Texas Legislative News: March 25

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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

Study on Waiver Interest Lists: On March 19, TCDD Public Policy Director Scott Daigle provided written testimony to the House Committee on Human Services. His remarks related to House Bill (HB) 1585 by Rep. Mary González, which would require a study to be conducted that will identify strategies to reduce the Interest Lists for various Medicaid waiver programs. Scott’s testimony mentioned the waivers’ benefits to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) and to the State, which are also detailed in this TCDD fact sheet. The full testimony can be read here.

Additionally, Richard Atkinson – TCDD Policy Fellow at the Family to Family Network – provided oral testimony on the bill. You can watch his remarks here (beginning at the 3:57:15 mark).

Committee on human servicesTCDD Policy Fellow Richard Atkinson (facing the panel) providing testimony to the House Committee on Human Services.

Sexual Abuse Prevention

Another one of Rep. Mary González’ bills recently passed out of one chamber of the Legislature. HB 111 would require that school district training to recognize and prevent sexual abuse, sex trafficking, and all other maltreatment of children is updated to specifically include information on children with significant cognitive disabilities. The bill was approved by the Texas House on a vote of 148-0 and now heads over for consideration by the Senate.

Appropriations Bill

On Wednesday, March 27, the House will take up and consider HB 1, the General Appropriations Bill. This is the bill that would determine the Texas State Budget for Fiscal Years (FY) 2020-2021. As passed out of its assigned committee, the bill would spend about $250 billion in state and federal funding over the biennium. Among the bill’s provisions are (A) a wage increase of about 10 cents per-hour for personal attendants and (B) funding for an additional 2,476 Promoting Independence waiver slots. Currently, HB 1 does not include funds to reduce the Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) waiver interest lists. The Legislative Budget Board has produced an in-depth summary of the bill, which can be found here.

Each House Member is given an opportunity to offer changes to HB 1 during Wednesday’s floor debate, but any amendments must be filed no later than 72 hours prior to the time set for the bill’s consideration. This is to give lawmakers and stakeholders the opportunity to review all the amendments ahead of time. Additionally, due to a so-called “Put and Take” Calendar rule adopted by the House, no new funds can be added to a section of the bill without taking an equal or greater sum from another section. The floor discussion on the Appropriations Bill typically lasts 10 hours or more.

After the House passes its version of the budget, the Senate will then consider and pass its own version. Then a “conference committee” of 10 members – five lawmakers from each chamber – will hold a series of meetings to work out the differences between the two bills. Once they’ve completed their deliberations, a final version of the budget will be given an up or down vote in each chamber, generally just a few days before the end of the legislative session. In the unlikely event that the bill fails to pass in that final vote, lawmakers would either have to quickly work out a solution or come back for a Special Session before the start of the new fiscal year.

Hearings to Watch

Below is a sample of the hearings TCDD will be monitoring this week. During these hearings, legislative committees will consider bills that could affect people with disabilities and their families. You can find live and archived broadcasts of committee hearings on the House and Senate websites.

During a hearing on Monday afternoon, the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence will consider HB 2951 by Rep. Ryan Guillen. The bill would clean up a portion of statute concerning the admissibility of hearsay statements in certain cases involving children and people with disabilities.

During a hearing on Tuesday morning, the House Public Education Committee will discuss Rep. Garnet Coleman’s HB 1623. The bill seeks to amend training requirements for public school personnel to identify and intervene if a student suffers from behavioral health issues. It emphasizes the utilization of trauma-informed practices in working with students and includes specific considerations for students with disabilities. The hearing will also feature several bills related to school safety.

During a hearing on Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Higher Education will take up Senate Bill (SB) 1017 by Sen. Beverly Powell. The bill would create an advisory council to help increase higher education opportunities for persons with IDD.

During a hearing on Thursday, the House Committee on County Affairs will consider Rep. James White’s HB 3116. The bill would establish a task force to conduct a study on best practice standards for the detention of people with IDD. Upon conclusion of the study, the task force will submit a report with its findings and recommendations to state leaders and make the report available to the public.

The Senate Finance Committee will hold hearings on Thursday and Friday regarding SB 1, the Senate’s version of the General Appropriations Bill that would determine the State’s budget for FY 2020-2021 (see the “Appropriations Bill” section above for more on this topic).

Stay Informed

To stay up-to-date regarding how disability-related issues are being addressed by the legislature,  subscribe to TCDD eNews. To receive notifications about new hearings that are scheduled with short notice, follow us on Twitter.