For this weekly feature, we profile a noteworthy bill that is 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) 446, relating to the terminology used in state law to refer to intellectual disability and certain references to abolished health and human services agencies.
Bill author: Rep. Tom Craddick, House District 82 (Midland)
Joint authors: Rep. Toni Rose, Texas House District 110 (Dallas); Rep. Jeff Leach, Texas House District 67 (Plano); Rep. James Frank, Texas House District 69 (Wichita Falls); Rep. Yvonne Davis, Texas House District 111 (Dallas)
Coauthors: Rep. Philip Cortez, Texas House District 117 (San Antonio); Rep. Lulu Flores, Texas House District 51 (Austin); Rep. Julie Johnson, Texas House District 115 (Farmers Branch); Rep. Mihaela Plesa, Texas House District 70 (Dallas)
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We’ve created a Bill of the Week one-pager (PDF) for HB 446. This is a simplified explanation of the bill that you can share with your representative and personal network.
Although the phrase “mental retardation” was once used as a medical term, the “R-word” is now widely considered to be outdated and offensive. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), released in 2013, officially shifted medical standards to instead use the term “intellectual disabilities.”
Even prior to that, societal standards had begun to change. In 2010, Congress unanimously adopted “Rosa’s Law,” which eliminated the R-word from federal statutes. The law was inspired by Rosa Marcellino, a 9-year-old with Down syndrome who worked to remove the R-word from laws in her home state of Maryland. Similar changes were later adopted by the Social Security Administration and the U.S. Supreme Court.
In Texas, the Legislature is gradually removing statutory references to the R-word, including changes made to the Parks and Wildlife Code with Senate Bill (SB) 700 in 2021 and changes to portions of the Education Code with HB 965 in 2019.
What does the bill do?
HB 446 would replace variants of the term “retardation” with “intellectual disability” in the following Texas statutes:
- Civil Practice and Remedies Code
- Code of Criminal Procedure
- Family Code
- Finance Code
- Government Code
- Health and Safety Code
- Human Resources Code
- Insurance Code
- Labor Code
- Local Government Code
- Occupations Code
- Tax Code
- Transportation Code
The bill would change a reference from “physically handicapped inmates” to “inmates with a physical disability.” HB 446 would also remove or change references to abolished state agencies, including the Department of Aging and Disability Services, the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services, the Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation, and the Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse — all of whose functions were folded into other agencies.
If passed, HB 446 would take effect on Sept. 1, 2023.
Statement from Rep. Tom Craddick, bill author:
Statement from Rep. Tom Craddick, bill author:
“The language we use to describe intellectual disabilities matters. This statutory update will use the appropriate terminology and positively engage those with intellectual disabilities. The time for change has come. Decades ago, words associated with mental illness or intellectual disabilities to insult someone were common in everyday vocabulary, but that time has come to an end. This is the next step in being better.”
Where is the bill in the process?
On March 8, 2023, HB 446 received a public hearing before the House Committee on Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence. You can watch the discussion on the bill here, beginning at the 1:15 mark.
Shortly after the close of testimony, HB 446 was favorably reported by the committee on a vote of 9-0. The bill now moves to the Calendars Committee, where it awaits scheduling for consideration by the full Texas House.
Who supports the bill and why?
The following comments were given as testimony at the March 8 hearing on HB 446:
- Senior Life Midland: Kathleen Kirwan Haynie, the executive director of Senior Life Midland, testified in support of the bill (Craddick had previously indicated that she was the person who had asked him to author HB 446.). Kirwan Haynie described the offensive behavior by members of her community toward her older brother, an individual with Down syndrome, and how they regularly used derogatory slurs toward him, most frequently the R-word. She stated, “the word ‘retarded’ is hurtful, disrespectful, and quite simply unacceptable. People with intellectual disabilities deserve to be seen as individuals first, and not lumped together under one outdated label. It is past time that Texas replaces this derogatory term to give respect and dignity to all.”
- Parent: Virginia “Ginnie” Muller, the mother of a son with disabilities, described in written comments the shock she felt 20 years ago when a diagnostician referred to her son using the R-word. In her comments, Muller called the word “a pejorative term to describe individuals with intellectual disabilities.” Muller indicated that, “while House Bill 446 may at first appear to be a technical bill about terminology, it is a bill of immense importance which will immediately have a positive impact on the lives of … Texans with intellectual disabilities.” Muller highlighted the core value of respecting the dignity of every human being, writing, “Words matter. Words matter because dignity matters.”
The following groups also registered their support for HB 446 but provided no testimony: Coalition of Texans with Disabilities, Disability Rights Texas, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Texas, a representative of Dallas County Criminal District Attorney John Creuzot, Statutory Probate Judge Guy Herman, Texas Association of School Psychologists, Texas Council of Administrators of Special Education, Texas Council of Community Centers, and Texas Right to Life.
Who opposes the bill and why?
One person registered their opposition to HB 446 but provided no testimony.
The following comments were submitted at the March 8 hearing on HB 446:
- TCDD: Sabrina Gonzalez Saucedo, a public policy analyst for TCDD, stated in written remarks that “language is a powerful tool that is constantly evolving.” She continued, “the R-word in modern times is a derogatory slur meant to insult people’s intelligence,” and “this usage promotes negative and harmful stereotypes about people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.”
How much will the bill cost?
The Legislative Budget Board found that HB 446 would not impact the state budget.
Is there a Senate companion to the bill?
SB 332, by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, is identical to HB 446. Kolkhorst’s bill has been referred to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee but has not yet received a public hearing.
HB 530, by Rep. Gene Wu, would make updates to the Family Code that are identical to HB 446. The bill recently had a public hearing before the House Committee on Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence.
SB 362, by Sen. Judith Zaffirini, is an identical companion to HB 530. Referred to the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services, the bill has not yet received a hearing.
For the latest information and status of HB 446, follow the bill on the Texas Legislature Online. To receive future legislative updates from TCDD, follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Instagram.
Bill of the Week Updates
Here are some updates on previous TCDD Bills of the Week for the 88th legislative session.
HB 109 has been scheduled for a public hearing on March 21 before the House Insurance Committee. The bill would prevent health benefit plans that provide coverage for hearing aids from denying an enrollee’s claim solely on the basis that the price of the hearing aid is more than the amount available under the benefit plan.
The following bills have been passed out of their respective committees, and now await scheduling for consideration by the full Texas House:
- HB 54, which would raise the personal needs allowance for residents of long-term care facilities
- HB 140, which would require the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to operate a co-navigation services program for the deaf-blind
- HB 272, which would replace statutory references to ARD committees with the term “IEP teams”