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 full Texas House began to consider legislation this past week. On Tuesday, March 28, the very first measure they discussed was a previous TCDD Bill of the Week, House Bill (HB) 446 by Rep. Tom Craddick, which would remove the R-word from various Texas statutes. The bill passed with unanimous support and now heads over to the Texas Senate for consideration.
The second bill on the House calendar was HB 300 by Rep. Donna Howard, which would establish a sales tax exemption for certain family care items, such as children’s diapers and menstrual products. TCDD joined The Arc of Texas and AARP Texas in advocating for the bill to be expanded to include adult incontinence products. We asserted that the legislation should support not just families with infants and toddlers, but also families with aging parents and adults with disabilities. When the bill came up, an amendment to add adult diapers was accepted without objection. HB 300 passed with overwhelming support. It now awaits consideration by the Senate.
Over the next few days, the House agenda will feature floor votes on HB 140, a former TCDD Bill of the Week that relates to co-navigator services for the deaf-blind; and HB 729, a bill that would establish a statewide IDD coordinating council to help implement the state’s IDD strategic plan.
Also scheduled this week is HB 1, the state budget for the next two years. If passed out of committee, the bill would spend $302.6 billion in state and federal funds over the course of the biennium. This would represent an increase of about $38 billion over the current biennium. The floor discussion on the bill will include the consideration of hundreds of amendments, many of them proposals to direct funding toward or away from specific programs and services. To be eligible for consideration, amendments to HB 1 had to be pre-filed no later than 9:00 a.m. on Monday, April 3. The list of amendments is available on the Capitol website. A total of 388 amendments have been pre-filed for the bill.
TCDD Public Testimony
Last week, TCDD staff provided public testimony on a number of bills at the Capitol, covering a wide range of topics.
THECB Report on Higher Ed
On March 27, TCDD public policy analyst Sabrina Gonzalez Saucedo submitted public remarks to the House Higher Education Committee on HB 1604, which relates to a report by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) regarding students with disabilities in higher education. Gonzalez Saucedo noted that students with disabilities deserve the preparation and support necessary to transition successfully into higher education and gain meaningful employment post-graduation. There is a lack of accurate data on students with disabilities accessing higher education in Texas. HB 1604 would assist lawmakers in getting a clearer picture of the current landscape for students with disabilities in postsecondary programs. Gonzalez Saucedo recommended utilizing the expertise of the THECB’s Advisory Council on Postsecondary Education for Persons with IDD to draft the report required by HB 1604. According to Gonzales Saucedo, “the benefits of receiving a postsecondary education are clear; this Committee has acknowledged that a postsecondary education can increase access to job opportunities, economic stability, and personal growth.”
Camera in Classroom Reform
Gonzalez Saucedo also submitted written testimony to the House Public Education Committee on March 28 regarding HB 2234, which would improve safety outcomes for students with disabilities by expanding the use of video cameras in special education classrooms. The bill would require both the Texas Education Agency and school districts to notify parents of the law, make school district policies regarding the placement and maintenance of video cameras public, and expand the video retention period. As stated by Gonzalez Saucedo, “HB 2234 would improve upon the original ‘Cameras in Classrooms’ law and improve safety outcomes for students with disabilities.”
Also on March 28, TCDD public policy analyst Lauren Gerken offered public comments to the House Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee on HB 653, which relates to the guardianship of wards with profound intellectual disabilities who are minors when guardianship proceedings begin. Gerken explained that the bill would create a separate guardian type that eliminates due process rights and reduces court oversight that protects individuals under guardianship from abuse, neglect, and exploitation. Gerken recommended exploring other avenues to protect wards and their rights. She suggested that significant changes to the guardianship process such as those proposed by HB 653 require more time, planning, and stakeholder input before being made.
Poll Worker Training
On March 30, Gerken provided testimony to the House Elections Committee on HB 1632, which relates to standardized training for poll workers. She highlighted the confusion and inconsistency around the rights of voters with disabilities, which affects their access, independence, and integrity. Gerken recommended modifying the standardized training referenced in the bill to also include a section on disability and particularly outlining the rights of voters with disabilities under state and federal law regarding accommodations while casting their ballot.
