LEGE UPDATE: Anti-gay ‘family and traditional values’ item not in Senate’s version of budget

Daniel Williams

The absence of a homophobic budget amendment, movement on anti-bullying legislation and the most adorable committee hearing in recent memory marked this, the 17th week of the Texas Legislature’s 20-week regular session.

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 — isn’t in the Senate version budget. While the state’s media focused on whether the Senate would actually vote on the budget, the Finance Committee seems to have quietly skipped over 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 absence from the Senate budget 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 isn’t in Article III Sec. 56, the entire text would have to be carefully searched before the amendment’s absence was certain.

“If it really is out of there, then I’m pleased,” Smith said, “but I need to do research.”

The full text of the Senate budget can be found here.

—  admin

Va. closes new enrollment for AIDS drug program

Associated Press

RICHMOND, Va. — The Virginia Department of Health says that it’s been forced to close new enrollment into its AIDS Drug Assistance Program, which provides HIV-related medication for low-income people.

There are some exceptions, including allowing pregnant women and children 18 years old and younger to continue to enroll in the program. The department also reduced the number of drugs the program covers.

Virginia funds 14 percent of the $21.6 million program; the federal government covers the vast majority.

The Roanoke Times reports that Health Commissioner Karen Remley wrote in a December letter to health providers that ADAP won’t be able to keep pace with demand.

“ADAP is not categorized as an entitlement program, and therefore, funding is insufficient to provide medication coverage for all low-income or uninsured individuals. The current financial situation is now requiring even greater reliance upon the manufacturers’ patient assistance programs (PAPs),” she wrote.

State figures show that about 4,200 Virginians used ADAP last year.

Health officials say the number of Virginians living with HIV has increased 44 percent since 2000. About 64 percent lack health insurance, which would cover their treatments and medications.

—  John Wright