Posts Tagged ‘geanie morrison’

Bill would move University of Houston-Victoria to A&M System

Posted on: April 11th, 2011 by Patrick Brendel No Comments

The Texas Tribune took a look at a proposal to switch the University of Houston-Victoria campus to the Texas A&M University System. Similar to the situation prompting Angelo State University’s move from the Texas State umbrella to Texas Tech in 2007, community leaders in Victoria say the current host system isn’t giving their school enough attention or funding.

The Victoria Advocate has been reporting on the topic since early March, when state Rep. Geanie Morrison (R-Victoria) filed House Bill 2556 proposing the realignment. The bill has been referred to the House Higher Education committee but hasn’t gotten a hearing scheduled yet. (A list of Advocate stories is included below.)

The movement has the backing of Victoria organizations, $100,000 from the local Economic Development Corp. for consultants and lobbyists, and its own website.

What has not been mentioned yet is a certain Victorian who in February gained a position that could give him influence as to the future of his hometown university: A&M Regent Cliff Thomas Jr., who, with his spouse, has donated more than $325,000 to Gov. Rick Perry since 2000, including $100,000 in 2009-2010, as the Texas Independent has previously reported.

Thomas, who owns Speedy Stop Food Stores, and also a fuel lubricant and chemical distributorship, has donated more than $500,000 total to state and federal candidates and committees since 1997. That includes $17,500 to former state Sen. Ken Armbrister (D-Victoria), who is now Perry’s legislative director. Armbrister’s former aide Mike Sizemore — now a consultant — has been mentioned as a possible candidate for lobbying the Legislature for UHV’s realignment, according to the Advocate.

On a side note, UHV is seeking a new university president, with the search narrowed down to four candidates. A flip through their CVs reveals connections to A&M, UH and (in two cases) the University of Hawaii.

Here are links to the Advocate’s reporting on the topic:

March 31: UHV suspends chamber membership
March 30: Former UHV president speaks about possible system switch
March 29: A&M VS UH: Universities compared
March 26: Hegar, Sugar Land mayor oppose portion of UHV bill
March 21: UHV/A&M switch: What if the bill fails to pass?
March 20: Do Cinco Ranch, Sugar Land support switch to A&M System?
March 19: Why leave a longtime partner?
March 18: Chamber lends public support to switching to A&M System
March 18: Full list of UHV FAQs: Does A&M support bill?
March 15: Economic development group discusses UHV switch
March 15: $100,000 targeted to lobby legislators, educate public on proposed switch to A&M System
March 10: UHV students react to possible system change
March 9: Bill to move UHV marks ‘monumental day’ in city’s history
March 8: UHV timeline paints background for Tuesday’s filing
March 8: Texas A&M University-Texarkana saw growth after switching to A&M system
March 8: Man on the street: How do you feel about Texas A&M possibly taking over UHV?
March 8: Jags look at potential switch to A&M
March 8: How does UH System react to Morrison’s bill?
March 8: Switch of UHV to A&M System has some local opposition
March 8: Advocate editorial board opinion: Texas A&M System offers perfect fit for Crossroads

House Republicans brush aside Democratic amendments, pass pre-abortion sonogram bill

Posted on: March 3rd, 2011 by Patrick Brendel 1 Comment

The GOP-dominated Texas House spent Thursday afternoon and evening swatting aside Democratic opposition to pre-abortion sonogram legislation, approving House Bill 15 by state Rep. Sid Miller (R-Stephenville) and shooting down Democrat-proposed amendments on mainly party line votes. The debate lasted until past 10 p.m. Eastern time.

Several unsuccessful amendments proposed by Democrats during hours of floor debate contained provisions for women to opt out of the sonograms or receiving the information — including in cases involving sexual assault, incest or irreversible fetal irregularities. Miller said the bill mandates that physicians perform the sonograms but does not force women to view the sonogram image, hear the explanation or hear the amplified fetal heartbeat if present.

The GOP’s advantage in the Texas House is 101-49. The bill was approved by a margin of 103-42.

State Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-San Antonio) said that of the 20 states that have passed pre-abortion sonogram legislation, only Oklahoma’s was completely mandatory. That state’s law is still bound up in court, he said.

Miller did file a ‘severability’ amendment to the legislation, so that if a court struck down a portion of the law the rest would stand. An amendment by state Rep. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola) expanded on the severability clause.

