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The Brief: Feb. 21, 2013

Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s about-face on a key component of federal health care reform has turned attention toward Texas and Gov. Rick Perry.

The Texas Tribune Festival 2012 Opening Session: A Conversation with Gov. Rick Perry and Evan Smith, Sept. 21, 2012.

The Big Conversation

Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s about-face on a key component of federal health care reform has turned attention toward Texas and Gov. Rick Perry.

On Wednesday, Scott became the latest — and highest-profile — Republican governor to begrudgingly agree to the vast Medicaid expansion under the new health care law, which will provide coverage for 1 million Floridians. 

"While the federal government is committed to paying 100 percent of the cost of new people in Medicaid, I cannot in good conscience deny the uninsured access to care," Scott said in a speech.

Though Republican governors, like Scott, helped lead the legal fight against the health care law, seven of them — including Jan Brewer of Arizona, John Kasich of Ohio and Susana Martinez of New Mexico — have recently agreed to the expansion.

But Perry, who has resolutely opposed the new law, isn’t budging, as the Tribune’s Emily Ramshaw reports.

"The governor’s position has not changed," Perry spokeswoman Lucy Nashed said on Wednesday. "It would be irresponsible to add more Texans and dump more taxpayer dollars into an unsustainable system that is broken and already consumes a quarter of our budget."

Democratic lawmakers, meanwhile, joined interfaith groups at a rally at the state Capitol earlier on Wednesday in support of the expansion. Some Democrats remain optimistic that the Legislature may be able to strike a deal on the matter in spite of Perry’s opposition.

State Rep. Garnet Coleman, a Houston Democrat who has pushed for the expansion in Texas, praised Scott's move.

"Governor Scott initially opposed the expansion, but upon reflection he realized that refusing to expand Medicaid would just be bad policy for his state," Coleman said in a statement. "The people of Florida should be proud of their governor today for making the right choice."

For a look at how broadening Medicaid coverage would affect Texas, check out Becca Aaronson's new interactive showing the estimated economic impact by legislative district.

Capitol Notes
Compiled from Tribune reports

•    Dewhurst, Straus Renew Higher Ed Oversight Committee: "The Joint Oversight Committee on Higher Education Governance, Excellence and Transparency, created in 2011 amid controversy surrounding the leadership of university system regents, will be renewed this session."

•    Seliger Files Bill to Curb Regent "Micromanagement": "Senate Higher Education Committee Chairman Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, filed a bill on Monday aimed at improving transparency for university system regents and curbing what he called 'micromanagement.'"

•    Austin's Strama, Mulling Mayoral Bid, Won't Seek Re-election: "Austin Democrat Jade Chang Sheppard said Wednesday that she will run for the Texas House seat that will open after Rep. Mark Strama's current — and last — term in office next year."

Texas news from across the state and around the web

•    DeMint column: Cruz deserves cheers, not jeers (Politico): "Imagine a new senator who ran a campaign of 'no more business as usual.' No more special interest politics, no more backroom deals — and he won. He came to Washington, and he delivered. He didn’t stay quiet, he spoke passionately for what he believed in, and he made it clear he planned to shake up the status quo."

•    Conservative evangelical Christians sign on for immigration overhaul pitch (The Dallas Morning News): "After years of silence and even hostility to modifying immigration laws, conservative evangelical Christians have become unlikely allies in pressing for a path to citizenship for those here illegally because, they say, the Bible told them so. A coalition of religious leaders in Texas and elsewhere, many with strong credentials as social conservatives, is engaging congregations in a coordinated call for Congress and the White House to deal with 11 million illegal immigrants."

•    In unusual move, regent obtains vast file of open records materials from UT (Austin American-Statesman): "The University of Texas has supplied more than 40 boxes of records to a member of its governing board who demanded to see all of the materials released in response to public information requests for a nearly two-year period, the American-Statesman has learned."

Quote of the Day: "I genuinely have not decided whether to run for mayor; I can think of as many reasons not to do it as to do it." — State Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin, who announced on Wednesday that he wouldn't seek another term in the House


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