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May 31, 2016      4:40 PM

Senators skeptical as health plans push for changes to Texas prompt pay law

Bipartisan pushback to the Texas Association of Health Plans: Sen. Watson says “Weren’t we supposed to say we don’t care about anybody else if it’s working for us.”

The argument of some health care plans and hospital providers that Texas has an unfair prompt pay law and it needs to be changed did not appear to meet a receptive audience at Senate Business & Commerce this month.

From the perspective of fixing what’s broken, some would argue that Texas is doing just fine.

Prompt pay legislation, passed in 2003, has resulted in a growing number of clean claim submissions and timeliness on 99.5 percent of all claims. Most insurance carriers can hit a goal of 98 percent on accuracy and timeliness.

But it’s that fraction of a single percentage point – out of 90 million claims a year – that has health care plans and even some providers frustrated with the system.

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By Kimberly Reeves

May 31, 2016      4:38 PM

Press Releases: Hats off to first responders, zombie-like voter ID, and more

Click the Press Releases tab for all the latest

May 31, 2016      12:13 PM

SB: Patrick asks schools to risk funding while laying groundwork to redirect their funds to vouchers

Lite Guv uses toilet talk to say he’s defending public schools; simultaneously takes aim at redirecting their funding for “school choice” programs

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on Tuesday announced he is asking Attorney General Ken Paxton to weigh in with an official opinion on whether the Fort Worth ISD’s policy on protections for transgender students is legal under Texas law.

My fellow former radio talk show host acknowledged that he is “not a lawyer,” so he’s asking an indicted lawyer’s office whether Superintendent Kent Scribner has violated the Texas Education Code with a restroom policy to accommodate transgender students.  

The Texas Senate’s presiding officer accused the school district of holding “sham hearings” on the policy – a statement loaded with irony given the way the Senate, under Patrick’s leadership, has become a no man’s land for stakeholders on a variety of issues.

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By Scott Braddock

May 31, 2016      11:16 AM

Lt. Gov. Patrick asking AG Paxton to weigh in with opinion on Ft Worth ISD transgender policy

Patrick is also telling all Texas superintendents to ignore President Obama's guidance on protections for transgender students

May 27, 2016      5:39 PM

Groups on both sides of school choice survey the lay of the land after the primary runoffs

Taking stock of their clout as the dust settles from the primary season

Those who support “school choice” proposals will see some new friendly faces at the Texas Capitol after at least five candidates who share their views were victorious in their primary runoffs. But as you might imagine, groups across the ideological spectrum claimed victory after the results were tallied Tuesday night.

Michael Quinn Sullivan, who speaks for Tim Dunn’s Empower Texans, called the election results the end of the careers for Republican Texas House members with whom his boss disagrees. But Texas Parent PAC, a frequent target of Dunn’s, called this election season the best results ever for their group with five additional wins in the run-off.

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By Kimberly Reeves

May 27, 2016      5:31 PM

Press Releases: Remembering fallen heroes, transportation incentives, and more

Click the Press Releases tab above for the latest

May 27, 2016      2:05 PM

Chairman Pickett signals House committed to take some tolls off toll roads

Texas holds $12.7 billion in toll roads with debt payment at $7 billion and maintenance of $3.5 billion. That’s about $2 billion in excess revenue, albeit over 20 years

The Texas Transportation Commission gave its final blessing this week to the conversion of new lanes in San Antonio from toll roads to high-occupancy vehicle lanes, a move hailed last fall by both Gov. Greg Abbott and Speaker of the House Joe Straus.

The Bexar County delegation in attendance was predominantly, if not entirely, on board with the concept of HOV lanes, which already are used in Dallas and Houston. The changes, confirmed by minute order, will add capacity to both US 281 and Interstate 10, both key corridors to new growth in the greater San Antonio area.

This is the first significant reversal of Texas’ move toward toll roads, one that Abbott touted during his campaign for governor. Abbott promised Texas congestion problems could be fixed without relying on user-funded toll projects across the state.

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By Kimberly Reeves

May 27, 2016      2:04 PM

Smith: Texas Agencies’ “Hush Money” Settlements May Not Bind Employees to Silence

From the Left: QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that state employees forced to sign hush money settlements can’t be bound by agreements that are illegal for the state of Texas to enter into.

Texas state agency leaders, including Attorney General Ken Paxton and Land Commissioner George P Bush, you’d better watch out. All those potential whistle blowers you paid for their guaranteed silence? Under the law, they are probably free to reveal whatever secrets you are trying to hide.

If a party to a contract is legally prohibited from entering into such a contract, other parties cannot be bound by the terms. In case you didn’t know, it’s likely illegal for the state to use taxpayer money to pay hush money to employees.

In recent weeks, investigations by the Dallas Morning News and the Houston Chronicle have uncovered a widening scandal at multiple state agencies.

By Glenn W. Smith

May 27, 2016      9:49 AM

No NewsClips on Memorial Day

The clips will take a break Monday, but will be delivered as usual Sunday then back with you on Tuesday

May 27, 2016      9:42 AM

Sen. Schwertner urges HHSC to work with lawmakers and local officials to combat Zika

Senate HHS Chairman says a lack of commitment from Washington will complicate the response in Texas

The letter from Sen. Charles Schwertner to incoming HHSC Executive Commissioner Charles Smith can be downloaded here.  

May 26, 2016      8:41 PM

Wayne Smith begins process of asking for recount

With 23 vote difference, Smith decides recount warranted

May 25, 2016      5:28 PM

HK: School finance decision takes arrows out of school reformers quiver

No “must pass” education bill this session takes pressure off House on issues like vouchers

The recent declaration by the Texas Supreme Court that the system of school finance in Texas met constitutional muster was met with sighs of relief from appropriators and consternation and dismay from the public education community.

