The Austin Chronicle

CHIPing in on the Special

By Richard Whittaker, June 24, 2009, 3:40pm, Newsdesk

The longer Gov. Rick Perry waits to call the special session, the more organized the pressure to put other items beyond Sunset and Texas Department of Transportation bonds on the call. Now 75 House Members have signed a letter asking him to bring children's health insurance back for another swing.

Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, released the letter this morning, requesting that Perry bring back the proposal for a sliding-scale CHIP option. This would allow families at between 200% and 300% of the federal poverty level to buy in to the system. It was, he noted, a proposal that passed multiple House and Senate votes with bipartisan support. It only died at the hands of Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, R-Parker, who denied it final House passage.

But since there's only 74 House Dems, it's pretty obvious straight away that Coleman has at least one Republican backer. In fact, four GOPers signed the letter.

Coleman got fellow Houstonians Dwayne Bohac and John Davis to sign on the line, plus John Zerwas from nearby Richmond, while Eastland's Jim Keffer made a showing for North Texas.

That means there're some Dems missing. Joe Heflin, Alan Ritter and Allen Vaught aren't on there, while Ryan Guillen is named but there's no signature. Coleman's office said not to read to much into that: It being the summer and the interim, it's not that easy to find everyone and get their signature on paper.

Coleman's press release in full:

Representative Coleman and 75 House Members Send Letter to Governor, Urging Him to Include CHIP in Special Session

(Austin) – State Representative Garnet F. Coleman (D-Houston) has sent a letter to Governor Perry urging him to include legislation regarding the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in the upcoming special session. Seventy five House Members signed the letter sent to the Governor.

"Texas is first in the nation when it comes to children without health insurance," said Rep. Coleman. "One in four Texas children is uninsured. CHIP legislation has broad support from the business, faith and advocacy communities."

Both the House and Senate passed bipartisan, collaborative CHIP legislation during the 81st Regular Session that would have insured 80,000 Texas children. The CHIP legislation would have implemented a sliding scale to cover uninsured kids with working parents earning from 200 to 300 percent of the federal poverty level, and included strict language to ensure that private health insurance would not be substituted by CHIP coverage.

"The CHIP legislation requires personal responsibility since families covered under these provisions will have to pay co-payments and monthly premiums. These families will contribute more than the state to the CHIP buy-in created in this bill." said Rep. Coleman.

"We have a critical opportunity to consider this unfinished business which will help children from working families. We must show Texans that children are our top priority."

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