Cornering Planned Parenthood, legislature fights to protect natural gas, and the San Antonio Lightening strikes at Elisa Chan

Cornering Planned Parenthood

Last month, Texas House Republicans took a hammer to the state’s family-planning funding, splintering out nearly two-thirds of the original $99-million pot. The damage was so fast and furious that even state Senator Bob Deuell, a Greenville physician and loud Planned Parenthood opponent, worried that the plan might have been too reckless, suggesting that any move to de-fund Planned Parenthood might call for the scalpel instead.

Last Thursday night at a Health and Human Services subcommittee hearing, Deuell unveiled his handiwork by introducing his own version of a bill reauthorizing the state’s widely successful Women’s Health Program that kicks Planned Parenthood’s non-abortion-providing clinics out for good. And in perfect blackmail fashion, the bill — which passed the House committee Tuesday and heads now to the full Senate — states that if Planned Parenthood chooses to fight the ban in court the state will cancel the entire Women’s Health Program.

Such a move would eliminate STD testing, birth control, and cervical and breast cancer screenings for thousands of the state’s uninsured and low-income women. Planned Parenthood, the program’s largest provider, serves half of the women enrolled in the WHP, and the group insists kicking it out of the program would have dire consequences for women across the state.

Deuell said the bill’s language “bolsters” two opinions issued by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott earlier this year that essentially paved the way for Planned Parenthood’s exclusion from the program. While Parenthood reps in the past have said the organization would fight its exclusion from the WHP in court, Deuell said that’s unlikely now.

“I think it would be highly unlikely there would be any lawsuits,” Deuell said. “If an abortion provider or affiliate sued, they would essentially be suing to end the program — then they wouldn’t have a program to participate in.”

Take that, underemployed women of Texas (which is most of you). In order to score a political victory against Parenthood, we’re ready and willing to throw you under a bus. Just don’t get pregnant on your way down there or we’ll have to pull over.

Through the WHP, Planned Parenthood’s South Texas clinics provided care for over 5,000 women in 2010, the group says.


Lege fights to protect nat gas

There’s no shortage of frustration floating around the Lege these days — the war on women’s health, state-mandated sonograms, immigrant-chasing fervor, and the implosion of our education system, to name a few. But state Representative Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio, found one more source of disappointment this week.

On Monday, every GOP House member blocked Villarreal’s amendment to roll back tax exemptions on the natural gas industry, a “reasonable reform” he’d shopped around the Capitol for a month.

Villarreal had hoped a recent Legislative Budget Board study would give his proposal a much-needed shot in the arm to clear the loud objections sounding from special interests. The study, released last month, found the state’s “high-cost” natural gas exemption was costing the state $1 billion every year in lost revenue. The report also found that the industry paid no severance tax on about one-third of its wells, and that over half of the refunds audited by the Comptroller were fraudulent.

Call us cantankerous old fucks, but that sounds like a good reason to close the tax-break gate, as the reliably devious cattle are obviously in the field now.

Villarreal’s amendment to the Railroad Commission’s Sunset bill, which failed, would have suspended the exemption in the event natural gas prices exceeded $6 per thousand cubic feet (mcf) — prices now hover around $4. Villarreal also sought to tie the exemption to education funding — the tax-break would drop out if school-funding levels fell below the state’s 2011 appropriation.

“Going into the floor discussion I knew it was going to be a uphill battle … However I felt like I needed to demonstrate that the Legislature has choices.”

Now we know: Choices just ain’t what the 82nd Lege is about.


Lightning strikes at Chan

The San Antonio Lightning’s RG Griffing proudly declares his unique watchdog brand at the top his webpage: “We Cover Big News, Little News, And If There’s NO News, We’ll Bite A Dog!”

So naturally, Griffing jumped into the controversy surrounding District 9 Councilwoman Elisa Chan, who was secretly recorded earlier this year telling a Northside homeowners association she could get City Attorney Michael Bernard to “kind of just close an eye” to the $300,000 in city money she planned to funnel toward what she repeatedly called a “private project.”

While the minor scandal hung out there for weeks, no one bothered filing an official complaint until late March when Griffing submitted his own complaint against Chan and Bernard. The city’s Ethics Review Board last month threw out the complaint against Bernard, saying it was based on hearsay, but requested Chan file an official response with the city — letters filed by Chan and Bernard with the City Clerk’s office in early April show neither wanted to dignify the complaint with a response.

In her rebuttal, filed with the city late Monday, Chan says the secret recording offers no proof that she violated any portion of the city’s ethics code. Chan also requested the city’s Ethics Review Board deem Griffing’s complaint “frivolous.” If it does so, Griffing could pay a fine of up to $500 and would bear any of Chan’s legal fees. In that event, QueQue’ll gladly chip in a fiver for the entertainment on a slow news week.

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