The 86th Legislative Session doesn’t begin until January 8, 2019, but the work for that session begins now. During the time in between now and the next session, also known as the interim, the Lieutenant Governor and Speaker of the House issue interim charges that instruct legislative committees to study important issues and research information about a variety of topics to help guide future legislative decisions. The committees will hold hearings to get public input about their charges.
Below are key House interim charges identified by the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities (TCDD) as issues that could have an impact on people with disabilities. The Speaker of the House issued 231 interim charges[1. See Interim Committee Charges Texas House of Representatives 85th Legislature at www.house.state.tx.us/_media/pdf/interim-charges-85th.pdf], five of which were previously announced relating to Hurricane Harvey. In all, TCDD has identified 47 House charges as being key. The charges are separated by the interim committee to which they were assigned. Advocates may want to provide testimony, when possible, or monitor the interim hearings to stay up-to-date regarding what is being said about disability-related programs and services.
TCDD will continue to monitor key legislative issues that affect people with developmental disabilities and their families and alert subscribers via TCDD eNews and followers via Twitter.com/TxCDD when committee hearings that address disability-related issues are scheduled during the interim.
House Committee on Appropriations
- Rainy Day Fund Strategies: Continue to study strategies to use the Economic Stabilization Fund (ESF) to generate additional revenue for state obligations without compromising the fund’s intended purpose. Evaluate the current methodology used to set the ESF cap.
- State Budget Accounting: Examine the use of one-time funding and deferral measures employed by the Legislature in the state budget for the 2018-19 biennium, as well as any other factors that may contribute to a structural deficit. Explore strategies to ensure the state’s ability to meet its ongoing fiscal obligations.
- Medicaid Managed Care Quality and Compliance: Monitor the ongoing implementation of S.B. 20 (84R), S.B. 533 (85R), and S.B. 255 (85R), as well as Article IX, Sections 7.04, 7.10, and 7.12 of the General Appropriations Act. Study the processes by which state agencies award, execute, manage, and monitor state contracts, and make recommendations on whether any changes are necessary to safeguard the best interest of the public and state. Evaluate measures utilized to determine vendor performance, and make recommendations on how to improve vendor selection and performance. When reviewing the Health and Human Services Commission’s (HHSC) managed care contracts, determine if HHSC has adequate data, staff, and processes to provide appropriately rigorous contract oversight, including but not limited to the use of outcome metrics. Consider whether HHSC properly enforces contractual sanctions when managed care organizations (MCOs) are out of compliance, as well as how HHSC uses Medicaid participants’ complaints regarding access to care to improve quality.
- Early Childhood Intervention Program: Examine the Early Childhood Intervention Program (ECI) in Texas, including a review of historical funding levels, programmatic changes, challenges providers face within the program, and utilization trends. Evaluate ECI’s impact on reducing the long-term costs of public education and health care. Identify solutions to strengthen the program.
Impact of Federal Changes in Healthcare Policy: Monitor Congressional action on federal healthcare reform and CHIP reauthorization. Identify potential impacts of any proposed federal changes. Identify short- and long-term benefits and challenges related to converting Texas Medicaid funding to a block grant or per capita cap methodology. Determine how Texas should best prepare for federal changes, including statutory and regulatory revisions, as well as any new administrative functions that may be needed. Explore opportunities to increase the state’s flexibility in administering its Medicaid program, including but not limited to the use of 1115 and 1332 waivers.
Care for Aging Texans: Review the state’s readiness to care for aging Texans by reviewing the reimbursement methodologies for nursing homes and assisted living facilities, including supplemental payments, Medicaid add-on payments, and availability of alternative methods of finance. Identify methodologies to adequately finance Medicaid rates for long-term care facilities under managed care capitation, support high-quality care for Texas seniors, accommodate new models of care, and encourage care coordination to treat higher incidence of complex conditions.
Cost-Recovery Model Practices: Review the effectiveness of the cost-recovery model as a method of finance for programs and organizations across state government. Identify best practices and make recommendations for improvement.
