Texas Legislative News: March 1, 2021

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In the aftermath of the winter storm and statewide blackouts, lawmakers returned to the Texas Capitol only briefly in the seventh week of the legislative session. A small set of committees held public hearings on Thursday, Feb. 25, and Friday, Feb. 26, to discuss and receive testimony on the circumstances that caused millions of Texans to lose power, heat, and water for nearly a week amid freezing temperatures.

Among those submitting comments to lawmakers was TCDD Council Member Lora Taylor, who is the chair of the Council’s Public Policy Committee. Taylor also spoke with local media about the challenges she and her family faced due to power and water disruptions.

Examination of the contributing factors and potential remedies are sure to continue over the next few months, particularly since Gov. Greg Abbott has added the winterization of the Texas power system to his list of emergency items.

Legislative Committees

Over the next few days, Texas House and Senate committees will hold more than 30 public hearings, primarily to hear testimony from state agencies that fall under their jurisdiction. As committees begin to meet regularly, advocates will have more frequent opportunities to provide public comment.

In the Senate committees, public input is still limited to in-person testimony. House committees will generally stick to in-person testimony, as well, although they will allow remote testimony for invited guests.

The House also created a new portal for accepting electronic comments on committee agenda items. Those wishing to provide comments are asked to provide their names, contact information, and the organization they represent, if any. Comments to a committee made through the portal are limited to 3,000 characters, and they must be submitted before the committee hearing ends.

Links to the portal can be found on the public notices for each hearing, which are listed on the Upcoming Meetings pages at Texas Legislature Online.

Texas Partners in Policymaking

Texas Partners in Policymaking, an advanced leadership training program coordinated by TCDD, is accepting applications for its 2021-2022 program year. The program is intended for self-advocates and family members to acquire the skills and connections necessary to take their disability advocacy to the next level. The deadline to apply is March 15.

The program consists of seven two-day training sessions held monthly from September 2021 to April 2022. Sessions may be held in person or online via video conference. If in-person sessions are held, they will be in Austin and San Antonio.

To learn more about the program and to apply, visit Texas Partners in Policymaking.

Stay Informed

Our Disability Policy Academy, “DD Experience in the COVID-19 Pandemic: Developing Responsive Public Policy,” will take place at 2 p.m. on Thursday, March 11. The program was originally scheduled for Feb. 16, but it was rescheduled due to the statewide blackouts.

The event will feature a conversation with renowned infectious disease expert Dr. Peter Hotez, a professor of pediatrics and molecular virology at Baylor College of Medicine, and Dr. Emily Hotez, assistant professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. The father-daughter team will discuss COVID-19 and disabilities and share insights from a paper they recently wrote on the topic.

This conversation will be followed by a presentation on personal accounts and data collected through TCDD’s Texas COVID Stories campaign, which included two statewide surveys concerning the impacts of COVID-19 on self-advocates and family members of people with developmental disabilities. The academy will close with an overview of COVID-19 policies under consideration by the Texas Legislature and a Q&A session.

The event will be held virtually via Zoom. Participants must register ahead of time to attend. Register here to attend.

To stay up to date regarding how disability-related issues are being addressed by the Legislature, subscribe to TCDD eNews. On our website, you can find legislative resources and video updates from TCDD Policy Director Scott Daigle on what’s happening at the Capitol. To receive additional notifications, follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.