there are a few things you need to understand about Belle and its affection for the TX Senate Finance Committee:
Senate Finance is my favorite committee to cover because it allows me to learn ALL THE THINGS about state government without having to sit through a whole lot of public testimony (most of the time). if you want to learn a lot about your government, spend a week watching your state’s senate committee what controls the state budget. House committee chairs cannot, and I mean CANNOT FOR THE LIFE OF THEM, enforce time limits. at least not in Texas. and, because Houses and Assemblies have more members overall, they have more members on their budget controlling committee, so they often break into subcommittees which defeats the purpose of you learning things.
I also love this particular committee because it has a fantastic mix of personalities. the Chair Nelson uses her teacher voice to tell Sen. Hancock (who I consider to be the devil on the committee; but he did extend the bulk clinic pharmaceutical purchase tax cut to veterinarians, so he’s not all bad) to quit trying to contract out more services. Sen. Eltife tells people they can’t cut taxes when they have unfunded liabilities on the things they HAVE TO PAY FOR because they MADE COMMITMENTS like on state facilities and pensions (though he’s gone now, that makes me sad and I really hope he’s going to primary Gohmert in 2018). Sen. “Santa Claus” Nichols says things like, “If I have a boat, I have the right to bass boat!” and then clasps his hands and nods at the Chair with a, “Thank you!” which no one ever does and is adorable. (DO NOT visit Santa Claus’ office, it ruins your fantasies about having him in a snow globe on your mantle.) Sen. Whitmire lights people on fire WITH HIS WORDS in his INSIDE VOICE (sometimes using language that is NSFChuch). Sen. Seliger makes fun of whoever is chair of the Ed committee and hangs out with Sen. Watson. and Sen. Watson, my senator, is a folksyism generator who is very smart and good at representing Austin (and Bastrop) and has figured out that certain members who are not on his Christmas card list have forgotten what “Bless your heart” means so he applies it LIBERALLY. there was also a conversation about bats involving the sentence, “That was not a Democratic bat.”
just stay away from Article II which you will find out the reason for later.
here’s what happened during the hearing:
- the first two items were on TAX RELIEF which was graciously short. now, I don’t know exactly how this conversation went because it happened before the meeting, so I’m just spitballing here, but I think it was something like:
BETTENCOURT: big day! lots of important HASHTAG Aggie Math! can’t wait to tell everyone about what we decided in the project that Lord God Patrick (nee Goeb) and I cooked up: The Senate Select Committee on Property Tax Relief and Reform!
NELSON (in teacher voice): HAHA! we will only be talking about bills that passed, like mine. we are facing a 4% budget deficit and will hear testimony today about LITTLE ANGELIC CHILDREN who have just lost their Medicaid therapies. but I PROMISE I will let you talk about it sometime…never.
a bunch of people are GRR MAD because their school districts suspended or tweaked some local exemptions because they just got a huge exemption from the state. they plan to LAWSUIT possibly in the class action position and maybe invite AG Ken Paxton, who is indicted for securities fraud in state AND federal court, to join in.
by the way: how much does $2.1 billion get you off your property tax bill? about 129 real Texeros. you’re welcome.
- Graduate Medical Education: many senators are quite happy to spend more Texeros on residency slots, but they would like to close any or all of the 3 new medical schools in the state first. they would please like another state to pony up the Ameros to educate medical students and then feed them to us…with Dr Pepper Jelly Bellys. fava beans and chianti are for Anthony Hopkins!Watson told them (bless their hearts) that the two things should not be considered mutually exclusive when we are about 30% below where we need to be in the doctors per population and that their math was lacking because they didn’t count the residency slots already paid for by Medicare and private hospitals.