If you’d like to give remarks at an upcoming hearing but aren’t sure how to craft your comments, we’ve created a My Testimony Blueprint (PDF) that can be used as a framework. For more legislative advocacy resources, visit our website.
Hearings To Watch
The following section includes a sample of the hearings we are monitoring this week. During these hearings, legislative committees may consider important disability-related bills. You can find live and archived broadcasts of committee hearings on the House and Senate websites.
The House Public Health Committee held a hearing on Monday morning, April 3. The committee discussed the following notable bills:
- HB 667 by Rep. Ann Johnson, relating to the licensing and regulation of music therapists; requiring an occupational license; authorizing fees
- HB 1683 by Rep. Armando Walle, relating to the Occupational Therapy Licensure Compact; authorizing fees
- HB 1875 by Rep. Ryan Guillen, relating to the audiology and speech-language pathology interstate compact; authorizing fees
The Senate State Affairs Committee held a hearing on Monday morning, April 3. The committee discussed the following notable bill:
- Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 70 by Sen. Bryan Hughes, proposing a constitutional amendment protecting the fundamental right of parents to raise their children
The House Higher Education Committee held a hearing on Monday morning, April 3. The committee discussed the following notable bills:
- HB 400 by Rep. Stephanie Klick, relating to innovation grant programs to support residency training programs in psychiatric specialty fields and recruitment, training, and retention programs in behavioral health fields
- HB 2100 by Rep. Four Price, relating to eligibility requirements for student loan repayment assistance for certain mental health professionals
The Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on Monday morning, April 3. The committee discussed the following notable bill:
- Senate Bill (SB) 2315 by Sen. Bryan Hughes, relating to the creation of a task force to develop a plan for the consolidation of the functions of workforce development programs administered by the Texas Workforce Commission and social services programs administered by the Health and Human Services Commission
The House Select Committee on Youth Health and Safety held a hearing on Monday afternoon, April 3. The committee discussed the following notable bills:
- HB 185 by Rep. Mary González, relating to the inclusion of chronically absent students as students at risk of dropping out of school and the collection and reporting of data regarding those students
- HB 772 by Rep. Alma Allen, relating to corporal punishment in public schools
- HB 773 by Rep. Alma Allen, relating to prohibiting certain releases of a student to the student’s parent after school-initiated communication by a school district or open-enrollment charter school
- HB 1927 by Rep. Lacey Hull, relating to a parent’s right to intervene in the apprehension by a peace officer of a child for an emergency detention and certain requirements and restrictions applicable to an emergency detention
- HB 1972 by Rep. Liz Campos, relating to policies and procedures regarding children placed by the Department of Family and Protective Services in a residential treatment center or program
- HB 2126 by Rep. Vikki Goodwin, relating to information reported through the Public Education Information Management System and to parents regarding disciplinary measures used by a public school
- HB 3642 by Rep. James Talarico, relating to the permissible uses of the school safety allotment under the public school finance system
- HB 3648 by Rep. Ryan Guillen, relating to the composition of the board of directors of the Texas School Safety Center
- HB 4091 by Rep. Ann Johnson, relating to the mental health needs of a minor in the managing conservatorship of the Department of Family and Protective Services
The House Human Services Committee will hold a hearing on Tuesday morning, April 4. The committee will discuss the following notable bills:
- HB 211 by Rep. Mary González, relating to the regulation of child-care facilities and registered family homes providing services to children with disabilities or special needs
- HB 795 by Rep. Ed Thompson, relating to emergency generators or other power sources for nursing facilities and assisted living facilities
- HB 1357 by Rep. Justin Holland, relating to Medicaid reimbursement for certain medication-assisted treatments for opioid or substance use disorder
- HB 1798 by Rep. Donna Howard, relating to the development of a strategic plan for home and community-based services provided under Medicaid and the child health plan program and the establishment of an advisory committee on home and community-based services
- HB 3329 by Rep. Kronda Thimesch, relating to the investigation or determination of abuse or neglect of a child, elderly person, or person with a disability and the provision of certain services
