Welcome to the latest edition of Texas Legislative News for the 88th Texas Legislature. In this weekly feature, we provide information on disability-related issues being considered at the State Capitol. We also include overviews of how lawmakers conduct business and provide details on upcoming TCDD events.
Due to TCDD’s recent quarterly meeting, we didn’t provide an update last week. We’ve got a lot to catch up on now that we’re back!
Speaker Dade Phelan released the list of committee appointments for the Texas House on Feb. 8. The appointments came with a significant restructuring of leadership compared to last session, with nearly two-thirds of House committees getting new chairpersons.
Phelan made new chair appointments for committees that included:
- Criminal Jurisprudence;
- Higher Education; and
- Public Education.
Among the committees retaining the same chairs from last session are:
- Human Services;
- Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence;
- Public Health; and
Phelan also created two new select committees for this session: one for Health Care Reform and the other for Youth Health and Safety.
In addition to Phelan’s appointments, the House Committee on Appropriations announced the membership of its five subcommittees. Two of them — those overseeing health and education funding — have new chairpersons.
To see the full list of committees and their membership, visit the House website.
Lt. Governor’s Priorities
On Feb. 13, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick announced his list of priorities for the legislative session. The list of 30 items included issues such as:
- providing property tax relief;
- enhancing school safety;
- boosting the state’s energy capacity;
- addressing future water needs;
- placing new restrictions on the LGBTQ community;
- eliminating race-based instruction and policies in higher education; and
- expanding the number of mental health care beds across Texas, particularly in rural counties.
Patrick also prioritized school choice, which generally means the establishment of private school vouchers. This topic has caused concern among the disability community in the past due to potential decreases in state funding and the lack of disability protections in private schools.
With the exception of Senate Bill (SB) 1, the general appropriations bill, no priority bills have been filed yet. However, these bills should be filed soon and will have bill numbers between two and 30. Due to the lieutenant governor’s power in steering the Senate agenda, the bills are sure to be hot topics at the Capitol over the next few months.
State of the State
Gov. Greg Abbott gave his State of the State address on Feb. 16. Traditionally, the speech is provided in the House Chamber with an audience of Texas lawmakers. This year, however, the governor opted to present the address at a private business in San Marcos with a private audience.
Abbott laid out his priorities for the session and announced seven “emergency items.” These are topics that the Legislature can take up immediately, sidestepping state Constitutional guidelines regarding the timely consideration of bills. The governor’s items include property tax relief, school safety, border security, and prohibiting governmental entities throughout the state from enacting COVID-19 restrictions.
There is a great deal of overlap between the governor’s priorities and those of the lieutenant governor, including the topic of school choice. Abbott uses the term “education freedom,” but it’s unclear whether the different wording will translate into a different policy proposal.
Bill Filing Continues
Lawmakers have filed over 3,600 bills to consider in the coming months. Here are some recently filed proposals related to disability issues:
- House Bill (HB) 2037 by Rep. Ann Johnson, relating to proceedings in juvenile court for children with mental health conditions and intellectual disabilities
- HB 2125 by Rep. John Bucy III, relating to a required training course for people serving as special education representatives and hearing officers at impartial due process hearings or as facilitators for individualized education programs
- HB 2187 by Rep. Yvonne Davis, relating to the criminal offense of abandoning or endangering a child, an older adult, or a person with a disability
- HB 2234 by Rep. Senfronia Thompson, relating to policies and procedures for the placement and use of video cameras in classrooms, including classrooms that provide special education services
- HB 2283 by Rep. Armando “Mando” Martinez, relating to vehicle registration notifications for peace officers when vehicle owners may be transporting people with disabilities
- HB 2301 by Rep. Shawn Thierry, relating to emergency generators or other power sources for nursing facilities and assisted living facilities
- HB 2379 by Rep. Terry Meza, relating to the ability of voters with disabilities to cast secret ballots
- SB 725 by Sen. Judith Zaffirini, relating to procedures for identifying defendants suspected of having a mental health condition or intellectual disability
- SB 728 by Sen. Joan Huffman, relating to the reporting of mental health and intellectual disability information with respect to children for purposes of a federal firearm background check
- SB 774 by Sen. Tan Parker, relating to the provision of services by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to offenders with intellectual or developmental disabilities
- SB 776 by Sen. Judith Zaffirini, relating to the required period of retention of video surveillance recordings of special education settings
- SB 891 by Sen. Judith Zaffirini, relating to excused absences from public school for a student’s mental or behavioral health
- SB 904 by Sen. Drew Springer, relating to requirements for accessible parking spaces
- SB 944 by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, relating to commitment orders for people with intellectual disabilities in state-supported living centers
TCDD Policy Staff Spotlight
In this update, we highlight a member of the TCDD Policy Team. This week, we feature Senior Policy Analyst Linda Logan.
How long have you been at TCDD?
More than eight years.
When not working, you can be found…?
When not working, I can be found with grandchildren and pets, oil painting, and rehabbing my more than 50-year-old home.
What are your favorite movies?
“The Royal Tenenbaums.” There are others but this is the go-to. I have seen it a jillion times.
What issues are you tracking for TCDD this session?
I am tracking:
- public education for changes in policies related to restraint, use of force, storage and accessibility of video camera footage of special education classes, referrals for prosecution of public school staff for abusive practices and entry on the public education Do Not Hire list;
- promoting coordination of jails and state services for mental health and developmental disabilities with respect to access to established effective medication and movement to less restrictive settings; and
- the use of campuses of state-supported living centers (SSLC) for purposes unrelated to SSLC function such as the movement of individuals otherwise served in secure facilities to SSLCs and the potential impact of such placements on residents.
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