The Governor’s veto period is officially over now. I am proud that I sent over 20 pieces of legislation to the Governor as either author/sponsor or joint author/sponsor during the 2019 Legislative Session.
Below you will find a list of bills I helped with that were recently signed into law. Stay tuned for our complete session wrap-up.
This session, I worked hard with my fellow legislators to ensure that Hurricane Harvey damage and future disaster mitigation was addressed. This includes filing HB 4279 and HJR 114, which would have provided $10 billion in general obligation bonds for grant funding for disaster response, recovery, mitigation, and general infrastructure. Despite my bills not passing, they influenced the process that led the Legislature to make more grants instead of loans and use general obligation bonds to make larger investments.I am proud to be a joint author of HJR 4 by Representative Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont), which if approved by the voters this November, will authorize the sale of general obligation bonds to fund the flood infrastructure fund to assist in the financing of drainage, flood mitigation, and flood control projects. Additionally, the Legislature provided $1.7 billion out of the Economic Stabilization Fund for disaster mitigation and recovery projects.
I was a joint sponsor of SB 289 by Senator Eddie Lucio Jr. (D-Brownsville) that was sponsored in the House by Representative Geanie Morrison (R-Victoria). SB 289 creates a Disaster Recovery Task force under the General Land Office. This task force will be key to make sure state agencies and local governments are better able to collaborate and work together before, during, and after a disaster. This bill was signed into law on June 10th.
HB 2477 that I authored, sponsored in the Senate by Senator Borris Miles (D-Houston), gives hospital districts-including the Harris Health System-more control and flexibility over the implementation of their retirement plans. This bill was signed into law on June 14th.
Access to care
Since its formation in 2008, the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) has made a tremendous impact on cancer research and prevention throughout Texas including helping fund the work of James Allison who won the Nobel Prize for Medicine last year. CPRIT was originally funded with $3 billion in bonds. Those bond funds are now running out, so the Legislature passed HJR 12 by Representative John Zerwas (R-Richmond) that I am proud to be a joint author of. HJR 12 will authorize another $3 billion in bonds to be sold to continue to fund CPRIT. The final decision will be up to the voters this November.
HB 29, which I joint authored with Representative Ina Minajarez (D-San Antonio), allows patients to see a physical therapist without needing to get a referral first from their primary care physician. This bill will save patients time and money. This bill was signed on June 14th, and takes effect on September 1st.
I was a joint sponsor of SB 1096 by Senator Charles Perry (R-Lubbock), which will help minimize delays and denials due to red-tape for those in the Medically Dependent Children Program (MDCP). MDCP serves approximately 5,600 children and young adults under the age of 21. Removing these unnecessary barriers will ensure these children get the medications they need without undue delay. This bill was signed on June 10th.
HB 2593 that I authored was amended onto HB 2847 by Representative Craig Goldman (R-Fort Worth). My amendment clarified the regulation of podiatry and allowed podiatric medical assistants to practice under podiatrists. This amendment was necessary to clean up some inconsistencies that had arose out of the licensing of podiatry being moved from the Texas Medical Board to the Department of Licensing and Regulation a few years ago. The bill was signed on June 14th, and takes effect on September 1st.
Texas Compassionate Use Program
I joint authored HB 3703 by Rep. Stephanie Klick (R-Fort Worth), expanding the Texas Compassionate Use Program (TCUP), which allows for the use of cannabidiol (CBD) oil that contains only 0.5% or less tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). HB 3703 builds upon the work we did in 2015. In 2015, I was proud to joint author HB 892 by Rep. Klick that passed as SB 339 by Senator Kevin Eltife (R-Tyler) to create TCUP. SB 339 allowed the growth and dispensation of cannabidiol (CBD) oil, an oil extracted from the cannabis plant, for use in treating Texas residents diagnosed with intractable epilepsy for the first time. These individuals are at a higher risk for a shortened life span, excessive bodily injury, neurophysiological and mental health impairment, and social disabilities. They experience dozens or more severe seizures each week. The original 2015 bill made this low-THC oil available to the estimated 149,000 Texans living with this illness.
