Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Progress on state HIV appropriations

Items from Article II that were pended from the March 3 meeting of the Senate Finance Committee were sent to a workgroup, chaired by Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo). The workgroup reported back on March 8 with its recommendations for items to be included in the final appropriations bill. The recommendation included $15 million for HIV and did pass.

The background of passage is a bit more interesting. You can listen to the archived broadcast of the March 8 meeting by scrolling down on the linked page to March 8, Finance Committee (part II). The relevant section occurs at about 2:19:00 in the broadcast.

The committee minutes are fairly cut and dried on this portion of the meeting:
The chair recognized Senator Zaffirini to lay out the workgroup recommendations and riders for Article II.

Senator Zaffirini moved to adopt the workgroup recommendations for Article II. There was a roll call vote. The motion carried with a record vote of 11 ayes, 3 nays, and 1 absent. Senator Averitt, Senator Barrientos, and Senator Staples requested unanimous consent to be shown voting aye, and Senator West and Senator Shapleigh requested unanimous consent to be shown voting nay; without objection, it was so ordered.

When Sen. Zaffirini reported that the workgroup recommended $15 million for HIV, she was challenged by Sen. Nelson. Sen. Zaffirini then reported that the item had initially been defeated in the workgroup on a 1-3 vote. A second vote had the same results. The third vote ended in a tie (2-2). Sen. Nelson questioned why the amount was brought forth as a recommendation. Sen. Zaffirini made reference to Chairman Ogden's support, there was laughter in the chamber, and the matter was dropped. Sen. Ogden was heard to make the comment: "That's my compassionate side showing."

All of these bits and pieces make for several important points:

  1. The possibility of getting an appropriation of $15 million for HIV is one step closer. The Senate Finance Committee's recommendation must be approved by the full Senate. Now would be a good time to make sure that one's own Senator will support the Finance Committee's recommendation for $15 million for HIV.
  2. Senators Shapleigh and West would ordinarily have been supportive of the request for funding for HIV. Since the vote on HIV funding came in the same package as several other issues, one or more of those other issues may have determined their need to vote "no" on the entire package, including, unfortunately, HIV. Since their late vote didn't affect the outcome (and Sen. Nelson was the only "nay" during the live vote), there is every likelihood that there was some other driver for their votes. Indeed, Sen. Shapleigh spoke up in support of HIV funding during the discussion. However, it would be good to know why Senators Shapleigh and West voted "no" and to encourage them to support HIV funding in the future. This would, of course, come best from people who live in their districts and should be done with great politeness.
  3. It is worth noting that this vote is perhaps the single most critical vote in the entire process that leads to a final appropriations bill. There are still several points at which funding for HIV can be defeated, but this was the point at which HIV funding had to be added to the bill. Sen. Zaffirini's strong stand in the face of opposition--and Sen. Ogden's decisive support--were clearly heroic. They deserve our thanks.

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