Capital Highlights- by Ed Sterling
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton last week asked two federal agencies to move quickly to fund the state’s Healthy Texas Women program.
The program was cut off from Medicaid funding by the Obama administration in 2012 after the Texas Legislature enacted a law preventing taxpayer money from going to abortion providers.
In a May 7 letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Paxton said the addition of some $30 million a year in federal dollars would increase access to family planning and preventative health services for low-income women across the state who are not covered by traditional Medicaid in Texas.
Paxton sent the letter at the request of Gov. Greg Abbott and on behalf of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. He wrote that allowing states to exclude providers who perform or promote abortion is consistent with federal policy.
Texas spends $29 billion a year on Medicaid — more than one-fourth of the state’s annual budget — to serve some 4.3 million people. The state allocates another $95 million annually to fund the Healthy Texas Women program, which has a current enrollment of 240,798 women, Paxton noted.
“States have discretion in implementing the Medicaid Act, including in setting qualifications for providers,” Paxton wrote. “Texas and the Healthy Texas Women program should not be penalized through the continued withholding of federal funds merely because Texas has exercised the authority that federal law has granted to it — namely, the authority to refuse to be a conduit for channeling taxpayer funds to abortion providers pursuant to state law.”
Forum honors women
Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar on May 7 highlighted Texas women in the workforce by hosting a roundtable discussion with a dozen women leaders who comprise the Texas Governor’s Commission for Women.
The panel was part of a briefing with the Governor’s Commission for Women to review Gov. Abbott’s priorities for the commission and to develop strategies to make Texas “the best state for women-owned businesses.”
The discussion addressed topics such as hardships women face in the workplace, women with families who pursue careers, ways to move more women into higher-paying jobs and women as entrepreneurs. The discussion is part of Hegar’s multi-stop “Good for Texas Tour: Women in the Workforce.”
More than 6 million women held jobs in Texas in 2017 and 938,000 women-owned businesses generated about $134.2 million in sales, but further efforts are needed to eliminate barriers to women’s entrepreneurship and improve access to top-level positions, Hegar said.
May allocations are sent
Comptroller Hegar on May 9 announced his office would send cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose taxing districts $861.8 million in local sales tax allocations for the month of May.
The amount is 9.4 percent more than was distributed for the month of May 2017. Allocations are based on sales made in March by businesses that report tax monthly and sales made in January, February and March by quarterly filers.
Hurricane season coming
With the hurricane season less than one month away, Gov. Abbott and the Texas Department of Public Safety on May 7 urged Texans to use Hurricane Preparedness Week to learn how to protect themselves and their families from hurricanes and tropical storms. Hurricane season starts June 1 and continues through Nov. 30.
The DPS posted of list of actions to take, such as:
• Assemble an emergency kit that includes essential documents, supplies and provisions;
• Review hurricane evacuation maps and select a route;
• Plan how family members and pets will evacuate safely;
• Consider special needs for individuals with disabilities and the elderly; and
• Stay informed about changing weather conditions.
Abbott honors the fallen
Gov. Greg Abbott on May 7 joined law enforcement officers from across the state for the 2018 Texas Peace Officers Memorial Ceremony to honor fallen Texas peace officers and their families.
During the ceremony, Abbott met with and presented medals to the families of officers who died in the line of duty. The ceremony included the laying of a memorial wreath and a 21-gun salute.
Last year, during the 85th session of the Texas Legislature, Abbott signed House Bill 3647, legislation that established the Texas Peace Officers’ Memorial Ceremony as an annual event. This year’s ceremony was the first to be conducted since the law was passed.
Ed Sterling is Director of Member Services for the Texas Press Association.