HB 788

HB 788

TCDD Bill of the Week: House Bill 788 Featured Graphic

For this weekly feature, the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities (TCDD) profiles 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) 788, relating to a task force to study access to legal services for
persons with disabilities.

Bill Author: Rep. Terry Meza, House District 105 (Irving)

What does the bill do?

HB 788 would require the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) to create a task force to study access to legal services for people with disabilities. The study must examine and make recommendations regarding:

  • the availability of legal representation for people with disabilities;
  • the availability of advocacy and legal services for people with disabilities; and
  • the barriers to accessing legal services for people with disabilities, including communication, financial, medical, and cognitive barriers.

The HHSC executive commissioner would establish the task force, which would be comprised of seven members. The commissioner would appoint five members. Of those members, at least two would be adults with disabilities and at least two would be parents of children with disabilities. The remaining two members would be representatives of Disability Rights Texas, a statewide protection and advocacy organization.

A member of the task force would be designated as the presiding officer. The group would meet at least quarterly and at other times determined by the presiding officer.

The task force would develop and submit a written report of its study and recommendations to HHSC, the governor, the lieutenant governor, the speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, and to each member of the Legislature by Dec. 1, 2024. The group would have the authority to develop instructional and training materials for legal professionals and people with disabilities relating to legal issues affecting people with disabilities. Additionally, the task force would be able to partner with or accept assistance from voluntary organizations active in supporting people with disabilities.

The bill defines “disability,” with respect to an individual, as “a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits at least one major life activity of that individual.”

If passed, HB 788 would take effect on Sept. 1, 2023, or immediately if it receives an affirmative vote of two-thirds from both the House and the Senate. The task force would be abolished on June 1, 2025.

Statement from the bill author, Rep. Terry Meza :


tcdd staff

Statement from the bill author, Rep. Terry Meza:

tcdd staff

“As a legal professional, I understand how important it is to provide proper legal counsel to all persons, especially those who are consistently marginalized. This task force would give us the information we need to identify the gaps in the current legal services in our state for those with disabilities.”

Where is the bill in the process?

On Nov. 22, 2022, HB 788 was pre-filed for the 88th regular session. The bill is waiting to be referred to a committee.

Who supports the bill and why?

The following comments were taken from an April 16, 2019, public hearing on a bill identical to HB 788:

  • CTD: Dennis Borel, executive director of the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities (CTD), testified in support of the bill, stating, “we get calls and emails all the time at our office from people with disabilities looking for legal help.” He shared stories from some of those instances, including a woman who was provided misinformation by a used car salesman regarding a van’s capacity to be modified for accessible transportation; a divorced father whose disability was being used as an excuse by his ex-wife to prevent their child from visiting him; and a worker who acquired a disability and, upon his return to his job, was denied an accommodation and pressured to take another position with much lower pay.
  • Texas Advocates: Cindy Whitaker of Texas Advocates, who identified herself as a person with mental disabilities, provided remarks in support of the bill. She detailed an experience that she had with the criminal justice system following a psychiatric breakdown that resulted from someone inaccurately accusing her of criminal behavior at a fast-food restaurant. Despite having a receipt showing payment for her meal, she was arrested and placed in a correctional facility. While there, she was harassed by guards who told her that,“people with disabilities should be locked up and never be seen or heard.” She was unable to get an attorney and did not qualify for a bond due to her low income. Her release finally came nearly two months later, only after another inmate helped her fill out and submit paperwork to get an attorney who specialized in cases for those with mental illness. In closing, she stated, “if [this bill] would have been in play when I was going through the legal system, my experience could have been much different. I would have probably gotten the services I needed much sooner, and would not have been in jail as long as I was.”

A large number of groups also registered their support for the legislation but provided no testimony, including: Family to Family Network, Autism Society of Texas, National Association of Social Workers – Texas Chapter, NAMI Texas, Texas Parent to Parent, Easterseals Central Texas, Texas Criminal Justice Coalition (now the Texas Center for Justice & Equity), and Texas Association for the Deaf.

Who opposes the bill and why?

No opposition to the identical bill was registered at the hearing in 2019.

How much will the bill cost?

In 2019, the Legislative Budget Board (PDF) found that a bill identical to HB 788 would not increase the state budget in a significant way.

Is there a Senate companion to the bill?

No identical bill has been filed in the Senate.

Share this bill:

TCDD has created a Bill of the Week one-pager for HB 788 (PDF). This is a simplified explanation of the bill that you can share with your representative and personal network.

Stay informed:

For the latest information about where HB 788 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 TwitterFacebookLinkedIn, or Instagram.



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