- Department of Information Resources is supposed to be cleaning up their contracting and doing a legacy review. instead? they would like $400 million to retire debts and $300 million for modernization projects, please and thank you! they also said that they were ONLY required to monitor contracts which were valued at over $100 million or spanned multiple years. this it total bullshit because there is now plus monitoring for all contracts over $50 thousand, super plus monitoring for all contracts over $150 thousand and extra double plus super monitoring for all contracts over $1 million at ALL STATE AGENCIES. (see section 15) they also said they could not review any contracts by anyone unless they were invited. the Chair Nelson responded with something that sounded a lot like, “Don’t make me take out the statute stick. I will. I will if I have to. I will take out the statute stick and MAKE YOU monitor these contracts, DIR–but you’re not going to like it!”
next they talked cyber security. apparently a bunch of intertube worms are trying to attack us about 2 billion times a month. some are foreign governments. some are denial of service. some are ransomware. they have to manually address about a handful a month. and they have a crack team of WHITE HAT HACKERS, but not for HHSC because they have their own CRACK WHITE HACKS.
and the reason we cant use Google or Amazon for data storage yet is because they won’t let us FBI check their employees handling those contracts once a year.
- Senate Bill 20: CONTRACTING REFORM (music to my ears!) TXDoT spends a lot of money on tar, gravel and orange cones because they make up $6.7 billion of the $11.1 billion in contracts that the Comptroller’s office has to monitor directly (super plus). (I suppose some of this is in mitigation of traffic during construction and design.)
and state agency heads (who are paid in the $150-400 thousand per year range while the legislators make $13,400 every two years) are all, “snivel snivel Boo hoo! reading and signing off on contracts over $1M or more IS HARD!!! it hurts our eyeballs.” to which Sen. Bettencourt said, “Too [fuck word implied] bad!”
- and then it was time for the MAIN EVENT which was called RIDER 50! (sounds sexxxy, don’t it? it is NOT sexxxy.) THURSDAY! THURSDAY! THURSDAY! Let’s get ready to rumble with Rider 50!
Rider 50 is this little thing the lege stuck in the budget during Conference Committee (which they do after each body votes that the other one’s version of the budget is PEEYEW!) and never had any hearings. LITTLE THING directing HHSC to find $2 billion in savings over the biennium if necessary and, by the time they tried to take them up on it in July, it was pro-rated to be $458 million in savings from Medicaid. (I don’t know why because that was 2 months before the beginning of the second fiscal year in the biennium so you would have thought like $1.1B? but PFFFFT on the whole thing.) they decided to do this by cutting therapies for children who really need them to like eat and talk and breath and stuff. you know, the kids just want to be alive, but the government can’t afford them, so what can you do? SPLIT THE BABY, THAT’S WHAT! so they told the parents they had to get prior authorization on therapies their children were already receiving and pay for a bunch of tests out of pocket to prove that their children needed these therapies that they were already using, but the MCO (Superior? more like Inferior.) kept turning them down because there might be an eye that wasn’t crossed or a tee that wasn’t blotted…it also caused a backlog of several months where some of these children were NOT ABLE TO EAT and probably had to get a feeding tube. OOPS!
there’s also a lawsuit because: of course there is. and remember the other day how I was saying that recouped costs go back to the MCO (which is a PRIVATE company) in TX? so when Commissioner Smith said the result of that lawsuit was going to provide the rest of the savings he hadn’t found elsewhere, he was telling a BALD FACE LIE because I saw Inspector General Bowen sitting next to him on Tuesday telling everyone about it just like he did today.
Sen. Schwertner does not like all these NICUs lying around. and he does kinda have a point that’s not evil: hospitals with Level 1 NICUs get to charge pediatric patrons more Texeros for service because (supposedly) they can handle the most difficult cases, but according to the patient transfer records several of the hospitals who SAY they have Level 1 NICUs and CHARGE like they have Level 1 NICUs probably have Level 2 or Level 3 NICUs and need to knock it the heck off.
