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The Brief: Feb. 11, 2015

The Tribune's Terri Langford has uncovered a new problem with the no-bid Medicaid fraud software contract awarded to 21CT by the Health and Human Services Commission.

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The Big Conversation

The Texas Tribune's Terri Langford has uncovered a new problem with the no-bid Medicaid fraud software contract awarded to 21CT by the Health and Human Services Commission. Apparently, the agency didn't tell the federal government that it was a no-bid contract.

In fact, the agency had told the feds in writing that the contract was awarded "via a competitive, best value procurement."

Langford writes, "'That information is inaccurate,' agency spokeswoman Stephanie Goodman said of the language in the nearly three-year-old document. Although the document's author was not specifically listed, Goodman said it was written by staff in the agency's inspector general's office, now the epicenter of a contracting scandal rocking the agency."

Langford added, "So did the inspector general's office lie to the federal government to land 90 percent of the $20 million needed to buy the software? Or was it a simple mistake? So far, no one is talking on that issue, as the investigations proceed. 

"However, that's likely one of the central questions being considered by criminal investigators with the state's public integrity unit, one of three entities reviewing HHSC contract procedures."

And the Tribune's Alexa Ura has the story of another legacy of Jack Stick's tenure at the state agency: "roughly 300 high-dollar badges he designed and ordered for his investigators at a cost to taxpayers of $36,000. ... Each new badge cost $80. Custom leather cases for identifications cards cost $18. And some employees also received custom badge holders that cost another $16, according to agency invoices obtained by the Tribune. The previous agency badges were worth anywhere from $32.45 to $59.95, health commission spokeswoman Stephanie Goodman said."

The Day Ahead

•    The House convenes at 10 a.m.; the Senate convenes at 11 a.m.

•    House Appropriations meets at 7:30 a.m. to go over budget recommendations on state contracting procedures, transportation and border security funding, graduate medical education and the Hazlewood exemption (E1.030)

•    Senate Finance meets at 9 a.m. to take testimony from the Higher Education Coordinating Board and the Teacher Retirement System (E1.036); Senate Transportation meets at 8 a.m. to get an update from the Texas Department of Transportation and on the TxTag system (E1.016); Senate Health and Human Services meets on adjournment to consider four bills, including one dealing with "the financial self-sufficiency of the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas." (Senate Chamber)

•    House Speaker Joe Straus will be a guest of the Texas Politics Speaker Series. The 3:30 p.m. conversation will be livestreamed for those unable to attend in person.

•    Gov. Greg Abbott will host a 4:30 p.m. meet and greet in San Antonio for Nunzio Previtera, Republican candidate for the vacant House District 123 seat.

Trib Must-Reads

Hays Water Fight Portends Battles to Come, by Neena Satija

Cross-Border Trucking Program Moving Forward, by Julián Aguilar

Proposal to Downsize Texas School for Deaf Stirs Anger, by Ben Philpott

Ethics Bill Would Shed Light on Contracts, by Jay Root

Federal Audit Rebukes Ex-U.S. Rep. Canseco, by Abby Livingston

Patrick Wants $12 Million to Keep Guard on Border, by Julián Aguilar


Dan Patrick, Joe Straus appear at odds over border plan, Austin American-Statesman

Open carry debate at Capitol gets personal, Houston Chronicle

Dallas city pension board supports same-sex marriage benefits, The Dallas Morning News

Race to replace Van de Putte tops $2.3 million, San Antonio Express-News

New CEO of UT System’s oil lands will make up to $2.45 million a year, Austin American-Statesman

Economic woes accelerate as brief oil rally stalls, Houston Chronicle

Pioneer cuts drilling budget 45 percent, The Dallas Morning News

Quote to Note

"He can think whatever he wants. I think Stickland's shtick is wearing thin on a lot of people."

— State Rep. Poncho Nevárez, D-Eagle Pass, dismissing talk from colleague Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, that his open carry legislation was referred to the House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee, on which Nevárez serves as vice chairman, in order to have the bill killed

Today in TribTalk

How conservative is too conservative?, by Mark P. Jones

News From Home

During the legislative session, we're compiling "hot lists" of issues across key policy areas. This week, the featured list on our Lege page is Higher Ed. Subscribe to our Trib+Edu newsletter for more education news.

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    Houston & the Legislature: Previewing the 84th Session on Feb. 12 at the Wortham Center in Houston

•    A Conversation With State Rep. John Otto, Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, on Feb. 12 at the Austin Club

•    A Conversation With U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro on Feb. 19 at The Austin Club

•    Immigration: The Next Five Years on Feb. 27 at at the University of Texas at Brownsville

•    A Conversation With State Sen. Kel Seliger and State Rep. John Zerwas on March 5 at the Austin Club

•    Meet the Mayors: Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price on March 12 at The Austin Club

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Energy Environment Health care Politics Dan Patrick Greg Abbott Joe Straus Trey Martinez Fischer