Becca Aaronson, Texas Tribune

Texas Tribune Reporter

Becca Aaronson develops data interactives and reports for The Texas Tribune. After an internship in fall 2010, she was hired by the Tribune to help cover the 82nd legislative session. She previously interned at the Houston Chronicle. Becca is a native of Austin who graduated from Scripps College in Claremont, Calif., with a degree in cultural theory.

baaronson@texastribune.org
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photo illustration by: Peter Skadberg/Todd Wiseman

Texas is “ultimately responsible” for millions of misspent Medicaid dollars, according to a new federal audit, because a state agency failed to properly oversee the contractor that reviewed the medical necessity of Medicaid claims.

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez for KUT News

The Texas Department of State Health Services finalized strict new abortion regulations on Friday, claiming that none of the 19,000 public comments on the rules provided evidence that they are unconstitutional.

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez for KUT News

Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on Tuesday not to intervene in Texas’ ongoing abortion litigation, Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers are working to secure access to the procedure for women across the state.

“We’re working to help make sure that our patients and women across Texas can get the services that they need,” said Eric Ferrero, vice president of communications for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. He said Planned Parenthood staff is predominantly working to secure hospital admitting privileges for physicians who don’t have them. Staffers are also helping women who must now travel long distances to access abortion; in some cases, they are helping to offset the costs of transportation and lodging.

Todd Wiseman / Kjetil Ree for Texas Tribune

U.S. Supreme Court justices on Tuesday rejected a request by abortion providers to intervene in their lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of new abortion regulations in Texas that took effect in November.

"Reasonable minds can perhaps disagree about whether the [U.S. 5th Circuit] Court of Appeals should have granted a stay in this case," Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in the 5-4 opinion. "There is no doubt that the applicants have not carried their heavy burden of showing that doing so was a clear violation of accepted legal standards — which do not include a special 'status quo' standard for laws affecting abortion."

http://www.flickr.com/photos/23122254@N07/7305861684/

Texas abortion providers’ Monday victory was short-lived. The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday reversed a federal district court ruling that found part of the state's new abortion regulations unconstitutional, meaning the provisions of House Bill 2 could take effect immediately if state officials choose to enforce them.

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez for KUT News

The next stage in abortion rights advocates’ efforts to block implementation of strict new regulations on the procedure in Texas began on Friday, as the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union and a group of abortion providers across the state filed a lawsuit in federal court.

“Today's lawsuit is a united strike back against the hostile politicians who have made clear their willingness to sacrifice the constitutional rights, health and even lives of Texas women in support of their extremist ideological agenda,” Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement. 

Todd Wiseman / Jennifer Whitney for Texas Tribune

After abruptly ending hours of public testimony that went into the wee hours of Friday morning, the House State Affairs Committee reconvened on Friday and quietly approved House Bill 60, its companion, Senate Bill 5 — omnibus abortion restriction legislation — and a standalone measure to ban abortion at 20 weeks gestation, House Bill 16.

With the special session coming to an end on Tuesday, opponents of the measures say the decision by Chairman Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, to end to the hearing near 4 a.m. — before hundreds of reproductive rights advocates could testify — may open the door to kill the legislation. 

Todd Wiseman/Blake Thompson

Texas received federal approval in May to begin more than 1,100 experimental projects that could transform the way health care is delivered to the state’s poor and uninsured.

Texas Tribune

Political powerhouse Texas Right to Life is working overtime to try to defeat a compromise measure aimed at improving state laws governing “end of life” medical decisions. But with time running out to getSenate Bill 303 passed, the fight over the legislation has shifted from political to personal.

Todd Wiseman via Texas Tribune

In the midst of debate on the 2014-15 budget, the House quietly approved an amendment on Thursday that would open the door to negotiations on expanding Medicaid, a key provision of federal health reform. The amendment requires the Health and Human Services Commission to develop a plan to create more efficient health care options for Medicaid populations if the state chooses to draw down federal financing to expand Medicaid eligibility.

Bob Daemmrich/Texas Tribune

The Texas Senate unanimously approved two bills Wednesday to reform the beleaguered Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas amid continuing controversy over grant awards.

Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune

The Texas Senate unanimously approved an overhaul of long-term and acute care Medicaid services on Monday in an effort to expand care to more disabled Texans while saving millions of state dollars.

“We cannot continue to fund the same inefficient, unsustainable long-term care system and expect a different result,” said Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, the author of Senate Bill 7.

Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

Despite an ongoing grant moratorium, the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas received permission Wednesday from state leaders to move forward on contract negotiations for 25 grants that would bring renowned cancer researchers to Texas.

“We have worked hard to regain trust with our elected officials and the citizens of Texas,” Wayne Roberts, interim executive director at CPRIT, said in a statement. “We take this action as evidence that some progress has been made, and we will continue to work to strengthen this trust during the coming weeks and months.”

The researcher grants represent a combined $72 million and were formally approved by the CPRIT oversight board in late 2012 before the moratorium took effect. Many of the researchers had moved their families and research labs to Texas in anticipation of receiving CPRIT financing.

Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

House Republicans on Monday agreed not to expand Medicaid as called for under the federal Affordable Care Act — but left the door open to doing it if the Obama administration grants Texas enough flexibility.

“The current path as proposed is unsustainable from a fiscal standpoint,” said caucus chairman Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe. He said the caucus would continue to “propose solutions on the issue, which we’re formulating and will continue to do so throughout the session.” 

Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

A state audit has revealed that transparency problems at the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas extend beyond the improper review of an $11 million commercialization grant that sparked criminal and civil investigations.

Todd Wiseman & Esther Groen, Texas Tribune

A bill filed Thursday in the Texas House would give religiously based businesses, such as Hobby Lobby, a state tax break if the businesses were forced to comply with the federal government’s mandate that employers provide contraception coverage.

"It is simply appalling that any business owner should have to choose between violating their religious convictions and watching their business be strangled by the strong arm of Federal mandates and taxation," Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, said in a prepared statement discussing his measure, House Bill 649.

Tamir Kalifa/Texas Tribune

Updated, Friday, 4:55 p.m.:

Travis County District Judge Stephen Yelenosky on Friday refused to grant Planned Parenthood’s request for a temporary injunction to be included in the Texas Women’s Health Program. 

Tamir Kalifa, Texas Tribune

The Health and Human Services Commission on Monday said a new survey it commissioned shows the Texas Women’s Health Program has a greater capacity to serve impoverished women than its predecessor, a joint state-federal program that ended after the state moved to exclude clinics affiliated with abortion providers. 

Todd Wiseman via Texas Tribune

The political action committee for Waste Control Specialists, which is owned by Dallas billionaire Harold Simmons, was fined Wednesday by the Texas Ethics Commission over illegal political contributions. 

The PAC illegally donated nearly $65,000 to 18 state lawmakers — 15 Republicans and 3 Democrats — in 2011, shortly after the organization was formed. At the time, Simmons was the only contributor to the PAC. Texas elections code requires a PAC to have at least 10 donors before it makes a political contribution.

Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

In 2008, when the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas embarked on its mission to cure cancer, the $3 billion program was welcomed with fanfare by voters who had passed a constitutional amendment to establish it.

Four years later, CPRIT’s future is far from certain, as the quasi-governmental agency and its fast-shrinking cast of advisers face accusations of impropriety and criminal and civil investigations.

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