Friday, May 6, 2011

"Family and Traditional Values" Amendment Removed from Budget, For Now

As I mentioned this morning in my column on the Dallas Voice's Instant Tea Blog it appears that House budget amendment 143 has been removed from the Senate's version of the Budget:
"The infamous anti-gay amendment to the Texas budget — which would require universities to fund “family and traditional values centers” if they have LGBT resource centers — appears to have been removed by the Senate. While the state’s media focused on whether the Senate would actually vote on the budget, the Finance Committee seems to have quietly removed the provision, added by amendment in the House by Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center. Last week the American Independent reported that the Christian amendment would have little to no impact, but its removal is cause for celebration for LGBT Texans.

Chuck Smith, deputy director of Equality Texas, greeted the news with cautious optimism, explaining that the budget is a massive document, 854 pages long, and although the “family and traditional values” language was removed from Article III Sec. 56, the entire text would have to be carefully searched before the amendment’s removal was certain."

This morning, as expected, the House declined to accept the Senate's version of HB 1, the bill that creates the budget. The next step is for the Speaker of the House to appoint 5 members to a "conference committee," likewise the Lt. Governor will appoint 5 Senators to the committee.

House and Senate Rules require the committee to draft a compromise between the two versions. They can only change the parts of the budget that differ between the version of HB 1 passed by the House and the version passed by the Senate. Since the Christian amendment is in the House version of the Budget it is still in play and could, conceivably, be put back in.

Also important to watch is the funding for Texas' HIV medication assistance program. The House version provides over 19 million less in funding than the Senate; funds advocates say are desperately needed to face the climbing rate of HIV infection. The conference committee can decide to give the program the lower House allotment, the higher Senate allotment, or any amount in between but can not eliminate the program or cut it's funding below the House Budget's level.

The House is currently creating their "instructions" to their five members of the conference committee. Although nonbinding, these instructions are taken very seriously since the compromise proposed by the will have to be approved by both the House and the Senate to pass.

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