Sen. Kolkhorst wants to know how much of a shortfall HHSC will pretty please the lege to provide extra Texeros for in January. $1.3 billion. Sen. Kolkhorst would like to know how much of the $458 million is not tied up in the lawsuit and going to Superior Ratfucks Inc anyway. $373 million. Sen. Kolkhorst would like to know what percentage of the total $80 billion they were getting in total for the FY2016-2017 biennium (b/c they already gots $78B for the biennium) that was. Commissioner Smith says 1%. and then she got all #MATHS and said he was pretty Dee You ‘Em Bees because $373M is way less that 1% of $78B + $1.3B! WTF is wrong with us that we can’t find a good HHSC Commish?!
are we going to preserve our 1115 waiver by taking Medicaid expansion? no silly! Commissioner Smith is a GREAT NEGOTIATOR! (why don’t I believe anyone who says that?) and there is no way CMS will do to TX what they did to FL because we thought we were going to have $5.6 billion in uncompensated care, but we OOPSED OURSELVES into $9.4 billion! (what about DSRIP? Smith thinks talking about that is UNFAIR! because it’s ONLY HALF of the 1115 waiver.) Sen. Hinojosa thinks everyone against accepting Medicaid expansion has SMRT tattooed on their foreheads, something like, “Congratulations on your ability to slide, evade and duck my questions, [asshole implied]. you answered 0 of them. you were NOT EVEN WRONG.” and we will probably lose $29 billion in federal funding for the health of 16% of our population and some poor kids who can’t eat or breathe on their own from 2018-2023.
Chair Nelson wishes she could light people on fire WITH HER WORDS just like Sen. Whitmire. too bad he missed the last couple hours because there was another committee talking about ports.
- Public Testimony Highlights:
Americans For Prosperity can’t get over wanting to rename the franchise tax “the margins tax”. I get why they refer to the estate tax as “the death tax”. margins though? reminds me of taking notes and not-butter. in fact, if they weren’t around, we’d probably hear a lot less bitching about a margins tax because, according to the testimony of business owners last year about the franchise tax, they were cool with it, what they wanted to change was the inventory tax. AFP should change its motto to “Making America Dumb, AGAIN” and they can slap it on a hat.
Bexar Co. DA Nico LaHood’s wifey, Davida, testified and managed to disappoint by saying 0 things about vaccines. she just wanted people to know that she wanted the poors to have access to the same medical care as her kids.
FUN FACT: oncology nurse practitioners in Texas can order chemo drugs for their pediatric patients that could make the kids deaf, but they cannot order an audiology test to monitor their hearing so they make sure they don’t! that’s a DR’s job, ladies!
we don’t know what Sen. Bettencourt’s GPA was, but we know it was well below 3.4 and the kid with Asperger’s that just testified is a genius by comparison.
Gary Jessee from HHSC needed to come answer a few more questions and says, “yep, this is all Superior’s fault.” I agree that it’s not Gary’s fault, but it is a LITTLE BIT Smith’s fault.
Sen. Kolkhorst would like to know where all these kids needing therapies came from anyway. it doubled between 2009 and 2013. turns out we’ve been through this before. a lot of places shut down. new ones started. people started getting diagnosed properly again and started getting services again. but our population has gotten yoooge since the last time it happened.
a witness ruined all the GOP legislators’ Thanksgivings by telling them to think about their not so healthy kid next time they have dinner with their KIDS and GRANDKIDS.
someone said, “You all is willing to invest in a tax-free weekend for gun buyers, but not in therapies for medically dependent children.”
a mom took her 9 year old adopted daughter who had shaken baby syndrome to visit legislators’ offices before the hearing and when they dropped by Sen. “IMA DR! (who will never treat Panika)” Campbell’s office, she or one of her staff told them that they had to wait FOREVER for therapies they needed because, “IT IS THE WAY IT IS!!!!”
we’re not getting a bunch of ameros from the feds already because we FAILED our IDEA evaluation. witness concludes, “It’s broken in the State of Texas.”
Chair Nelson can speak Spanish. this is something I did not know. she said Spanish speaking families should come testify to her more often and it will be hilarious when Sen. Larry Taylor can’t understand a single fuckin’ thing because he only chairs the Education Committee. NBD.
POP QUIZ HOT SHOTS: someone FINALLY said very nice things about Gary Jessee. how is he was being put in a shitty position?
a) Commissioner Smith
b) dumbass last minute riders
d) those ratfucks at Superior
e) all of the above
if you answered (e) all of the above you and I tend to agree and should be friends.
if you feel like this right now, step back from the ledge.
I prescribe bourbon for that. lots and lots of bourbon.