Particularly concerning to public school advocates was the thoroughness with which the court seemed to close the door on any future remedies as the system continues its unwieldly spiral.

But as one astute friend recently pointed out, there is always a story underneath the story and this one is no different.

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By Harvey Kronberg

May 25, 2016      5:21 PM

Lawmakers still dissatisfied with lengthy delays around utility relocations

Lack of coordination between TxDOT and utilities presents conundrum – only so many resources can be brought to bear on specialized infrastructure

The Texas Department of Transportation has made some effort to address the extensive utility relocation delays that have plagued recent road projects, but not enough to satisfy Chair Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, and the House Transportation Committee.

Utility relocations were front and center during an interim hearing last August, a hearing that noted TxDOT spent almost $30 million due to right-of-way relocation delays. This morning, Randy Hopmann, director of TxDOT Operations, told the committee the agency had issued guidance, encouraged regular utility relocation meetings and urged district engineers to forgo letting construction contracts until right-of-issues are cleared.

“We’ve come to a general understanding with our utilities that the taxpayers of Texas are both our customers,” Hopmann told the committee. “With that common ground in place, I think we can work better together to achieve the overall goal, and we believe we will able to save money on the back end.”

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By Kimberly Reeves

May 25, 2016      4:59 PM

Press Releases: Best primary for Parent PAC ever, toilet lawsuit, smart schools, and more

Click the Press Releases tab above for the latest

May 25, 2016      4:54 PM

Empower Texans candidates falter in North Texas

Veterinarian Lynn Stucky defeats Read King while Justin Holland ahead by 99 votes at this point

FORT WORTH – If third time’s a charm, Empower Texans’ coalition may have lucked out – to an extent – in Tuesday’s run-offs across the state.

But in North Texas? 

Not so much.

Incumbent Reps. Wayne Smith of Baytown and Doug Miller of New Braunfels fell to challengers Briscoe Cain of Deer Park and Kyle Biedermann of Fredericksburg.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick likely strengthened his hand by actively working to help Rep. Bryan Hughes defeat Rep. David Simpson. Meantime, Dr. Dawn Buckingham claimed clear victory over Rep. Susan King of Abilene.

Two open Texas House races in deeply conservative areas of the region had markedly different outcomes.

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By James Russell

May 25, 2016      3:43 PM

Next-Gen commission grapples with revamping Texas tests, accountability

Specifics aren’t emerging, but group agrees the burden of the accountability system ought to rest more fully on teachers rather than students

Recommendations out of the Next-Generation Assessment and Accountability Commission are due to the legislature in September. Today’s meeting was intended to pin down what content should be evaluated, which standards should be measured, how to make the reports understandable to teachers and parents, and how the outcomes should be used.

Specifics for the group’s recommendations are hard to come by. As the group started its post-lunch discussion session, ideas being discussed included using real-world targets for students, using already established assessments tied to student career goals. The group also supported the use of a portfolio of work, and a system that encouraged all teachers, and not just those in the four tested subject areas, to be committed to improvement.

Superintendent Kim Alexander of Roscoe Independent School District told the group it was his hope the commission would adopt the work of the TASA Visioning Institute, which has met for almost a decade to discuss the future of accountability. A number of school districts across the state, including Clear Creek and Northwest, currently are piloting accountability models.

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By Kimberly Reeves

May 24, 2016      9:53 PM

RRC: Christian leads Gates 51-49

76% of precincts reporting statewide now

May 24, 2016      8:29 PM

Rep. Ron Reynolds lead his challenger 60% to 40%

May 24, 2016      8:28 PM

SBOE District 9: Ellis leads Bruner 55% to 45%

May 24, 2016      8:22 PM

CCA: Keel leads Wheless 51% to 48%; Walker leads Webster 57% to 42%

May 24, 2016      8:03 PM

Kyle Biedermann leads Doug Miller 55% to 45%

May 24, 2016      7:52 PM

RRC: Gary Gates leads Wayne Christian with 55%

May 24, 2016      7:50 PM

Wayne Smith narrowly leads Briscoe Cain with 50.79%

May 24, 2016      7:48 PM

HD 54: Cosper leads with 51%

May 24, 2016      7:41 PM

HD 18: Bailes leads with 65%

May 24, 2016      7:40 PM

Gary Gates leading Wayne Christian in RRC race handily in urban counties

May 24, 2016      7:39 PM

HD 33: Holland leads Keating with 52%

May 24, 2016      7:36 PM

In HD 64, Stucky leads Read King with 68%

May 24, 2016      7:35 PM

SD1: Hughes leads Simpson with 71%

May 24, 2016      7:29 PM

Buckingham leads King in early vote with 65%

May 24, 2016      5:28 PM

HK: Friend heads off to the farm rather than the Farm Bureau

We don’t often note the retirement of lobbyists, even our longtime friends….but this one comes with a story.

Maybe a dozen years ago as Quorum Report was breaking out as THE online real time source for Texas political news, yours truly was always running at least 70 mph, especially as we approached that arbitrary daily target of getting the blast out by 5.

And so it was that I skimmed a press release too quickly.  It was referring to long time KL Gates lobbyist Larry McGinnis working on a project for the Texas Farm Bureau.   Instead, I reported that McGinnis was going to work FOR the Farm Bureau.

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By Harvey Kronberg

May 24, 2016      5:27 PM

Press Releases: Gun violence and voter ID