Illustrating her points with a sonogram transducer, state Rep. Carol Alvarado (D-Houston) said, “This is government intrusion at an all-time high. Instead of making probing a priority of this session, we ought to be probing on how we fix our $26 billion budget deficit.”

Violating the terms of Miller’s legislation would result in an automatic revocation of the physician’s license. If a woman chose not to sign the affidavit, then the doctor would be acting on his/her own peril by electing to still perform the abortion, Miller said.

State Rep. Dawnna Dukes (D-Austin) said she thinks the legislation is a “tactic to try to frighten the woman into not having the procedure, as though she already didn’t have the mental capacity to make the decision.”

“I respectfully disagree. Thank you for your comments,” Miller said.

The required affidavit spelled out in HB 15 does not contain an option for women to say they refused to view the sonogram. However, Miller repeatedly referred to a section the bill titled, “Receiving Information During Sonogram,” which says:”The physician and the pregnant woman are not subject to a penalty under this subchapter solely because the pregnant woman chooses not to receive the information required to be provided.”

The only explicit exemption to Miller’s legislation is in case of “medical emergency.” Led by state Reps. Rafael Anchia (D-Dallas) and Trey Martinez Fischer (D-San Antonio), Democrats disputed the definition of “medical emergency” offered in the bill.

Anchia argued that the current bill’s current bill’s definition of an emergency, a “life-threatening physical condition caused by or arising from a pregnancy,” would not include other emergencies necessitating an abortion, such as a pregnant woman being in a car wreck, or being assaulted.

The Senate’s version of the sonogram bill (which has already cleared the Senate) by state Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston), defines an emergency more broadly, referring to a condition that “complicates the medical condition of the pregnant woman.”

In both bills, the “medical emergency” would mean that if the abortion were not performed, then in the doctor’s opinion the woman could die or risk significant impairment of a major bodily function.

A late floor amendment by state Rep. Kenneth Sheets (R-Dallas) tweaked HB 15′s definition to include conditions “aggravated by, caused by or arising from a pregnancy.”

The term “medical emergency” appears in Texas statute more than two dozen times, and providing a new definition for the term in the sonogram bill could cause conflicts and confusion, Democrats said.

Martinez Fischer raised points of order concerning the bill analysis and the definition of “medical emergency,” saying the analysis was misleading, and the new definition of “medical emergency” could create constitutionally problematic conflicts.

After a delay, House Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) ruled that the analysis wasn’t misleading, and refrained from ruling on the constitutional point.

Miller said his definition of “medical emergency” is meant to encompass all situations where the mother’s life is at stake unless the abortion is performed. When asked to explain how his definition doesn’t exclude situations not directly arising from the pregnancy, Miller said he was operating under the advice of legal counsel.

“I appreciate the advice of legal counsel,” said state Rep. Eddie Lucio III (D-Brownsville). “Many people have lost millions of dollars because of advice from legal counsel.”

During floor debate, Miller repeatedly praised crisis pregnancy resource centers, saying they are “a real asset to our community.” The centers, often faith-based and nonprofit, offer free sonograms and counseling to pregnant women with the goal of reducing abortions — and typically do not offer medical services.

Recently, the New York City Council passed a bill requiring the centers to inform clients whether they offer abortions, birth control or prenatal care. The City of Austin passed a similar ordinance in April, and a regulation passed by the City of Baltimore is being fought in court.

Miller’s bill would force doctors to provide pregnant women seeking abortions with a list of nonprofit entities that provide free sonograms, such as pregnancy centers.

However, Miller also said that the abortion provider would probably not accept the results of a free sonogram from the pregnancy center, so the free sonograms would not meet the requirements of the bill.

When asked why he included the free sonogram information in his legislation, Miller said it’s so that “if she wants to have a free sonogram before she makes her final decision. It’s not mandatory.”

Miller’s bill states the sonogram would have to be performed within 24-72 hours before the abortion. Patrick’s bill states the sonogram would have to be performed more than two hours before the abortion.

State Rep. Harold Dutton Jr. (D-Houston) proposed several amendments for the state to promise to help take care of each child born as a result of a woman changing her mind about having the abortion, due to the requirements of the bill.

