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The Brief: May 18, 2010

The state misused the blood samples of Texas babies, and lawmakers yesterday showed they are not happy about it.

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The state misused the blood samples of Texas babies, and lawmakers are not happy about it.

Yesterday as they grilled Department of State Health Services Commissioner David Lakey at an interim committee hearing, legislators pledged to pass legislation next session that gives parents greater control over the baby blood spots that are drawn to test newborns for birth defects and disease.

“Do you see why we’re concerned up here? There seems to be this pushback on transparency and full disclosure on the most intimate information of a person’s life,” state Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, R-Parker.

“If you look at banks, at financial [institutions], when you give them your money you expect certain things, and they have to inform you of what they’re doing. When we’re talking about blood spots, and DNA retention, I don’t think we have developed the policy and the protections that the people really deserve.” said Public Health Committee chair state Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham.

A scandal erupted in February when The Texas Tribune learned that the state was handing over the blood samples to the federal government to create a DNA database intended for forensic use.

Here’s The Texas Tribune’s Emily Ramshaw with more:

Over the last several years, researchers have requested Texas baby blood spots for a variety of medical projects: to study the gene involved in club foot, to inspect the DNA of infants who develop childhood cancer, to examine prenatal lead exposure. Those are the projects state health officials have touted repeatedly before lawmakers and critics. But the least publicized of these research projects is arguably the most interesting. Between 2003 and 2007, the state gave 800 de-identified blood samples to the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFDIL) to help create a national mtDNA database.


· At long last, the debate between state Reps. Debbie Riddle, R-Tomball, and Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, on the Arizona immigration law took place on Dallas radio station KRLD. In case you missed it, find it here. A highlight: Riddle says the bill she is pushing in Texas is "really not identical, nor is it even what I would call similar to the Arizona bill."

· More than 300 Texas doctors have dropped out of Medicare in the last two years — a number that exceeds expectations — according to a Texas Medical Association survey. “You do Medicare for God and country because you lose money on it. The only way to provide cost-effective care is outside the Medicare system, a system without constant paperwork and headaches and inadequate reimbursement,” said one doctor.

·After the AP came out with an itemized report of the $600,00 in public money he’s spent to live in a rental home while the Governor’s Mansion undergoes repairs, Gov. Perry received a tweak from an unlikely source: Food and Wine Magazine. After learning the governor used tax dollars to pay for a subscription, the publication tweeted, “Love that TX Gov Rick Perry is a fan, but wish he hadn't spent public $ on subs.“

“You're not going to re-create Las Vegas. Folks aren't walking around in Mississippi in tuxedos and evening gowns. They're walking around in Spandex, toting oxygen bottles.” — Rob Kohler, a Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission consultant working against gambling expansion, quoted in the Houston Chronicle.


A Lawyer Known Best for Losing Capital CasesNew York Times

Land commissioner: Oil spill unlikely to reach Texas coastMcAllen Monitor

Rep. Chet Edwards tries to assuage disgruntled Democrats on health care voteWaco Tribune-Herald

Workers' Comp: What's Next? — The Texas Tribune

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