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.
The second week of the Texas legislative session was fairly low-key as lawmakers awaited the appointment of committees. (Senate committees were announced just as this update was being published. We’ll have notes about them next week.) The most notable activities were the inaugurations of the governor and lieutenant governor, as well as the filing of the House and Senate state budget bills.
Jan. 17 was the inauguration day for the state’s two highest offices. Both Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick were sworn in to begin their third four-year terms of office. In their speeches at the ceremony, both indicated their priorities for the legislative session include property tax relief and private school vouchers. Abbott also stressed enforcement efforts at the border, while Patrick called for strengthening the state’s power grid.
We’ll get more details on their session goals in the next week or so. Gov. Abbott will soon provide his State of the State Address, in which he is expected to lay out a series of what are known as “emergency items” for lawmakers to start working on immediately. Patrick will soon release his list of about 30 bills that he will prioritize in the Senate.
Budget Drafts Released
Last week, the House and Senate filed their initial drafts of the state budget for the 2024-2025 biennium. Both drafts propose spending $130.1 billion in state general revenue, which would be about an $11 billion increase over the current budget. Keep in mind, however, that lawmakers have over $188 billion available to spend, so both proposals would leave over $50 billion unspent. Those numbers are sure to change as we move through the session.
Some of the big-ticket items found in both House Bill (HB) 1 and Senate Bill (SB) 1 include $15 billion for property tax relief, $4.6 billion for border spending, and $1.8 billion for state employee pay increases.
The bills include additional spending for some disability services, including:
- an extra $216 million for community attendant services;
- an increase of $21 million for home and community-based services;
- a $130 million bump for the Community Living Assistance and Support Services program;
- an increase of $10 million for the Deaf-Blind with Multiple Disabilities program; and
- an additional $47 million for the Early Childhood Intervention program.
The budget bills earmark nearly $50 million less in funding for the Texas Home Living waiver program. Performance measures in the bills anticipate some programs will serve fewer people in the next biennium despite increased budgets. The numbers might change as we move through the session, but we should get more clarity on what the numbers mean in terms of service delivery.
Check Your Representation
The Texas Legislature Online website recently updated its Who Represents Me? webpage to account for the redistricting changes that were made in the lead-up to the November 2022 general election. If you go to the page and enter your address, it will provide the names and districts of your House and Senate members as well as information on other state and federal offices. Your representatives might have changed since the last session due to redrawn district lines or retirements, so it’s always good to check and see.
Bill Filing Continues
Lawmakers have filed over 2,100 bills to consider in the coming months. Here are some recently filed proposals related to disability issues:
- HB 1359 by Rep. Gene Wu, relating to certain proceedings in juvenile court for children with mental health conditions and intellectual disabilities
- HB 1369 by Rep. Steve Toth, relating to student eligibility for special education services provided by a school district, including services for dyslexia and related disabilities
- HB 1430 by Rep. Terry Meza, relating to establishing a minimum wage for certain personal attendants under Medicaid and other programs administered by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission
- SB 477 by Sen. Judith Zaffirini, relating to accommodating voters with disabilities
- SB 524 by Sen. Royce West, relating to the statewide intellectual and developmental disability coordinating council
- SB 525 by Sen. Royce West, relating to personal assistive mobility device protections for people receiving emergency medical services
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