Texas Legislative News: April 8

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During the 86th Texas Legislature, the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities (TCDD) provides regular updates on disability-related issues that are being considered at the Capitol.

Dockless Scooter Regulations

Christa Walikonis, a TCDD Public Policy Fellow with Disability Rights Texas, was recently quoted in an Austin American-Statesman story on Senate Bill (SB) 549. The bill would provide a regulatory framework for dockless scooters, which were introduced into many of Texas’ urban areas within the past year and have been operating largely without governmental oversight. At a hearing on the legislation, Christa mentioned the difficulties that the scooters have posed to people with disabilities, including blocking sidewalks and accessible parking spaces. She urged lawmakers, when considering the new regulations, to consider the needs of people with hearing or visual impairments and people who experience limited mobility. The full article can be found here.

Hearings to Watch

Below is a sample of the hearings TCDD will be monitoring this week. During these hearings, legislative committees will 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 or Senate websites.

The House Committee on International Relations & Economic Development held a hearing on Monday morning. Among the bills that were discussed were House Bill (HB) 1911 by Rep. Terry Meza, which would direct the Texas Workforce Commission to establish a low-interest loan program for people with physical or mental disabilities in order to promote entrepreneurship.

The House Committee on Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence also held a hearing on Monday morning. They discussed Rep. Victoria Neave’s HB 4531, relating to elderly persons and persons with a disability who are survivors of sexual assault. The bill provides that sexual assault examiners and nurses can provide medical care and collect evidence with the consent of the survivor, regardless of whether or not their legal guardian consents. It also provides protections if the parent or legal guardian is a suspect or accomplice in the sexual assault.

The House Committee on State Affairs held a hearing Monday morning, as well. They discussed HB 1565 by Rep. Terry Meza, which would expand the qualifications for historically underutilized businesses (HUBs) to include businesses that are owned, operated, or controlled by one or more persons with disabilities. The bill also calls for the State Comptroller to develop goals to increase state agency contract awards for the purchase of goods or services from HUBs that qualify based on disability.

The committee also discussed Rep. Ana Hernandez’s HB 3362, which is very similar to HB 1565 in calling for the inclusion of people with disabilities owning HUBs in state contracting. In this bill, however, the physician verifying the individual’s disability must be specifically licensed to practice within the state of Texas.

The House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence held a hearing Monday afternoon. Among other bills, they discussed HB 2874 by Rep. Yvonne Davis, relating to the criminal offense of abandoning or endangering a child, elderly individual, or person with disabilities. It establishes different degrees of punishments based around the circumstances of the endangerment.

Also being heard was Rep. Davis’ HB 2875, relating to the admissibility of certain evidence in prosecuting someone for exploitation of a child, elderly individual, or a person with disabilities. It allows the inclusion of evidence that the defendant in such a case has engaged in similar conduct beforehand.

The House Committee on Human Services will be holding a hearing on Tuesday morning. They will be discussing HB 12 by Rep. Sarah Davis, relating to early childhood intervention (ECI) and other habilitative and rehabilitative services. The bill would eradicate prior authorization requirements for certain early childhood intervention services under the Medicaid managed care program. It would also call for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) to seek funding to establish workforce development grants for ECI providers.

The committee will also be discussing Rep. Bobby Guerra’s HB 2062, relating to the provision and reimbursement of home telemonitoring services under Medicaid. This bill calls for home telemonitoring services to be made available to certain pediatric patients with complex medical needs.

They will also be discussing HB 3117 by Rep. Matt Schaefer, relating to developing a proposed plan on long-term care for people with intellectual disabilities participating in the home and community-based waiver program. The bill calls for the needs of the community to be considered when determining whether new ICF-IID beds should be authorized in a region of the state.

Also up for discussion is HB 4178 by Rep. James Frank, relating to the operation and administration of certain health and human services programs, including Medicaid managed care. The bill proposes methods to streamline correspondence, coordinate benefits, and standardize the provision of services. Overall, it seeks to increase legislative oversight over these programs.

The Senate Committee on Health and Human Services will be holding a hearing on Tuesday morning. Up for discussion is Sen. Judith Zaffirini’s SB 1790, which would allow for peer support services to people with intellectual or developmental disabilities to be paid for in the same manner as peer support services for people with mental health or substance abuse disorders.

The Senate Education Committee will also be holding a hearing on Tuesday morning. They will be discussing SB 712 by Sen. Eddie Lucio, which would prohibit school district employees, volunteers, and contractors from using certain behavioral interventions on students receiving special education services.

The Senate Committee on State Affairs will be holding a hearing Tuesday morning. Along with other bills, they will be discussing SB 536 by Sen. Judith Zaffirini, relating to the appointment of associate judges for guardianship and protective services proceedings. This bill would expand upon Sen. Zaffirini’s previously introduced SB 31 (recently covered as a TCDD Bill of the Week), which called for the development of a Guardianship Abuse, Fraud, and Exploitation Deterrence Program in the Texas courts. SB 536 would improve the infrastructure of the courts to better handle these proceedings.

The House Committee on Higher Education will be holding a hearing on Wednesday morning. They will be discussing Rep. Tom Oliverson’s HB 3165, regarding an occupational and life skills associate degree program offered by the Lone Star College System District. The program would award an Associate’s degree to students with IDD upon completion of the lifePATH Program.

They will also be discussing HB 3932 by Rep. Bobby Guerra, creating an advisory council on postsecondary education for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The measure is identical to Sen. Beverly Powell’s SB 1017, another recent TCDD Bill of the Week.

The House Committee on Homeland Security & Public Safety will also hold a hearing on Wednesday morning. Among the bills to be considered is HB 3540 by Rep. Dewayne Burns, which would allow for peace officers to release in lieu of arresting certain persons with an intellectual or developmental disability.

The Medical Marijuana subcommittee of the House Committee on Public Health will hold a hearing on Thursday morning. Among the bills to be discussed is HB 3703, which would allow more individuals to participate in the state’s Compassionate Use Program. The bill would also establish a medical cannabis research program at one or more medical schools in Texas.

Stay Informed

To stay up-to-date regarding how disability-related issues are being addressed by the legislature, subscribe to TCDD eNews or follow us on Twitter.