For this weekly feature, the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities (TCDD) profiles a noteworthy bill that is currently going through the legislative process. The bill may relate directly to TCDD’s Public Policy Priorities or another disability-related issue.
Bill: House Bill (HB) 3994, relating to the availability of parking spaces at certain health facilities for persons with a disability; providing an administrative penalty.
Bill Author: Rep. Dwayne Bohac, House District 138 (Harris County)
What does the bill do?
HB 3994 would require health facilities that provide rehabilitation or physical therapy services, including hospitals that provide outpatient services, to have a sufficient amount of van-accessible parking spaces. To accomplish this while saving space, the facilities would be able to provide van-accessible spaces that are angled or that share access aisles with other spaces. Under the terms of the bill, health facilities that do not comply may face an administrative penalty of up to $1,000, and each day of continuing noncompliance would be considered a separate violation, warranting an additional penalty.
During the 84th Regular Session of the Texas Legislature (2015), Rep. Bohac authored and passed HB 1317, which required the Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities (GCPD) to study and report on Texas laws, standards, and policies regarding parking for people with disabilities. In a survey conducted for the study, 79.4% of respondents stated they had difficulty finding an accessible parking space when they made trips to the store, to a restaurant, or to the doctor. Most of the time, this was because designated accessible parking spots were all filled.
GCPD found a particularly acute shortage of van-accessible parking spaces at medical facilities, and its final report included an official recommendation to take steps to increase the number of these spaces.
TCDD adopted Accessible Parking as one of its 2019 policy priorities, acknowledging support for legislation that would do the following:
- Strengthen the enforcement and increase the availability of accessible parking spaces. Address placard fraud and abuse by revising criminal and civil penalties and improving public awareness. Develop innovative, collaborative solutions to adjust for the growing demand of accessible parking spaces as our population ages and more people acquire or are diagnosed with mobility disabilities.
Statement from the bill author, Rep. Dwayne Bohac:
“The lack of van-accessible parking spaces at … health facilities is a major problem, and a real dilemma for those just trying to seek medical care.”
Where is the bill in the process?
On April 17, HB 3994 received a public hearing before the House Committee on Public Health. The video of the hearing can be found here and discussion on HB 3994 begins at the 1:10:22 mark. Once testimony on the bill was completed, it was favorably reported out of the committee on a vote of 7-0. HB 3994 now moves to the Calendars Committee, where it will await scheduling for consideration by the full Texas House.
Who supports the bill and why?
The following comments were taken from the bill’s public hearing on April 17:
- DRTx: Jeff Miller, Policy Specialist for Disability Rights Texas (DRTx), testified in support of HB 3994. He stressed that this is an important issue to thousands of Texans with disabilities and noted that accessible parking is one of the main topics DRTx receives complaints about each year. Miller asserted that, if a person with a disability or a chronic medical condition is unable to get to the facility where they’re going to be treated, that’s a serious problem.
Who opposes the bill and why?
No opposition to the bill has been identified at this time.
- TCDD: Lora Taylor, TCDD Council Member, shared her experience as the mother of a 37-year-old daughter with a severe seizure disorder and other health impairments. She indicated that her daughter has 13 medical specialists at five different locations in the Houston area, and has appointments with them about 40 times per year. Taylor estimated that, over the course of bringing her daughter to about 400 visits in the past 10 years, she has found an available accessible parking space no more than 10 times. And in all that time, she has never found a van-accessible spot.
- According to her testimony, Taylor’s attempts to remedy the situation brought their own difficulties. She would look for two adjacent spots to park sideways so that she wouldn’t be blocked, but these could generally only be found on the roof of the parking facility. This option posed an additional health risk since exposure to the heat on the roof would exacerbate her daughter’s seizures. At times, Taylor would pay for a valet whenever she could, and then started paying for an attendant to come with her to every appointment. Additional expenditures like this, however, may not be an option for everyone. Finally, Taylor’s family purchased a third vehicle – a sedan rather than a van – and a fold-up wheelchair to help make parking easier. Regrettably, this meant leaving behind a wheelchair specifically designed for her daughter’s scoliosis. Since the fold-up wheelchair provided no support for her daughter’s spine, this essentially limited the amount of time that they could spend at an appointment.
- GCPD: Lindsey Zischkale, Community Outreach and Information Coordinator for GCPD, provided remarks on GCPD’s accessible parking study, report, and recommendations. She pointed out that survey respondents felt a general reluctance by both law enforcement officers and/or private property owners and managers to enforce accessible parking laws. Zischkale asserted that accessible parking is a crucial component in enabling Texans with disabilities to lead more fully-integrated lives in their community.
How much will the bill cost?
According to the Legislative Budget Board, HB 3994 will have no significant fiscal impact to the state.
Is there a Senate companion to the bill?
No identical bill has been filed in the Senate.
- HB 2443 by Rep. Stephanie Klick would allow for alternative penalties, such as community service requirements, to be imposed in lieu of fines as punishment for illegally parking in an accessible parking space.
- HB 3163 by Rep. Drew Springer would provide updates to the standards and specifications related to accessible parking, such as adding new requirements that the universal symbol of access be painted on the parking space and the words “NO PARKING” be painted on any access aisle adjacent to the space.
For the latest information about where HB 3994 is in the process, follow the bill on the Texas Legislature Online. To receive future legislative updates from TCDD, subscribe to TCDD eNews or follow us on Twitter.