Well, after all the deaths in my family, I wasn't going to do this anymore..... however..... Tryon has publicized his submission of his first bill and I cannot remain quiet. I am so shocked and disappointed that I could absolutely spit nails. Here's the story that was released in the Odessa American. Pay attention to the info under "First Bill."
State rep. talks issues
Tryon Lewis warns of hard choices ahead for state government, residents
January 07, 2011 5:10 PM
BY SARAH MUELLER
“Texas is not set up to be a welfare state.”
Rep. Tryon Lewis said he’s anxious to start working on the big problems West Texans face when the 82nd Legislative session opens Tuesday in Austin.
This is the second session of the Texas State Legislature for the Odessa Republican representative from District 18. Republicans made large gains in last year’s mid-term elections and now hold a supermajority of seats.
The 82nd session is likely to be painful for West Texans because difficult and potentially deep budget cuts are expected in education, health care, transportation and road construction. Lewis’ message to his constituents is to expect cuts in education and health- and human-services.
“People have to be more self-reliant and not rely on the government,” he said. “Texas is not set up to be a welfare state.”
Budget revenue figures will be announced by the Comptroller’s office early next week, but government officials are estimating the budget will be between $13 to $25 billion short. Lewis said he thinks the budget shortfall will end up around $20 billion.
One area likely to be affected by the deficit is health care. Hospitals across Texas are already facing a 1 percent decline in Medicaid reimbursement that will start in February. Medical Center Hospital CEO Bill Webster said the hospital can absorb that drop, but worries about long-term effects from declining funds from the state.
“There comes a point where long-term consequences have a negative impact on the health system,” he said.
For the last fiscal year, residents without insurance made up about 20 percent of the hospital’s patients and Medicaid patients accounted for about 13 percent.
The hospital will continue to work with the state to try to minimize the impact on providers, Webster said.
“We realize that the state is in a tough situation,” he said. “We will do our best to try and adjust.”
Lewis said cutbacks to health services will be significant because of the current budget woes, but the state could give more services to the poor if it can find a way to control the growing costs of health care.
Health and human services programs have already been targeted by some elected state officials as an area to reduce expenses. A prime target will be Medicaid, the health insurance program provided by the state and federal government. Medicaid is designed to help pregnant women, children, the disabled and people living in nursing homes. MCH Chief Financial officer Robert Abernathy said about 70 percent of Medicaid funding goes to people in nursing homes.
Lewis said the state can’t afford the program, and he supports Gov. Rick Perry’s idea of opting out of Medicaid completely. The Texas Health and Human Services Commission said Medicaid makes up 25 percent of the state budget. If Texas drops out of Medicaid, it will be the first state in history to do so. And it will also mean losing about $16 billion in federal aid, according to HHSC.
“Unless things change, I don’t think there’s any other option,” Lewis said.
Webster, however, said he thinks the proposal was highly unlikely to pass.
“It would have a devastating impact on hospitals,” he said. “I think that’s not realistic.”
Lewis said he plans to be very involved in changing or restructuring the program. He favors a system where the federal government gives health care money to the state as a block grant. Losing the federal funding would be a shame, he said, but the state can’t afford the current system.
“We can’t bankrupt our state on the hope our state will get these dollars,” he said.
Austin has been buzzing for weeks about the looming race for speaker of the house. Lewis said he is supporting current House Speaker Joe Strauss, who is fighting to hold on to the speakership against two announced GOP candidates.
“He is the best qualified among the people currently running,” Lewis said.
Lewis said he will work to pass a voter-identification bill, as well as to create “sensible rules” on illegal immigration to prevent illegal immigrants from having access to welfare benefits and the voting booth. A voter ID bill was introduced last session, but failed to make it to the floor for a vote. Lewis was very disappointed in the bill’s failure.
“It was crushing to me,” he said.
Lewis predicts a tougher bill will be introduced in the upcoming session and will pass quickly.
“There’s no reason to oppose it,” he said. “It’s simple and fair.”
The Texas Democratic Party disagrees with Lewis’s assessment of the Voter ID bill. Spokeswoman Kirsten Gray said the bill is designed to prevent Democratic voters from casting their ballots.
“This bill is useless,” she said. “It’s a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.”
Lewis said the integrity of the ballot and the legitimacy of an election is important.
“I’m sorry it’s not important to them (Democrats),” he said.
While Lewis was wrapping up his work at his law practice last week, he also filed his first bill for the new session. The House bill, HB 505, calls for replacing “Cesar Chavez Day with Texas Hispanic Heritage Day as an optional state holiday.”
The new holiday would be on Sept. 16th and would commemorate the defeat of Spain by Mexico over territory that includes Texas. He considers that day the state’s first Independence Day.