Minutes — May 2015 Public Policy Committee Meeting

2015 Council and Committee Meetings


Committee Members Present

  • Lora Taylor, Chair
  • Hunter Adkins
  • Kristine Clark
  • Kristen Cox
  • Elaine Eisenbaum, UT-CDS
  • Mary Faithfull, DRT
  • Stephen Gersuk
  • Penny Larkin, DADS
  • Ruth Mason
  • Michael Peace
  • Brandon Pharris
  • Amy Sharp, TAMU-UCEDD
  • April Young, HHSC

Guests Present

  • Shiloh Gonzalez, DARS
  • Darryl Powell

Staff Present

  • Belinda Carlton
  • Ashley Ford
  • Linda Logan
  • Jessica Ramos
  • Joshua Ryf
  • Koren Vogel

Call To Order

The Public Policy Committee convened on Thursday, May 7, 2015, in Limestone Room 2 at the Marriott Austin South, Austin, Texas 78745. Public Policy Committee Chair Lora Taylor called those present to order at 2:55 p.m.

1.  Introductions

Chair Taylor asked the Committee members, staff, and guests to introduce themselves and to share which public policy or legislation would dramatically impact their life if it became law.

2.  Public Comments

No public comments were offered to the Committee.

3.  Consideration of Minutes

The Committee reviewed the minutes from the February 6, 2015, Public Policy Committee meeting.

MOTION:  To approve the minutes of the February 6, 2015, Public Policy Committee meeting, as presented.

MADE BY:  Brandon Pharris

SECOND:  Kristine Clark

The motion passed unanimously.

4.  Chair’s Remarks

Chair Taylor thanked TCDD Public Policy Director Jessica Ramos and Public Policy Specialist Belinda Carlton for their help in her advocacy efforts during the 84th legislative session. Taylor updated the committee on pending state legislation regarding van accessible parking (HB 1317) and access to cannabidiol (CBD) for people with intractable seizures (SB 339). Chair Taylor expressed her enthusiasm for the upcoming Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities (GCPD) meeting, as they are tasked with studying and making recommendations relating to accessible parking in HB 1317. Taylor encouraged members to be active and involved in advancing ideas they are passionate about because their voices are powerful and can create change.

5.  Member Updates

Brandon Pharris expressed interest in legislation that would remove the requirement for people with disabilities to pass a written driving test in order to obtain a Texas driver’s license. Public Policy Specialist Belinda Carlton informed Pharris that removing the written test requirement does not comply with the American Disabilities Act (ADA) standards. However, Carlton provided Mr. Pharris with information stating accommodations can be made during the written exam for people with disabilities seeking a driver’s licenses.

Public Policy Director Jessica Ramos reported that TCDD staff and other members of Texas Developmental Disabilities Network Partners met with Project Officer Allison Cruz from the Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AIDD) and provided Cruz with updates pertaining to public policy in Texas. Guardianship, person-centered thinking, and activities relating to state supported living centers were a few of the topics discussed.

6.  Sunset Update

Ramos provided updates about the ongoing Sunset Review and the consolidation of Texas Health and Human Services (HHS) agencies and explained the current proposed changes. Ramos noted that all five HHS agencies will be consolidated and moved to the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC), with a few exceptions. These proposed exceptions include keeping Child Protective Services (CPS) and Adult Protective Services (APS) under the administration of Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS), continuing the public health and data collection, currently administered by the Department of State Health Services (DSHS), as an independent agency, and transferring Vocational Rehabilitation (VR), currently administered by Department of Rehabilitative Services (DARS), to the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC). Ramos promised to give additional information once plans for consolidation are passed into law.

Ramos stated that HHS consolidation could potentially hinder public awareness and accessibility of HHS services. Committee member Kristine Clark proposed that TCDD educate the public on the new HHS system and its processes. Ramos responded that describing services in a simple and easy to understand way is necessary and stated that TCDD staff would remind agencies to communicate plainly with the public. Chair Taylor noted that the Council’s involvement in educating the public on the new HHS system could be addressed at the August meeting.

7.  Public Policy Issues

Ramos reminded members to refer to the TCDD website for updates on legislation. Ramos asked members if they had any questions about the bills under consideration. Chair Taylor thanked TCDD staff for providing detailed legislative information. Ramos reminded the Committee about the guardianship reform and supported decision-making accomplishments addressed during the Committee of the Whole.

  • Employment First Taskforce
    Ramos updated the Committee on the Employment First Taskforce and informed the Committee about the absence of TCDD representation due to Executive Director Roger Webb’s retirement. Ramos stated that although TCDD will continue to follow the activities of the Employment First Taskforce, at this time TCDD does not have representation on the Employment First Taskforce. HHSC representative April Young stated that TCDD’s representation on the Employment First Taskforce has not been ruled out and representation from TCDD staff is still under consideration.

  • Community First Choice
    Ramos updated the Committee on Community First Choice (CFC), an optional program included in the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) approved Texas’ CFC application, making it one of only a handful of states to receive approval. Starting June 1, CFC will provide an entitlement for personal attendant and habilitation services, known as PAS/Hab. Ramos reminded the Committee of its inclusion in SB 7 (2013) and that it is the first long-term service and support entitlement benefit for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) or a functional need for habilitation. Young offered informational materials and referred members to the HHSC website for additional CFC information. Ramos explained the complications that arise when developing and implementing new programs like CFC. Though the program will be up and running on June 1, it will take some time to get everyone enrolled. All stakeholders agree that outreach to the general public about the service should begin after all persons on interest lists are enrolled. Outreach should begin in earnest by the end of the year.

  • TCDD Biennial Disability Report
    Ramos told the committee that TCDD’s Biennial Disability Report (BDR) would no longer be required by the legislature as a result of SB 200 (2015). The BDR was a product of a collaborative effort with the Texas Office for the Prevention of Developmental Disabilities (TOPDD) and then delivered to HHSC for review. However, due to the anticipated abolishment of TOPDD and the transfer of their functions to HHSC, the BDR would have had to be developed with HHSC and turned in to HHSC. Ramos indicated that the information typically included into the report would be made available to the public in new, accessible and engaging ways, such as infographics.

8.  Other Discussion Items

Chair Taylor gave an update on pending federal legislation known as the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States (CARERS) Act.


There being no further business, Committee Chair Lora Taylor adjourned the meeting at 4:12 p.m.

Roger A. Webb, Secretary to the Council