SENATE CONFIRMS HAWKINS AS HHS COMMISSIONER
|Senator Mike Jackson of LaPorte speaks in favor of the nomination of Albert Hawkins as HHS Commissioner.|
(AUSTIN) — The Senate voted Tuesday to confirm the nomination of Health and Human Services Commissioner Albert Hawkins for another term. Hawkins has been under fire this session for his handling of a contract awarded to a private company to manage cases for Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program. That firm had its contract terminated earlier this year after it was revealed that it had made it more difficult for many to get state services. Senator Eliot Shapleigh of El Paso was among those who criticized Hawkins' execution of the contract. "We ought to expect competent government in health and human services delivery," he said.
Other Senators said that Hawkins had performed admirably in performing an increasingly difficult task. Nominations Committee Chair Mike Jackson admitted that Hawkins had made mistakes in the past, but he was confident in his abilities going forward. "Is he going to spend 110 percent of his efforts making sure that he's trying to do the best thing for Texas and for the people his agency serves?," he asked. "Absolutely he will."
Ultimately, the Senate confirmed Hawkins by a vote of 24-7.
Also Tuesday, the Senate passed a bill that would protect journalists from revealing confidential sources in certain situations. Bill author Senator Rodney Ellis said the press serves a vital role in bringing government and private sector abuses to the attention of the public, but that if sources don't feel confident they will remain anonymous, whistle-blowers will stop coming forward. The bill does allow for prosecutors to obtain source information in the event they cannot otherwise obtain the information, and lowers this standard for more serious crimes, like murder, kidnapping and child pornography. Ellis, who has been trying to pass this bill in one form or another since 1993, said it was "a good step forward". This bill now heads to the House for consideration.
The Senate will reconvene Wednesday, May 2, at 11 a.m.