"We don't have any data that people who have lost jobs due to no fault of their own ... that there is a large number that are using drugs," said Rep. Chris Turner, D-Fort Worth. "Aren't we just adding insult to injury when someone is unemployed?"
Hecklers demanding that Texas expand the Medicaid program under the White House-backed health care law repeatedly interrupted a speech by Gov. Rick Perry on Wednesday, then descended on his office for a meeting to keep pressing their case.
Perry was speaking at an Austin business forum and had barely begun singing the state's pro-entrepreneurial praises when a woman shrieked "Expand Texas health care!" After nobody moved to throw her out, she asked, "What do you think about that?"
Visibly embarrassed, Perry replied, "Expand Texas health care. I gotcha."
As he continued to speak, a man rose and demanded Medicaid expansion. "You leave here," Perry offered, "I'll invite you to the Capitol and we can have a face-to-face debate. Your manners will be greatly appreciated."
Texas has the highest rate of uninsured in the nation, with about 6.2 million of its residents lacking health care coverage. Advocates say extending Medicaid as directed by federal health care reform could provide up to 1 million Texans with some coverage.
But because Medicaid is a jointly funded federal-state program, Perry says embracing expansion could bankrupt Texas. He has endured such heckling before, with demonstrators even calling for Medicaid expansion during a recent speech he gave in Washington.
Wednesday's protesters were representing the Texas Organizing Project advocacy group, which has demonstrated previously outside Perry's office in the state Capitol. When the speech was over, about 40 of them headed there — and Perry allowed three in for a closed-door chat of about 20 minutes.
"We had a good meeting," the governor said afterward. "I don't think we came to any great epiphanies in there, but we actually found that there was a lot of things that we agreed on. Medicaid's broken."
Senate confirmation of three University of Texas System regents appointed by Gov. Rick Perry will be delayed at least until Friday, but one key lawmaker said he is "very confident" they will be approved.
Sen. Glenn Hegar, chairman of the Senate Nominations Committee, said delayed the confirmation vote by a day to give some senators time to prepare remarks. The regents appointments are being closely watched as the potential tipping point between the board of regents and Austin campus president Bill Powers and his supporters.
Powers is believed to be fighting to keep his job and until recently held a slim majority of approval on the board.
In lengthy hearing Monday, the three nominees — Ernest Aliseda of McAllen, Jeff Hildebrand of Houston and Paul Foster of El Paso, said they did not intend to have Powers fired.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
"The Second Amendment is not about the gun. It's about the right to self-preservation." — Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, on frustration of another defeat of his guns on campus bill.