- HB 3462 by Rep. Candy Noble, relating to the consolidation of ombudsman programs administered by the Health and Human Services Commission
The House International Relations and Economic Development Committee will hold a hearing on Tuesday morning, April 4. The committee will discuss the following notable bill:
- HB 1113 by Rep. Terry Meza, relating to the creation of a low-interest loan program for entrepreneurs with physical or mental disabilities
The Senate Business and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on Tuesday morning, April 4. The committee will discuss the following notable bill:
- SJR 57 by Sen. Tan Parker, proposing a constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to provide for legislative review and approval of state agency rules
The Senate Criminal Justice Committee will hold a hearing on Tuesday morning, April 4. The committee will discuss the following notable bills:
- SB 409 by Sen. Chuy Hinojosa, relating to the rights of victims, guardians of victims, and close relatives of deceased victims in the criminal justice system
- SB 2429 by Sen. Kelly Hancock, relating to reporting procedures and training programs for law enforcement agencies regarding missing children and missing persons
The House Elections Committee will hold a hearing on Tuesday morning, April 4. The committee will discuss the following notable bill:
- HB 3159 by Rep. Jeff Leach, relating to the use of an accessible absentee mail system by certain voters
The House Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee will hold a hearing on Wednesday morning, April 5. The committee will discuss the following notable bills:
- HB 3009 by Rep. Gary VanDeaver, relating to the health care providers authorized to examine a person to determine whether the person is incapacitated for purposes of certain guardianship proceedings
- HB 3544 by Rep. Joe Moody, relating to the payment of certain court costs associated with interpreters
- HB 4085 by Rep. David Spiller, relating to the payment by the state or a county of costs for certain mental health hearings or proceedings
- HB 4128 by Rep. Andrew Murr, relating to associate judges for guardianship proceedings and protective services proceedings in certain courts
The Senate Health and Human Services Committee will hold a hearing on Wednesday morning, April 5. The committee will discuss the following notable bills:
- SB 51 by Sen. Judith Zaffirini, relating to health benefit coverage for hearing aids for children and adults. This is the Senate companion to a previous TCDD Bill of the Week, HB 109.
- SB 188 by Sen. Borris Miles, relating to criminal history record information checks for applicants for employment and employees of group homes; creating a criminal offense
- SB 681 by Sen. Nathan Johnson, relating to the applicability of certain laws regarding the occupational licensing of individuals with criminal convictions to the licensing of certain long-term health care facility personnel
- SB 1629 by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, relating to the regulation of certain nursing facilities and other long-term care facilities, including licensing requirements and Medicaid participation requirements
- SB 2260 by Sen. Cesár Blanco, relating to the management review of certain investigations conducted by the Department of Family and Protective Services
The House County Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on Wednesday morning, April 5. The committee will discuss the following notable bill:
- HB 4771 by Rep. Salman Bhojani, relating to the creation of tenant legal services offices by local governments to assist low-income residential tenants in eviction cases and in cases involving discrimination based on the tenants’ disabilities
TCDD Policy Fellow Spotlight
TCDD funds three grants to hire and train policy professionals to give them the tools and experience they need to join the next generation of disability policy experts. The fellowships last up to two years and generally include one legislative session. This week, we feature TCDD Policy Fellow Hannah Gill.
How long have you been a TCDD Policy Fellow?
I joined NAMI Texas as a TCDD Policy Fellow this past October.
What issues are you tracking?
I’m tracking Student Mental Health, Mental Health workforce shortages, and ways to mitigate these, in addition to insurance coverage for individuals with mental illness.
Is there a specific bill that you’re especially interested in?
HB 1485, among others, relating to suicide prevention training for teachers; also HB 1157, among others, allowing mental health excused absences in public schools.
When not working, you can be found…?
What is a work-life balance?! (Just kidding… kind of). Outside, when weather permits; reading a book, running, or drinking an overpriced beverage with friends.
What is your favorite tv show?
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