The Back MicThe Back Mic: Speaker Denies Repricing Motion, Senate Committee Passes Slate of Pro-Life Bills, Democrats Lobby for Medicaid Expansion

This week — a look at Texas politics during the week of the Ides of March.
March 19, 2021
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Speaker Denies Electricity Repricing Motion on Floor

After the punch-counterpunch string earlier in the week over electricity pricing, Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) further showed his hand opposite Lt. Governor Dan Patrick.

Rep. Trey Martinez Fisher (D-San Antonio) lobbed multiple parliamentary inquiries at the speaker Wednesday morning on the House floor.

Martinez Fisher inquired about convening the House as a “Committee of a Whole” to consider Senate Bill (SB) 2142, the legislation ordering the Public Utility Commission to reprice wholesale electricity transactions made within a 32-hour period during the February blackouts.

Martinez Fisher stated, “There is a presumption out in the media that this body made a decision to not entertain a debate and discussion on the repricing of electricity. To my knowledge, that is not accurate. Have we made a decision on that, Mr. Speaker? The only way to set that record straight is for this body to maintain its dignity, maintain its integrity, and protect the collective body of this house. And so I would argue that this is a question of privilege which shall not be denied and can be appealed.”

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“You are not recognized for that motion,” Phelan responded.

Phelan’s denial is another example of his opposition to moving procedural mountains for the repricing legislation. Patrick and the Senate executed an entire legislative process in one calendar day to pass SB 2142 to the House.

The speaker did say, however, that he would refer SB 2142 to a committee, in accordance with proper procedure. The bill was sent to the House State Affairs Committee on Thursday.

Seven Pro-Life Bills Passed Through Committee

The Senate State Affairs Committee held a marathon hearing earlier this week during which it approved seven pieces of pro-life legislation, sending them to the floor for a vote.

Below is a list of those bills:

  • SB 8 ‒ A prohibition on abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected (i.e. the “Heartbeat Bill”).
  • SB 9 ‒ A prohibition on abortion in Texas in the event that the U.S. Supreme Court reverses its previous ruling in Roe v. Wade.
  • SB 394 ‒ Aligns state regulations of abortifacient drugs to the Federal Drug Administration’s standards and establishes criminal penalties for violations.
  • SB 650 ‒ A prohibition on taxpayer dollars, state or local, from funding support services for facilitating abortions.
  • SB 802 ‒ Requirement that abortion providers offer alternative health service information to prospective patients.
  • SB 1173 ‒ A prohibition on discriminatory abortions based on immutable characteristics and closes the “fetal abnormality loophole” for late-term abortions (i.e. the Preborn Nondiscrimination Act).
  • SB 1647 ‒ A consolidation of the big three pro-life initiatives being advanced. It combines the Preborn Nondiscrimination Act, Heartbeat Bill, and Abolition of Abortion all into one piece of legislation.

On the approval of these bills, Senate State Affairs Committee chair, Sen. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola) told The Texan:

“On Monday, after 10 hours of testimony and nearly 600 Texans weighing in on legislation, we completed our pro-life hearing in the Senate Committee on State Affairs. These bills display our state’s bipartisan commitment to protect the life of a child and fully support the mother. Pro-life legislation is so important. That is why as Chairman I did not waste any time and had each one of these bills up for a vote and passed out of committee in less than 15 hours after the hearing. Texas is a pro-life state and we are a pro-life Legislature.”

House Democrats Continue to Beat Medicaid Expansion Drum

A group of high-ranking Democrats in the Texas House issued a joint commitment to expanding Medicaid — an option available to states under Obamacare.

State Reps. Garnet Coleman (D-Houston), Chris Turner (D-Grand Prairie), Nicole Collier (D-Fort Worth), Rafael Anchía (D-Dallas), and Donna Howard (D-Austin) issued a joint statement.

The group stated, “Over a million Texans are currently in the coverage gap. Expansion can help us fill that gap, drawing down federal dollars to supplement the state budget — with even the potential of making a net savings — while also saving thousands of Texans from preventable deaths. Texas remains one of 12 states that has refused to expand.”

Texas has declined to expand the program — a mostly federally-funded welfare program that subsidizes healthcare for low-income individuals and families — since it became an option back in 2014.

The expansion would increase the qualifying income threshold and increase the federal government’s contributions to the costs. But detractors maintain that it’s a bad fiscal decision, pointing to other states that have not fared well financially from expansion.

To read more about the issue and debate at its center, visit here.

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated from its original version.

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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.