Texas Legislative News: March 12

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With the Texas Legislature’s 86th Regular Session currently underway, the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities (TCDD) will be providing regular updates on what’s happening at the Capitol.

TCDD Testimony

ECI: On February 19, Lauren Gerken – self-advocate and TCDD Policy Fellow at The Arc of Texas – provided testimony to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Article II to advocate for the funding of Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) programs. Lauren spoke about her personal experience with ECI and the impact that it had on her life. Diagnosed with cerebral palsy at 18-months-old, Lauren’s doctors claimed that she would never be able to walk, talk, or receive an education. However, with access to critical ECI services, Lauren proved those doctors wrong. She now has a master’s degree and advocates for herself and the rights of all Texans with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Lauren’s testimony resonated with the subcommittee and they voted to provide the full $72 million requested to fund ECI programs. You can watch Lauren’s testimony here or you can read more about it on The Arc of Texas website.

Committee on Appropriations S/C on Article IILauren Gerken (facing the panel, seated at the right) providing testimony to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Article II.

Changing Stations: Last week, TCDD Public Policy Director Scott Daigle provided testimony to the House Committee on State Affairs regarding Rep. Ana Hernandez’ House Bill (HB) 952. The bill would require diaper changing stations in buildings with public restrooms. Though the author’s intent related to changing tables for babies and toddlers, Scott raised awareness of the need for more adult changing stations. Some people with disabilities and older adults face difficulties when using public restrooms; for example, some people must resort to being placed on an unsanitary bathroom floor to have their restroom needs addressed by a family member or caregiver. Scott mentioned organizations like Universal Changing Places, and efforts in other states like Arizona, who are working to increase the availability of adult changing stations in public facilities. You can watch Scott’s testimony here (begins at the 2:03:07 mark).

A Busy Week of Hearings to Watch

Below is a sample of the hearings TCDD has been paying attention to this week.

The Senate State Affairs Committee met on Monday and one of the bills they considered was SB 31 by Sen. Judith Zaffirini. The bill relates to establishing a guardianship abuse, fraud, and exploitation deterrence program. To watch the hearing, go here. Also on Monday, an identical bill by Rep. John Smithee (HB 1286) was considered by the House Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence Committee.

The House International Relations & Economic Development Committee met on Monday and considered, among other bills, HB 885 by Rep. John Raney. The bill relates to wage requirements for community rehabilitation programs participating in the purchasing from people with disabilities program. To watch the hearing, go here. You can also check out our profile of HB 885 as a recent TCDD Bill of the Week.

The House Human Services Committee met today and considered the following important bills:

  • HB 288 by Rep. Senfronia Thompson, relating to the personal needs allowance for certain Medicaid recipients who are residents of long-term care facilities
  • HB 1386, also by Rep. Thompson, relating to training and development activities for persons who may interact with an individual with autism or other pervasive developmental disorder
  • HB 1647 by Rep. Joe Deshotel, relating to Medicaid reimbursement for dental services provided to adults with disabilities.

To watch the hearing, go here.

The House Public Education Committee also met today and the committee focused solely on Rep. Dan Huberty’s HB 3, which relates to public school finance and public education. The bill includes sections regarding special education and the creation of an “Enhancement Services” grant program. When the hearing concludes, the video of the hearing will be available here.

Employment First Fact Sheet

In light of this week’s committee hearing on legislation related to subminimum wage (HB 885), check out TCDD’s Employment First fact sheet. Did you know it is policy and law in the State of Texas that earning a living wage through competitive integrated employment is the first and preferred outcome for adults with disabilities who receive public benefits? This fact sheet provides information about Employment First and makes the case for increasing competitive integrated employment in Texas.

Webinar: Everything You Need to Know About DD in Texas

In recognition of DD Awareness Month, TCDD recently participated in the Accessibility and Disability Policy Webinar Series hosted by the Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities (GCPD). TCDD covered everything you need to know about DD — from the principles outlined in the DD Act, to the work being done today to build community capacity and change systems in Texas. We also discussed our strategic public policy efforts, and TCDD Council Member Lora Taylor spoke about her advocacy efforts relating to expanding the availability of accessible parking in the state. An archive of the webinar can be found here.

The Countdown

As of today—Tuesday, March 12—there are 76 days left in the 140-day legislative session. This past Friday marked the filing deadline for bills. Though some legislation may still be filed under certain circumstances, we now have a good sense of all the proposals that will be up for consideration this session. Lawmakers wrap-up their business on Monday, May 27.