Texas Legislative News: April 1

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During the 86th Texas Legislature, the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities (TCDD) provides regular updates on disability-related issues that are being considered at the Capitol.

Texas Legislative Quiz

How familiar are you with the Texas House and Senate? TCDD has prepared a short quiz that covers some of the functions, processes, and leadership related to the 86th Texas Legislature. Take the quiz to show what you know – or to increase your knowledge – about the legislature. The quiz can be found here.

TCDD Testimony

Notice of Communication Impediment: On March 27, TCDD Public Policy Specialist Linda Logan provided written testimony to the Senate Committee on Transportation. Her remarks related to Senate Bill (SB) 976 by Sen. Bryan Hughes, which would allow individuals to voluntarily report a communication impediment when they register their vehicles. This would help alert law enforcement officers of the impediment prior to approaching the vehicle during a traffic stop and ultimately help the officer and the citizen communicate effectively with each other. The concept is similar to the Texas Department of Public Safety’s current Communication Impediment with a Peace Officer (CIPO) program, which allows individuals to register such impediments on their driver licenses. In her comments, Linda suggested that the verification procedures and privacy protections should be constant across the two programs. The full testimony can be read here.

Competitive Wages: Also on March 27, TCDD Public Policy & Communications Specialist Ashley Ford provided written testimony to the Senate Committee on Natural Resources & Economic Development. She provided remarks on SB 753 by Sen. Joan Huffman, which would require community rehabilitation programs to pay employees with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) no less per hour than the federal minimum wage. The bill is similar to House Bill (HB) 885, which was previously featured as a TCDD Bill of the Week. The full text of Ashley’s comments can be found here.

Higher Education Opportunities: Ashley Ford also submitted written testimony at the March 27 meeting of the Senate Committee on Higher Education. These comments related to SB 1017 by Sen. Beverly Powell, which would establish an advisory council on postsecondary education for persons with IDD. SB 1017 was recently featured as a TCDD Bill of the Week. Ashley stressed the benefits of providing higher education opportunities for people with IDD and then she detailed some of the education initiatives in Texas that have not adequately accounted for and served people with IDD. Additionally, Ashley provided background information on higher education-related projects that TCDD funded in the past, many of which have been nationally recognized as promising practices worthy of study and/or expansion. The full testimony can be found here.

Ashley Ford headshot quote “Inclusive higher education has been found to positively shift the attitudes on diversity and acceptance of people with disabilities among students without disabilities.” – Ashley Ford, TCDD Public Policy & Communications Specialist, in her testimony on SB 1017

Appropriations Recap

On March 27, the Texas House took up and considered HB 1, which would delineate the Texas State Budget for the next two years. As mentioned in a previous update, all House members were given the opportunity to amend the bill, provided that their amendments were pre-filed and did not add funding to one section without taking an equal or greater amount of funding from another section. The debate on HB 1 lasted for over 12 hours and over 200 amendments were brought up for consideration. Some amendments were successfully incorporated into the bill, some were rejected, but most were moved to Article XI, which essentially acts as a wish list of items that have the (somewhat limited) potential of being added to the budget at a later date.

Below are some of the disability-related amendments that the House considered
for HB 1:

  • Realtime Captioning: Rep. Yvonne Davis passed an amendment that establishes the Legislature’s intent for state agencies to include open captioning in any live video broadcast of an open meeting of the agency.
  • Single Point of Access: Rep. Yvonne Davis also offered an unsuccessful amendment directing the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) to establish a single point of access for people to assist individuals with disabilities to find and apply for appropriate services and benefits. It failed to pass on a vote of 62-83.
  • ICF/IID Bed Capacity: An amendment passed by Rep. Matt Schaefer calls for HHSC to review the statewide bed capacity of community Intermediate Care Facilities for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities (ICF/IIDs), and then develop a process to reallocate beds held in suspension by HHSC.
  • Reducing Confinement: Rep. Gene Wu successfully added language directing the Juvenile Justice Department to conduct a study to develop strategies for reducing confinement of children who experience mental illness or have intellectual disabilities.

With the House version of the budget now passed, the Senate will soon take up and pass its own version. Shortly thereafter, a group of lawmakers from both chambers will work together to resolve the differences between the two bills. The agreed-to legislation will be brought up for final votes in each chamber, sometime in late May.

Hearings to Watch

Below is a sample of the hearings TCDD will be monitoring this week. During these hearings, legislative committees will consider bills that could affect people with disabilities and their families. You can find live and archived broadcasts of committee hearings on the House or Senate websites.

During a hearing on Tuesday, the House Committee on Human Services will take-up a number of bills relating to Medicaid managed care. Below are some of the bills the committee will consider.

  • HB 2453 by Rep. Sarah Davis, relating to the operation and administration of Medicaid, including the Medicaid managed care program.
  • HB 3721 by Rep. Joe Deshotel, which would establish an independent review organization to evaluate certain medical necessity determinations under the Medicaid managed care program.
  • HB 3747 and HB 3860, both of which are authored by Rep. Matt Krause and relate to the Medically Dependent Children (MDCP) waiver program.
  • HB 4533 by Rep. Stephanie Klick, calling for a system redesign for the delivery of Medicaid acute and long-term care services and supports for people with IDD. It would also establish a pilot program to test managed care delivery improvements.

During a hearing on Tuesday, the Senate Health & Human Services Committee will also consider bills related to Medicaid managed care, including the following:

  • SB 1105 by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, relating to the administration and operation of Medicaid, including Medicaid managed care. The bill covers statewide managed care plans, Medicaid managed care plan accreditation, the MDCP waiver program, and grievances related to Medicaid.
  • SB 1140 by Sen. Watson, which would establish an independent medical review of certain determinations by HHSC or a Medicaid managed care organization. HHSC would contract with at least three independent arbiters to resolve recipient appeals of any managed care adverse benefit determination.

During a hearing on Wednesday, the House Committee on Higher Education will consider Rep. Yvonne Davis’ HB 3612, which calls for a study and report by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board on assisting students with autism spectrum disorder.

During a hearing on Thursday, the House Committee on County Affairs will consider HB 643 by Rep. John Raney, relating to where an individual may submit an application for a disabled parking placard.

During a hearing on Thursday, the House Committee on Public Education will consider many bills, including:

  • HB 348 by Rep. Poncho Nevárez, relating to a salary bonus for a public school teacher who completes certain autism training.
  • HB 1906 by Rep. Dewayne Burns, relating to an exemption from or federal waiver of the annual assessment requirements for public school students with significant cognitive disabilities.
  • HB 4613 by Rep. Matt Shaheen, relating to the waiving academic assessment and testing for children in special education services.

Stay Informed

To stay up-to-date regarding how disability-related issues are being addressed by the legislature, subscribe to TCDD eNews. To receive notifications about new hearings that are scheduled with short notice, follow us on Twitter.