No one has ever accused Texas Republicans of being quick on the uptake — except when it comes to new ways to criminalize abortion and slap the words “In God We Trust” on everything except plastic grocery sacks.

So, it should come as no surprise that last week, some Republicans in the Texas Legislature finally decided that significant cuts made in the state’s Child Health Insurance Program in 2003 were a bad idea.

Talk about a delayed case of seller’s remorse.

Chief among the new converts straight out of the baptistery is State Rep John Davis, a Republican from Clear Lake, near Houston.

Last week Davis filed House Bill 2049, which would lengthen the CHIP enrollment period from six months to a year and lessen other restrictions Republicans forced upon the program in 2003 in an effort to offset a $10-billion budget shortfall.

Davis told the Houston Chronicle his bill was “the right thing to do.”

While he might get a few brownie points from some Democrats, he’s a little late. His bill is one of no less than 50 that had been filed by March 1 dealing with the CHIP program. And Davis was nowhere to be seen when more than a dozen legislators (all Democrats) gathered January 24 to introduce a large number of bills to restore CHIP to its pre-2003 funding level and lengthen the enrollment period.

Speculation is rife as to why Davis, who was a strong supporter of the 2003 cuts and even went so far as to call putting a choke collar on the enrollment process “responsible decisions” as recently as last September, has had the sudden change of heart. You can bet it wasn’t a late-night visit from the Virgin Mary in a House lavatory.

Nate Wilcox, a Democratic political consultant and host of radio, who has recently worked with the likes of former Virginia Governor Mark Warner and U.S. Senator John Kerry and has worked a number of Texas races, says such 180-degree turns aren’t likely

“You could attribute it to a genuine concern for the children of Texas, but that’s probably wishful thinking. Instead I’d credit it to a creeping realization on the part of some Republicans that the era of cheap outrage and easy answers is ending and voters are beginning to demand real solutions to the pressing problems of our state,” Wilcox says.

At least one Texas columnist, the Houston Chronicle’s Rick Casey, thinks it could be because of Davis’s troubles with the Texas Ethics Commission.

Last year, Davis got in a little hot water over some improperly reported expenditures on his disclosure filings with the Texas Ethics Commission. The allegations, including that Davis spent more than $1,500 of campaign cash on a fancy pair of cowboy boots, first surfaced on Houston-area blog Bay Area Houston, and quickly found their way to the mainstream press via a Houston television station. Davis ultimately paid a fine for several filing-related indiscretions.

Davis’s staff has blamed the snafu on how difficult it can be to file all that paperwork with the TEC when you have things that are for both personal and political use.

Perhaps Davis’s recent conversion is a result of figuring out that, if a State Representative has trouble filling in his forms correctly, then a working mother trying to fill in a bunch of insurance forms with a sick toddler on her lap might crumble under excessive paperwork, too. 


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