The Austin Chronicle

CHIP Back on the Chopping Block

By Richard Whittaker, May 29, 2009, 10:30am, Newsdesk

Early Thursday, it looked like CHIP expansion was saved when the Senate tacked it to House Bill 1795 and packed it off to the House for approval. But now it's back with the Senate as it became clear that the two bills weren't closely related enough to be folded together, and both could have been killed on a point of order

What was particularly frustrating for many supporters of the reform (which would take CHIP enrollment up to 300% of the Federal poverty level) was that there was a suitable vehicle – HB 2962 by Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, which has been languishing in Senate Finance since May 19. If CHIP expansion had been added to this medical assistance administration bill, it would have passed the "germane or not" test easily. Now the race is on to save a measure that has broad bipartisan support, but may be back on the chopping block.

"That's what it's felt like this session," said Rep. Dawnna Dukes, D-Austin. "Every time you've put the baby to bed, it's started crying."

Dukes has had her own fights recently, salvaging her expanded foster care support bill by getting it added on to Sen. Carlos Uresti's child welfare bill as a third-reading amendment in the House. The problem, she said, was "constant behind-the-scenes movement and restructuring … that's why so many of us look so tired. We can't enjoy any victory and rest."

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