Appropriated Funds Oversight: Monitor the agencies and programs under the Committee’s jurisdiction and oversee the implementation of relevant legislation passed by the 85th Legislature. In conducting this oversight, the Committee will also specifically monitor:
- All activities and expenditures related to Hurricane Harvey,
Planned expenditures of funds appropriated for deferred maintenance across agencies,
Any lapses in funding at the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) or the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) for prevention and early intervention, and/or behavioral health services,
Implementation of therapy rate increases and policy changes at HHSC,
HHSC’s use of appropriated funds to expand Texas’s inpatient psychiatric infrastructure,
Medicaid cost-containment efforts, and
Implementation of a capitated correctional managed healthcare rate.
House Committee on Business and Industry
Consumer Rights and Protection Laws: Review all existing laws concerning consumer rights and protections, including but not limited to statutes that address deceptive practices, landlord/tenant agreements, and homeowner/contractor disputes. Determine whether the provisions offer adequate guidance and protections in disaster and recovery situations.
House Committee on Corrections
Needs of Women in Criminal Justice System: Examine treatment options, services, and programs available to women in institutional settings, on community supervision, on parole, and in community-based programs. Make recommendations for best strategies to address the needs of women in the Texas criminal justice system.
House Committee on County Affairs
- Emergency Preparedness in Counties: Examine how emergency response activities are organized, funded, and coordinated. Review the impact of natural disasters on county finances. Identify any deficiencies in authority for the most populous counties related to infrastructure planning, emergency response, and recovery. Explore ways to improve efficiencies and manage costs while protecting public safety. Additionally, study the relationship between the state, counties, non-governmental organizations, and churches in preparing for and responding to Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath, and determine if preparedness plans are adequate.
Needs of Defendants and Inmates: how counties identify defendants’ and inmates’ behavioral health needs and deferral opportunities to appropriate rehabilitative and transition services. Consider models for ensuring defendants and inmates with mental illness receive appropriate services upon release from the criminal justice system.
House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence
Capital Sentencing Standards: Assess developments in medical science and legal standards related to the imposition of the death penalty on defendants with serious mental illness or intellectual and developmental disabilities. Review statutorily prescribed jury instructions used during capital sentencing.
House Committee on Defense and Veterans’ Affairs
Natural Disaster Operations and Response: Evaluate the impact of Hurricane Harvey related to the Texas Military Department, Emergency Management Council, and the Texas Division of Emergency Management. Recommend any changes that could improve operational stability and the reaction of these agencies following a natural disaster and changes that would allow for a more effective response.
House Committee on Economic and Small Business Development
Workforce Needs and Readiness: Evaluate the ongoing and long-term workforce needs of the state’s businesses and industries. Determine whether state resources are adequate to address shortages and assist with closing existing or future gaps in workforce readiness and skills to ensure the continued economic security and success of the state.
House Committee on Elections
- Election Integrity: Study the efficiency and security of the state’s existing election protocols and systems, including but not limited to registration and early voting procedures, ballot styles, and the rules regarding time and location of polls. Identify available processes and options which could lead to increased voter participation and election integrity.
Residential Care Facility Voting: Study the process for establishing onsite early voting for voters who reside at a residential care facility. Specifically, review the provisions signed into law by H.B. 658 (85R) and subsequently repealed with the passage of H.B. 184 (85(1)).
House Committee on Government Transparency and Operation
- Natural Disasters and Technology: Examine the role of technology in disaster preparedness and the response to Hurricane Harvey and future natural disasters. Review and make recommendations to drive innovation and efficiency and evaluate whether there are any regulatory impediments to collaboration between the public and private sectors.
Government Contracting Transparency: Evaluate whether, in light of recent Texas Supreme Court rulings, the provisions of the Public Information Act are adequate to support transparency and accountability in government, particularly as it relates to government contracting and procurement.
House Committee on Higher Education
- Innovative Educational Models: Examine efforts of 2- and 4-year institutions to implement innovative and non-traditional models of education delivery to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse student body and the demands of a rapidly changing workforce. Identify any obstacles to institutional innovation. Make recommendations to scale innovative educational models to better serve students and employers.