Republicans voted down Dutton’s proposals for the state to promise to pay for four years of college for the children, to pay for the child’s health care until age 18, and to pay for the child’s health care until age 6. They also voted down an amendment by state Rep. Richard Peña Raymond (D-Laredo) to rename one of Dutton’s proprosals the “Texas Pro-Life Health Program.”

“If we want to make sure every child is born, we should make sure every child ought to have a chance,” said Dutton, citing his Catholic faith.

An amendment proposed by state Rep. Armando Walle (D-Houston) would have had the state pay for the sonograms. Miller said a sonogram typically costs about $100, and the total cost of the amendment — which was voted down — would be $800,000.

State Rep. Marisa Marquez (D-El Paso) offered an amendment that would have allowed pregnant women, who chose to not get an abortion, to apply for a court order requiring the father of the child to undergo a vasectomy, if the pregnancy occurred outside of marriage and the father previously had two or more children outside of marriage with two or more women.

State Rep. Mike Villarreal (D-San Antonio) asked Marquez if it was her intent to insert a “severability clause” in the bill.

Miller opposed the amendment, saying lawmakers had already been receiving concerns from constituents about budget reductions. “I’m going to have to draw the line and say no more cuts,” he said.

The House voted the amendment down along party lines. However, the House did approve an amendment by Castro to provide women with information related to the Attorney General, paternity determination and child support.

The House companion to Patrick’s Senate Bill, HB 201 by state Rep. Geanie Morrison (R-Victoria), is still pending in House committee. Identical bill HB 580 by state Rep. Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills) has also been filed.

Patrick has also filed duplicate SB 130.

Texas House committee OK’s pre-abortion sonogram bill

Posted on: February 23rd, 2011 by Patrick Brendel No Comments

The House Committee on State Affairs approved a pre-abortion sonogram bill with a quick 9-3 vote after hearing hours of witness testimony from individuals against abortion, pro-choice advocates and other interested parties.

The committee substitute to House Bill 15 by state Rep. Sid Miller (R-Stephenville) contains exceptions only in the case of medical emergencies, and requires a woman to sign an affidavit that a sonogram was performed 24-72 hours before the abortion, the sonogram images were displayed so she could see them, a verbal explanation of the images was given,  and the fetal heartbeat (if present) was made audible. The affidavit would need to be kept on record for seven years (or if the patient is a minor, until she turns 21).

Women could not be punished for violating the terms of the bill, and physicians could not be punished if the women refuse to receive the information offered.

The Texas Medical Board could revoke a physician’s license for violating the terms of the bill.

[Editor's note: This story was updated at 6:30 p.m. Eastern time to delete a description of possible civil punishments that were removed in the committee substitute for the bill and correct a description of enforcement of the provision.]

The second pre-abortion sonogram bill considered in State Affairs was HB 201 by state Rep. Geanie Morrison (R-Victoria). Morrison asked the committee to table consideration of her bill since the state Senate had already passed companion legislation Senate Bill 16 by state Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston). Read more about the Senate bill in the Texas Independent.

Patrick’s bill includes exceptions in cases of rape or incest, in addition to medical emergencies.

‘Choose Life’ license plates could be boon for faith-based pregnancy centers

Posted on: January 26th, 2011 by Mary Tuma 2 Comments

Image by: Matt Mahurin“Choose Life” license plates are back. Pre-abortion sonograms are an official state emergency. The 2011 Texas legislative session presents great opportunities for anti-abortion advocates and faith-based crisis pregnancy resource centers, to which the state directs millions of dollars per year. (more…)

Texas Comptroller releases Biennial Revenue Estimate

Posted on: January 10th, 2011 by Patrick Brendel 1 Comment

Texas budget writers should prepare for modest economic growth in the next two years, state Comptroller Susan Combs cautioned in her official Biennial Revenue Estimate released today. Judging by the numbers, lawmakers are looking at a two-year budget shortfall at the high end of the $15 billion-$25 billion range that had been predicted. Additionally, lawmakers must deal with a $4.3 billion budget deficit from the current biennium, which ends this fall.

Combs said in a letter accompanying the report, “[T]he national and Texas economies appear to have turned the corner, however a strong period of growth has yet to begin.”

Political newsletter The Quorum Report projected a shortfall of about $26.8 billion, using a baseline 2012-2013 budget of $99 billion, calculated by the Center for Public Policy Priorities, an advocacy group for low-income Texans. During the next biennium, the state will take in $77.3 billion in net revenue and have $72.2 billion for general-purpose spending, after accounting for the current $4.3 billion budget deficit and other transfers, according to the Comptroller’s estimate.

