Texas Legislative News: March 29, 2021

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Tensions started to boil over in the 11th week of the legislative session, particularly on the topic of voting. The Senate State Affairs Committee voted to advance Senate Bill 7 (SB 7), which would dramatically impact ballot access across the state, particularly for voters with disabilities. The bill was set to be heard by the committee on Monday, March 22. Due to an untimely posting of the hearing notice, however, the bill was pulled from the agenda, but not before numerous advocates had already dropped off their written testimony. That testimony was seemingly tossed due to the change, and those same advocates had to resubmit their remarks when the bill was rescheduled for consideration on Friday, March 26.

The House Elections Committee ran into similar problems last week when another bill with implications surrounding ballot access was suddenly pulled from consideration. In this instance, discussion was underway on the bill when committee members got into a disagreement over the allowance of questions from a House member who does not serve on the committee. This is a courtesy that is generally allowed, but the committee chair, who also happened to be the author of the bill in question, refused to allow it this time. He quickly recessed the hearing for a lunch break but did so in a manner that technically left the committee unable to reconvene that same day. As a result, the hearing was abruptly canceled, leaving over 200 witnesses unable to provide their testimony. The legislation has been rescheduled for a hearing on Thursday, April 1.

In less divisive news, the full House passed its first set of bills last week. The short list did include House Bill (HB) 119, which would ban discrimination against organ transplant recipients based solely on their disability. HB 119 was a recent TCDD Bill of the Week, and it now goes over to the Senate for consideration.

TCDD Testimony

House and Senate Committees considered numerous bills relating to the disability community last week, and TCDD provided written or verbal comments on a variety of them. This included Senate Bill (SB) 7, the election-related legislation whose consideration was canceled and then rescheduled for later in the week. The bill contains a number of provisions that would impact voters with disabilities, including a requirement for people to provide documented proof of their disability when requesting an absentee ballot and the institution of barriers to support for people with disabilities when they cast their ballots. TCDD Public Policy Analyst Lauren Gerken submitted written remarks on how the proposed requirements may violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). You can read Lauren’s full testimony, as well as other TCDD comments, by visiting the Public Policy Input page on our website.

Hearings To Watch

The following section includes a sample of the hearings that we are monitoring this week. During these hearings, legislative committees may consider important disability-related bills. To receive notifications about new hearings that are scheduled with short notice, follow us on Twitter. You can find live and archived broadcasts of committee hearings on the House and Senate websites.

The House Administration Committee held a hearing on Monday morning, March 29, on two resolutions that would rescind COVID-19 safety precautions in the Texas House.

  • House Resolution (HR) 247 by Rep. Bryan Slaton, which would deactivate the full House rule that was adopted related to COVID-19 safety.
  • HR 333 by Rep. Tom Oliverson, which would deactivate the House rule that required face masks on the House floor and in House committees.

The House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing on Monday morning, March 29, on House Joint Resolution (HJR) 125 by Rep. Jake Ellzey, proposing a constitutional amendment to allow the surviving spouse of a person who is disabled to receive a limitation on the school district property taxes on the spouse’s residence homestead if the spouse is 55 years of age or older at the time of the person’s death.

The House Culture, Recreation, and Tourism Committee held a hearing on Monday afternoon, March 29, on House Bill (HB) 3252 by Rep. Tan Parker, relating to designating Oct. 17 as Entrepreneurs with Disabilities Day. The bill is named after Blake Pyron, a Denton County business owner who was recently featured in a TCDD Instagram post.

The House Human Services Committee will hold a hearing on Tuesday morning, March 30. The committee will discuss the following notable bills:

  • HB 270 by Rep. Senfronia Thompson, relating to the personal needs allowance for certain Medicaid recipients who are residents of long-term care facilities
  • HB 290 by Rep. Philip Cortez, relating to the period of continuous eligibility for the medical assistance program
  • HB 2658 by Rep. James Frank, relating to the operation and administration of certain health insurance programs and medical assistance program
  • HB 3044 by Rep. Donna Howard, relating to certain criminal history record information obtained by home and community support service agencies

The House Public Health Committee will hold a hearing on Wednesday morning, March 31. The committee will discuss the following notable bills:

  • HB 4 by Rep. Four Price, relating to telemedicine, telehealth, and technology-related health care services
  • HB 1633 by Rep. Ryan Guillen, relating to the Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology Interstate Compact
  • HB 1903 by Rep. Armando Walle, relating to the Occupational Therapy Licensure Compact
  • HB 2473 by Rep. Ann Johnson, relating to the licensing and regulation of music therapists
  • HB 2612 by Rep. John Raney, relating to the provision of Medicaid and child health plan program services using telecommunications or information technology and to reimbursement for those services

The House Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence Committee will also hold a hearing on Wednesday morning, March 31, on HB 3394 by Rep. Will Metcalf, relating to determining the incapacity of a proposed guardian or guardian.

The House Elections Committee will hold a hearing on Thursday morning, April 1, on HB 6 by Rep. Briscoe Cain, relating to election integrity and the prevention of election fraud.

Stay Informed

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.