Texas Legislative News: April 29

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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.

TCDD Testimony

TCDD staff provided public testimony on three pieces of legislation last week.

On April 23, TCDD Public Policy & Communications Specialist Ashley Ford offered remarks on House Bill (HB) 3916, which would require the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) to institute a competitive and integrated employment initiative for individuals receiving services under Medicaid waiver programs. Ashley discussed how the program would help to advance the state’s Employment First policy, which promotes the expectation that individuals with disabilities who want to work can obtain competitive integrated employment at a living wage in the general workforce.

That same day, Ashley also provided oral remarks on Senate Bill (SB) 1118, which was recently featured as a TCDD Bill of the Week. The bill would establish a grant program to modify the homes of people with disabilities in order to increase accessibility, eliminate life-threatening hazards, or correct unsafe living conditions. Ashley noted the appropriateness of taking up the legislation in April, which is recognized as National Fair Housing Month.

On April 25, TCDD Public Policy Specialist Linda Logan submitted written remarks on SB 1783. The bill would amend current law relating to guardianships, alternatives to guardianship, and supports and services for incapacitated persons. Linda noted that the bill reflects the principles of the federal Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act of 2000, which states that “disability is a natural part of the human experience that does not diminish the right of individuals with developmental disabilities to live independently, to exert control and choice over their own lives, and to fully participate in and contribute to their communities through full integration and inclusion….”

You can read all of the TCDD testimony here.

Ashley Ford headshot quote“Each new step to further realize the Employment First policy of the state makes an important contribution to raising expectations, improving outcomes, and increasing the self-sufficiency of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.” — Ashley Ford, TCDD Public Policy & Communications Specialist, in her testimony on HB 3916

Disability-Related Bills Advance at the Legislature

The following bill recently passed in the Texas Senate and now moves over to the House for consideration:

  • SB 1101 by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, relating to the consolidation of ombudsman programs administered by HHSC. The bill establishes an ombudsman for behavioral health access to care and an ombudsman for individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDD), among others.

The following bills recently passed in the Texas House and now move over to the Senate for consideration:

  • HB 3165 by Rep. Tom Oliverson, relating to an occupational and life skills associate degree program offered by the Lone Star College System District. The program must require students to successfully complete an appropriate curriculum of required courses along with elective courses chosen by the student.
  • HB 1576 by Rep. Dade Phelan, which would allow non-emergency medical transportation services under Medicaid to be provided by Transportation Network Companies such as Uber and Lyft.

The Countdown

As of today – Monday, April 29 – there are 28 days left in the 140-day legislative session. Lawmakers wrap-up their business on Monday, May 27.

Hearings to Watch

Below is a sample of the hearings TCDD is monitoring this week. During these hearings, legislative committees may consider important disability-related bills. To receive notifications about new hearings that are scheduled with short notice, follow us on Twitter. You can find live and archived broadcasts of committee hearings on the House or Senate websites.

The House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee will hold a hearing on Monday afternoon. They will be discussing Rep. Cole Hefner’s HB 3956, relating to the testimony of a person with a disability in certain criminal cases. The bill would let the court allow a person with disabilities to keep a comfort item with them (e.g., a toy or blanket) or to have a support person nearby while providing testimony, and make other accommodations as it sees appropriate.

The House Committee on Public Education will have a hearing on Tuesday morning. Among the bills to be considered are the following:

  • SB 522 by Sen. Judith Zaffirini, relating to the development of an individualized education program for a public school student with a visual impairment. The bill recognizes reading and writing skills, particularly in braille, to be a significant indicator of satisfactory academic progress in the development of this individualized program. The bill would also require that the program be provided by a teacher certified to teach braille, and for other educators involved to be informed about the benefits of braille instruction.
  • SB 54, also by Sen. Zaffirini, relating to a study regarding the appropriate methods and standards to evaluate certain students participating in regional day school programs for the deaf. The bill would direct the Texas Education Agency to conduct a study evaluating appropriate methods and standards to evaluate the performance of a student who spends at least 50% of their school day at a program for the deaf.

The Senate Health and Human Services Committee will also hold a hearing on Tuesday morning. They will be taking up HB 558 by Rep. Senfronia Thompson, relating to court-ordered support for a child with a disability. The bill would enable a court that orders support for an adult child with a disability to designate a special needs trust for them, as well.

The House Human Services Committee will hold a hearing on Tuesday morning, as well. Among the bills to be discussed is HB 4543 by Rep. Stephanie Klick, relating to the implementation of the system redesign for the delivery of Medicaid benefits to persons with IDD. The legislation would delay the planned transition of certain long-term services and supports to a managed care model, pushing the conversion back three to six years depending on the program.

The Senate Transportation Committee will hold a hearing on Wednesday morning. The committee will consider SB 1738 by Sen. José Menéndez, which would require San Antonio’s mass transit agency to establish an education and training program on interacting with and supporting individuals with IDD. The bill would mandate the completion of the course for any public transportation vehicle operators employed by the agency.

The House Public Health Committee will also meet on Wednesday morning. The agenda includes HB 4610 by Rep. Matt Shaheen, which would add a definition of “cognitive disability” to the current statute relating to emergency detention. Under the provisions of the bill, the term means “a condition that places certain limitations on a person’s mental functioning or skills. Cognitive disabilities include autism, Down syndrome, traumatic brain injury, and dementia.”

Stay Informed

To stay up-to-date regarding how disability-related issues are being addressed by the legislature, subscribe to TCDD eNews or follow us on Twitter.