- Educator Preparation Programs: Review current data available to the public about Educator Preparation Programs (EPPs) and make recommendations to ensure the data is transparent, user-friendly, and actionable. Review the current EPP accountability system and recommend any new indicators or changes, including evaluating the ability of programs to meet the workforce needs of school districts by preparing teachers for high-needs areas. Determine ways to measure the effectiveness of teachers prepared by individual programs. For traditional EPP programs, make recommendations on how to more fully involve boards of regents in an effort to elevate the importance of teacher preparation within our state institutions. Examine current joint partnerships between EPPs and public schools to meet regional workforce needs, and make recommendations on how to scale these partnerships. (Joint charge with the House Committee on Public Education S/C on Teacher Quality)
House Committee on Human Services
- Medicare and Medicaid Housing and Natural Disasters: Study the impact of Hurricane Harvey and the response to the storm on individuals living in long-term care facilities, assisted living facilities, state supported living centers, licensed community group homes, and children in the foster care system. Identify and recommend necessary solutions to ensure appropriate disaster-related protocols are in place to keep vulnerable Texans protected. Also, identify any challenges state agencies experienced in responding to the storm or during recovery efforts.
Medicaid Managed Care Quality and Improvement: Review the history and any future roll-out of Medicaid Managed Care in Texas. Determine the impact managed care has had on the quality and cost of care. In the review, determine: initiatives that managed care organizations (MCOs) have implemented to improve quality of care; whether access to care and network adequacy contractual requirements are sufficient; and whether MCOs have improved the coordination of care. Also determine provider and Medicaid participants’ satisfaction within STAR, STAR Health, Star Kids, and STAR+Plus managed care programs. In addition, review the Health and Human Services Commission’s (HHSC) oversight of managed care organizations, and make recommendations for any needed improvement.
Children Involved with CPS: Analyze the prevalence of children involved with Child Protective Services (CPS) who have a mental illness and/or a substance use disorder. In addition, analyze the prevalence of children involved with CPS due to their guardian’s substance abuse or because of an untreated mental illness. Identify methods to strengthen CPS processes and services, including efforts for family preservation; increasing the number of appropriate placements designed for children with high needs; and ensuring Texas Medicaid is providing access to appropriate and effective behavioral health services. (Joint charge with the House Committee on Public Health)
Implementation of Medicaid Prescription Benefit: Monitor the HHSC’s implementation of Rider 219 in Article II of the General Appropriations Act related to prescription drug benefit administration in Medicaid. Analyze the role of pharmacy benefit managers in Texas Medicaid.
House Committee on Insurance
- Texas Health Insurance Market: Assess the status of the health insurance market in Texas and opportunities to improve this market through waivers of federal law or other mechanisms. Monitor any changes in federal law that may affect these options.
Surprise Medical Billing: Evaluate recent efforts by the Legislature and the Texas Department of Insurance to minimize instances of surprise medical billing and to ensure the adequacy of health insurance networks. Identify instances in which surprise billing most often occurs and ways to decrease its frequency through enhanced transparency or other methods.
Prescription Drugs: Examine the impacts of changes in prescription drug coverage and drug formularies on patients, particularly those with chronic conditions.
House Committee on Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence
Guardianship Compliance: Monitor the ongoing efforts of the Office of Court Administration’s guardianship compliance program, and consider additional methods to ensure that Texans placed under guardianship are protected from abuse.
House Committee on Public Education
- Financial Impact of Hurricane Harvey on School Districts: Determine, to the extent possible, the scope of financial losses, including facilities, that resulted from Hurricane Harvey. Recommend possible state actions, such as changes to student counts or property valuation, to mitigate any negative impact on districts and ensure governance structures and parameters allow for effective responses.
State Accountability System and Hurricane Harvey: Recommend any measures needed at the state level to prevent unintended punitive consequences to both students and districts in the state accountability system as a result of Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath.
Student Displaced by Hurricane Harvey: Examine the educational opportunities offered to students displaced by Hurricane Harvey throughout the state and the process by which districts enroll and serve those students. Recommend any changes that could improve the process for students or help districts serving a disproportionate number of displaced students.
Teacher Compensation Strategies: Review current state mechanisms for identifying and rewarding educators through state-level strategies. Examine how providing additional funding to enhance compensation in districts facing a shortage of experienced, highly rated teachers would affect retention and teacher quality, in addition to whether it would encourage teachers to provide additional services through extracurricular activities, tutoring, and mentoring.
