
"Low reimbursement rates force doctors and hospitals to decide whether to get out of the business of providing female-specific care or to curtail services," Cain said. "Either way, the availability of health care for women and newborn children suffers."
Cain said almost 1 million women live in one of the 156 counties in Texas that do not have an OB/GYN.
"This act says the reimbursements rates should be equalized," Cain said. "Reimbursement should be based on the time it takes to take care of a patient, not the gender of that patient."
Also in today's session, the Senate voted passage of CSSB 102, a measure sponsored by Flower Mound Sen. Jane Nelson that is intended to prohibit human cloning by making it a first-degree felony with a fine of up to $10 million.
"We believe that this is the toughest anti-cloning law in the nation," Nelson said.
In other Senate news, the Health and Human Services Committee was scheduled to hear testimony on Senate Bill (SB) 535, authored by Dallas Sen. John Carona that would continue the Texas Department on Aging (TDA) as an independent state agency until 2013. TDA is currently scheduled to be abolished in three years and its functions transferred to a new agency, the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services. The committee heard SB 1053, a measure authored by El Paso Sen. Eliot Shapleigh that would require the Health and Human Services Commission to increase the Medicaid reimbursement rate in border counties. The bill would also provide financial incentives to physicians serving Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) recipients in the Texas-Mexico border region.
The Finance Committee was scheduled to consider SB 86, a proposal authored by Houston Sen. Rodney Ellis that proposes to lengthen the current three-day sales tax holiday on clothing and shoes to two weeks. SB 86 would also expand the list of exempted items to include backpacks and school supplies.
House Bill (HB) 1629 was scheduled for consideration by the Natural Resources Committee. HB 1629, sponsored in the Senate by Ken Armbrister of Victoria, would allow the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) to sell water from the Colorado River to San Antonio. State law prohibits the LCRA from selling outside its service area unless specifically authorized to do so by the Legislature.The Senate will take up bills on the Local and Uncontested Calendar at 8 a.m. Friday, after which it will reconvene at 10 a.m.