Special Session Recap

85th Legislative Session

During the First Special Called Session of the 85th Texas Legislature, the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities (TCDD) tracked bills that could affect people with disabilities and their families. The bills passed that could have the most impact are listed below.

Do Not Resuscitate

SB 11 requires doctors to obtain explicit legal permission from a patient or the patient’s legal guardian before a doctor issues a do-not-resuscitate (DNR) orders. Prior to this legislation, doctor could issue a DNR for a person in a hospital without their knowledge. For more information about this bill, read this Texas Tribune article.[1. “Bill regulating do-not-resuscitate orders heads to governor’s desk.” www.texastribune.org/2017/08/15/senate-approves-do-not-resuscitate-regulations/]

Education

HB 21 directs the allocation of funds under HB 30 (below). It also establishes a 13 member Texas Commission on Public School Finance to make recommendations for improvements to the current public school finance system or for new methods of financing public schools. Report due December 31, 2018; Commission abolished January 8, 2019.

HB 30 transfers a total of $573 million from the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) to the Texas Education Agency (TEA) for the biennium ending August 31, 2019. HHSC will pay $351 million to TEA by delaying the August 2019 payment of Medicaid managed care providers until September 1, 2019. The funds are to be spent as follows:

  • $150 million on financial hardship grants to school districts,

  • $120 million in debt relief to school districts ($60 million) and open enrollment charter schools ($60 million),

  • $41 million to small districts with less than 300 square miles, and

  • $40 million in grants to school districts and open enrollment charter schools providing “innovative” services to students with autism ($20 million) and dyslexia ($20 million).

The bill also transfers $212 million from HHSC to the Teacher Retirement System to decrease premiums and deductibles and reduce costs for an enrolled adult child with a disability.

Note: The House initially proposed the allocation of $1.2 billion in Rainy Day funds rather than transferring funds form HHSC.

Voting

During the regular session, the HB 658 was passed. Among other provisions, it required residential care facilities like nursing homes to become temporary polling locations during early voting if five or more residents applied to vote early by mail on the grounds of age or disability. It also required a county’s early voting clerk to appoint an election judge to deliver the ballots requested, oversee voting at the facility. The bill was opposed by the Texas Association of Elections Administrators, suggesting the labor-intensive solution could be difficult for them to implement. The law went into effect September 1, 2017.

During the special session, the legislature passed SB 5 which repealed provisions in HB 658 on the grounds that it represented an unfunded mandate to residential care facilities and that it would be difficult for some counties to make the accommodation for and serve older Texans and people with disabilities.

HB 658 went into effect September 1, 2017. SB 5 will not go into effect until December 1, 2017. This error means that HB 658 will be in effect for three months (during one election) and will serve as a pilot to what works and what does not. For more information about this bill, read this Texas Tribune article.[2. “Texas to change voting in nursing homes — for one election, by accident.” www.texastribune.org/2017/09/25/texas-change-voting-nursing-homes-one-election-accident/]