Student Achievement Assessments: Examine research-based options for evaluating student achievement beyond standardized test scores, including adaptive and portfolio assessments. Examine the scope of the current Texas essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) in grades with the state assessment, including the format, assessment calendar, and the limits of instructional days, if any. Determine if it is appropriate to limit TEKS to readiness standards that can be taught in less than the school year. Review current Student Success Initiative testing and make recommendations on its continuation or repeal. Review the ability of the state to waive standardized testing for students with significant cognitive disabilities.
Students with Disabilities and Public Schools: Examine programs in public schools that have proven results meeting the needs of and improving student achievement for students with disabilities, with an emphasis on programs specializing in autism, dysgraphia, and dyslexia. Recommend ways to support and scale innovative programs for these students, including providing supplemental services, or incentivizing public-private partnerships or inter district and charter school collaborations. Monitor the implementation and funding for the pilot programs authorized in H.B. 21 (85R) and review the Texas Education Agency’s compliance with S.B. 160 (85R), which prohibits special education student caps.
Charter School Systems: Review the charter school system in Texas. Determine if changes are needed in the granting, renewal, or revocation of charter schools, including the timeline for expansions and notification of expansions to surrounding districts. Review the educational outcomes of students in charter schools compared to those in traditional schools, and to what extent schools participate in the alternative accountability system. Monitor the implementation of facilities funding for charter schools. Consider differences in state funding for charter schools compared to their surrounding districts and the impact on the state budget. Consider admissions policies for charters, including appropriate data collection to assess demand for additional charter enrollment, compliance with access by students with disabilities and the effect of exclusions of students with criminal or disciplinary histories. Consider differences in charter and district contributions to the Teacher Retirement System on behalf of their employees and make appropriate recommendations to support the retirement benefits of all public school teachers.
Implementation of New Public Education Laws: Monitor the agencies and programs under the Committee’s jurisdiction and oversee the implementation of relevant legislation passed by the 85th Legislature. In conducting this oversight, the committee will also specifically include: H.B. 21 (85R), H.B. 22 (85R), and S.B. 179 (85R).
House Committee on Public Health
- Brain Health: Study treatment of traumatic brain injury, Alzheimer’s, and dementia, and recommend opportunities for advancing treatment and cures.
Mental Health Services for Children: Study and make recommendations to improve services available for identifying and treating children with mental illness, including the application of trauma- and grief-informed practices. Identify strategies to assist in understanding the impact and recognizing the signs of trauma in children and providing school-based or community-based mental health services to children who need them. Analyze the role of the Texas Education Agency and of the regional Education Service Centers regarding mental health. In addition, review programs that treat early psychosis among youth and young adults.
Mental Health and Housing: Study the overlays among housing instability, homelessness, and mental illness. Review the availability of supportive housing opportunities for individuals with mental illness. Consider options to address housing stability and homelessness among people with mental illness. (Joint charge with the House Committee on Urban Affairs)
Implementation of New Public Health Laws: Monitor the agencies and programs under the Committee’s jurisdiction and oversee the implementation of relevant legislation passed by the 85th Legislature. In conducting this oversight, the Committee will also specifically closely monitor the implementation of H.B. 10 (85R), H.B. 13 (85R), and S.B. 292 (85R).
House Committee on Urban Affairs
- Housing Needs and Hurricane Harvey: Monitor housing needs in areas impacted by Hurricane Harvey and related flooding, including:
- The local, state, and federal governments’ responses to short-term and long-term housing needs for those displaced by the storm; and
Changes in affordable and low-income housing needs in affected areas.
Housing Response and Natural Disasters: Make recommendations to improve and accelerate the response to existing and future housing needs related to Hurricane Harvey and future natural disasters, including:
- The viability of set-asides under current state and federal programs to address natural disaster-related contingencies; and
How best to rebuild and revitalize impacted communities to mitigate future disaster-related damage.
Affordable Housing Needs: Monitor and evaluate the need for affordable housing in urban and rural areas across the State of Texas. Examine whether existing housing programs are adequately addressing the needs for affordable housing. Identify prospective and innovative ideas and solutions to address affordable housing needs in Texas.