SENATE PASSES FIRST BILLS OF SPECIAL SESSION
(AUSTIN) — The Senate approved bills Friday aimed at balancing the state budget and reducing healthcare costs in the state. The first measure, SB 7 by Flower Mound Senator Jane Nelson, would help the state achieve some of the $3 billion in healthcare efficiency savings identified by a Senate panel during the regular session. The bill would expand managed care under Medicaid and implement fraud prevention, outcome-based reimbursement models for providers, and a co-pay for non-emergency services in the emergency room.
The Senate also passed SB 1, a bill that uses deferrals and tax collection speedups to provide about $3 billion in new revenue, measures that are critical to balancing the budget passed by the Legislature in the regular session. That bill also lays out the plan for spreading out the $4 billion education spending reduction over the next two years. SB 1 is almost identical to the regular session's SB 1811, which died in the Senate in the final days of the session and spurred Governor Perry to call an immediate special session.
Perry added a new issue to the call on Friday: reform legislation dealing with the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association. This quasi-governmental organization is virtually the only insurer for Texans living along the coast, and Perry is unwilling to go through another hurricane season under the current TWIA model. Negotiations over the issue broke down in the waning days of the session, and Perry said then he would call legislators back in July to deal with the issue. With the Legislature already in town to deal with unresolved budget issues, Perry can forgo a mid-summer special and ask lawmakers to try and deal with the issue now.
The Senate will reconvene Monday, June 6 at 3 p.m.