At an event in her district last week, State Rep. Geanie Morrison (R-Victoria) talked about the budget shortfall being nearly $24 billion, according to the Victoria Advocate‘s J.R. Ortega.

The state’s emergency Rainy Day Fund will contain about $9.4 billion at the end of 2013, Combs said. The Texas Tribune‘s Ross Ramsey reported that legislators will unveil preliminary spending proposals this week, and that the House version will not include money from the Rainy Day Fund.

Meanwhile, Texas Senate Finance Chair Steve Ogden (R-Bryan) said his goal is to use Rainy Day Fund money to cover the current deficit, Enrique Rangel reported in the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.

In the letter accompanying the Comptroller’s report, Combs summarized observed and expected trends in Texas economic activity. She predicted the size of the economy will grow in the next few years, but at a slower pace than prior to the recession.

According to Combs: “The Texas economy, in inflation-adjusted terms, grew by 3.3 percent in fiscal 2008, declined by 1.5 percent in 2009, and resumed growth in 2010, increasing year-over-year by 3.0 percent. This happened after annual growth in both fiscal 2006 and 2007 exceeded 4.0 percent. Looking forward, the Texas economy is expected to increase by 2.6 percent in 2011 compared to the previous year, and by a further 2.8 percent in 2012 and 3.4 percent in 2013—reflecting a growing population and revival of business activity.”

Texas Rep. Smith files pre-abortion ultrasound bill

Posted on: November 22nd, 2010 by Patrick Brendel 3 Comments

State Rep. Todd Smith (R-Euless) has filed a bill that would require women seeking elective abortions to undergo obstetric ultrasounds right before the procedures are scheduled to be done. Smith’s bill is more detailed but aims for the same goal as legislation filed earlier by state Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston) and state Rep. Geanie Morrison (R-Victoria).

In 2009, Patrick’s Senate Bill 182 passed the Senate but never made it to the House floor for consideration, due to Democrats’ filibustering over voter photo ID. Opponents of House Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) have tried to make the bill’s failure a point of contention against him, although the head of the pro-life group backing the bill said Straus worked with them in good faith.

State Rep. Frank Corte Jr. (R-San Antonio) filed a companion bill to SB 182 in 2009. House Bill 36 (which also had state Reps. Allen Fletcher and Betty Brown as authors) was left pending in committee, although it had attracted more than 60 coauthors, including Smith.

The last version of Patrick’s SB 182 in 2009 allowed women to refuse to view the ultrasound images, hear the fetal heartbeat or listen to the ultrasound provider’s explanation of the images. However, Patrick’s new SB 130 (identical to Morrison’s HB 201) allows women to refuse to view the sonogram, but does not have an opt-out provision for hearing the heartbeat or explanation of the images.

Smith’s HB 325 also requires women to undergo ultrasounds before abortions — although it allows women to refuse to see the images Smith’s bill also does not have an opt-out provision for hearing the heartbeat or explanation of the images.

It does stipulate that women cannot have been given any sedatives or anesthesia before receiving the ultrasound or signing a certification that the ultrasound was performed. Smith’s bill requires that abortion providers keep the signed certifications on file for seven years (or until the woman is 25 years old, whichever is greater).

All of the bills have exemptions for abortions in medical emergencies. Smith’s bill requires physicians providing abortions in emergencies to sign a statement that the abortion provider must keep for seven years (or until the woman is 25 years old, whichever is greater).

Smith’s bill would create a state-sponsored website listing places that offer free obstetric ultrasounds. Abortion providers would have to link to the state’s website on their websites.

Smith’s bill stipulates that women will not face punishment if they seek or receive abortions for providers who don’t follow the law. Abortion providers who don’t follow the law could be issued with an injunction from the woman, one of her relatives or guardians, or her former or current health care provider. An injunction would stop the provider from performing any more abortions, with penalties of $10,000 for a first violation, and up to $100,000 or more for multiple violations.

Women could also sue abortion providers in civil court for damages. Additionally, abortion providers found in violation of the law will have their health care licenses revoked by the State Medical Board.

(Photos: www.house.state.tx.us, www.senate.state.tx.us)