This year, HB 3703 expands TCUP to cover more diseases and disorders, such as multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), autism, terminal cancer, or an incurable neurodegenerative disease. It also includes privacy protections for the physicians enrolled in the cannabis provider registry and lowers the number of physicians whose recommendation is required for a patient to receive a low-THC cannabis prescription from two to one. This bill was signed into law on June 14th, effective immediately.
Key components of HB 2095 that I authored were included in Representative Four Price‘s (R-Amarillo) HB 18, HB 19 and HB 1070, all of which I was a joint author of. These bills increase the behavioral health resources for students through psychologists, registered nurses, clinical social workers, and a family therapist on campus. They also provide for better trauma training for our teachers and put in accountability measures to ensure teachers are receiving training.
HB 18, 19 and 1070 continues the work I have done since 2011 to improve behavioral health services in our schools. In 2011, I sponsored legislation that allowed schools to implement training for their teachers on behavioral health and refer students who may need help finding appropriate resources. In 2013, I authored legislation that made that training for teachers mandatory. I have continued working on legislation that has provided better behavioral health in schools prior to this session—including last interim as chair of the County Affairs Committee. Leading up to this session, the County Affairs Committee looked into what could be done to improve behavioral health in our schools. One of the Committee’s recommendations was to increase the number of behavioral health professionals at our schools. HB 18, 19 and 1070 helps make those recommendations a reality. The Governor signed these bills into law in June.
I joint authored HB 906 by Representative Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston), creating a collaborative task force to study public school mental health services. This task force is vital to build upon the work that I have done over the years to make our school better able to address children’s behavioral health needs. This bill was signed in to law on June 14th.
I was a joint sponsor of SB 632 by Senator Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham). This bill helps promote communication between local law enforcement and those in the community who coordinate the services offered by LMHAs. This bill will help people who need help get diverted away from jails and in to treatment instead. This bill was signed into law on June 10th.
I authored HB 4468 this session, which makes several improvements to our criminal justice system. Chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee Senator John Whitmire (D-Houston) sponsored this bill in the Senate. HB 4468:
- Fixes mental health transportation language
- Strengthens the Texas Commission on Jail Standards oversight of privately operated jails
- Expands the prisoner safety fund to jails with 288 beds or fewer from 96 beds or fewer
- Allows for in-kind contributions for healthy community collaboratives and lowers the match amount for rural counties from 1:1 to 1:4
- Requires jailers to be enrolled in basic training within 90 days of receiving their temporary license
- Prevents a temporary jailer from becoming a supervisor
COUNTY AFFAIRS COMMITTEE
The County Affairs Committee members from left to right: Committee Director Tara Blagg, Representative Alex Dominguez (D- Brownsville), Representative Kyle Biedermann (R-Fredericksburg), Representative Jonathan Stickland (R-Bedford), Vice Chair Dwayne Bohac (R-Houston), Chair Garnet Coleman (D-Houston), Representative Charles “Doc” Anderson (R-Waco), Representative Dan Huberty (R-Houston), Representative Jon Rosenthal (D-Houston), Representative Sheryl Cole (D-Austin), and Committee Clerk Brandi Granderson.
The bills passed out of the County Affairs committee covered a wide array of topics impacting Texas counties, including those regarding hospital districts and indigent care funding, county jail standards, the establishment of special districts such as management or improvement districts, disaster relief, county powers and administration, and other various local bills impacting only specific counties in the state.
I am very proud of the work by the Committee this session and look forward to continuing our hard work during the interim.
Thank you, TexPIRG for naming me as a Consumer Champion. I have always stood up for the consumer, rather than the special interest group.
What To Watch This Week:
Our video of the week is from PBS NewsHour: “Author Ta-Nehisi Coates told lawmakers at a House committee hearing that the debate over reparations is ‘a dilemma of inheritance.’ Coates called out Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for saying a day earlier that reparations were not ‘a good idea’ because no one who is currently living is responsible. Coates told lawmakers that many of the inequalities created by slavery persist today, including in the form of economic and health disparities.”
Song of the Week