The 86th Legislative Session doesn’t begin until January 8, 2019, but the work for that session begins now. During the time in between now and the next session, also known as the interim, the Lieutenant Governor and Speaker of the House issue interim charges that instruct legislative committees to study important issues and research information about a variety of topics to help guide future legislative decisions. The committees will hold hearings to get public input about their charges.
Below are key Senate interim charges identified by the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities (TCDD) as issues that could have an impact on people with disabilities. The Lieutenant Governor issued 81 general interim charges[1. See 85th Senate Interim Charges Part 1 and 85th Senate Interim Charges Part 2 at www.senate.texas.gov/downloads.php] and 25 interim charges[2. See 2017 Interim Legislative Charges: Hurricane Harvey Response September 28, 2017 at www.senate.texas.gov/_assets/pdf/2017_Hurricane_Senate_Interim_Charges.pdf] specifically related to Hurricane Harvey and state preparations for future natural disasters. In all, TCDD has identified 19 Senate charges as being key. The charges are separated by the interim committee to which they were assigned. Advocates may want to provide testimony, when possible, or monitor the interim hearings to stay up-to-date regarding what is being said about disability-related programs and services.
TCDD will continue to monitor key legislative issues that affect people with developmental disabilities and their families and alert subscribers via TCDD eNews and followers via Twitter.com/TxCDD when committee hearings that address disability-related issues are scheduled during the interim.
Senate Business and Commerce Committee
Health Insurance Market Stability: Study the factors affecting health insurance markets in Texas, particularly the individual market, including federal and state law. Make recommendations that would result in increased stability in the markets and enhance value and affordability for individual consumers and businesses. Examine what steps the state needs to take to allow out-of-state health insurance sales. In developing its recommendations, the committee should consider the flexibility afforded to states by 1332 “state innovation” waivers, which allow states to modify or eliminate tax penalties associated with individual and employer coverage mandates; modify requirements for benefits and subsidies; and find alternative ways to provide benefit plan choices, determine eligibility for subsidies, and enroll consumers.
Senate Criminal Justice Committee
Criminal Defendants with Mental Illness or Intellectual Disability: Monitor the implementation of legislation addressed by the Senate Criminal Justice Committee during the 85th Legislature and make recommendations for any legislation needed to improve, enhance, and/or complete implementation of the following:
Senate Bill 1326, Relating to procedures regarding criminal defendants who are or may be persons with a mental illness or an intellectual disability and to certain duties of the Office of Court Administration of the Texas Judicial System related to persons with mental illness.
Senate Education Committee
- Hurricane Recovery Efforts in Schools: Assess and make recommendations for state and local K-12 hurricane recovery efforts. Examine the crisis management response of the Texas Education Agency and identify changes to the Education Code that would expedite the state response to school districts and public charter schools in the aftermath of any disaster.
- Hurricane Harvey’s Impact on School Finance and Student Attendance: Determine the impact on school finance of possible state actions such as, but not limited to, changes to student enrollment calculations or property valuation. Assess student displacement caused by Hurricane Harvey and consider actions the Commissioner of Education may take to adjust attendance levels or calculations in the wake of a disaster. Make recommendations for legislative action including potential changes to the process and timeliness of payments to districts by private insurers, FEMA and the state.
- Classroom Conduct and Teacher Support: Examine current student discipline mandates in code, study best practice models to reduce classroom discipline issues, and provide direct support for students and classroom teachers.
- High Quality Education Expansion Opportunities: Examine high-quality campus/programs in Texas and other states and make recommendations on incentives to expand high-performing campuses and programs. Review should include but not be limited to: program and course variety, unique public school models, transfer or open-enrollment policies within a district, collaboration between districts or public charters, online learning, and whether children with special educational needs, children of military families, and student populations in chronically high poverty areas should have additional options to meet their unique educational needs.
- Implementation of New Education Laws: Monitor the implementation of legislation addressed by the Senate Committee on Education passed by the 85th Legislature, relevant agencies, and programs under the committee’s jurisdition. Make recommendations for any legislation needed to improve, enhance, or complete implementation including:
- A prohibition of a monitoring system performance indicator based solely on the number or percentage of students receiving special education service (SB 160).
A school district contracting to partner with an open-enrollment charter school to operate a district campus (SB 1882).
Senate Finance Committee
Economic Stabilization Fund (Rainy Day Fund) Options: Examine options to increase investment earnings of the Economic Stabilization Fund in a manner that minimizes overall risk to the fund balance. Investment options should ensure the liquidity of a sufficient portion of the balance so that the legislature has the resources necessary to address the needs of the state, including natural disasters. Evaluate how the Economic Stabilization Fund constitutional limit is calculated; consider alternative methods to calculate the limit, and alternative uses for funds above the limit.
Adult and Juvenile Corrections Funding: Examine the funding patterns used to fund the juvenile justice system and adult probation departments. Develop recommendations to ensure the Texas Juvenile Justice Department budget does not dis-incentivize the use of cost-effective best practices such as diverting youth from the juvenile justice system, providing services to youth in their community, and keeping youth closer to home. In addition, review funding to adult probation departments and ensure it provides for an equitable distribution to all Texas Probation Departments.
- Monitoring of Funding Initiatives:
Health Care Costs Across State Agencies — Monitor coordination efforts among state agencies to improve health care and reduce costs pursuant to Article IX, Section 10.06 and Section 10.07.
Behavioral Health — Monitor the state’s progress in coordinating behavioral health services and expenditures across state government, pursuant to Article IX section 10.04, including the impact of new local grant funding provided by the 85th Legislature.
Senate Health and Human Services Committee
- Public Health and Natural Disasters: Review the state’s response to Hurricane Harvey with a focus on public health efforts at the local and state level. The review should include an analysis of the state and local response related to vector control, immunization needs, utilization of health-related volunteers, adequacy of an emergency medical network, evacuation of vulnerable populations from state operated or regulated facilities, and coordination between all levels of government. Recommend any legislative changes necessary to improve public health response and coordination during and after a disaster.
Medicaid Managed Care Quality and Compliance: Review the Health and Human Services Commission’s efforts to improve quality and efficiency in the Medicaid program, including pay-for-quality initiatives in Medicaid managed care. Compare alternative payment models and value-based payment arrangements with providers in Medicaid managed care, the Employees Retirement System, and the Teachers Retirement System, and identify areas for cross-collaboration and coordination among these entities.
Medicaid Managed Care Contracts: Evaluate the commission’s efforts to ensure Medicaid managed care organizations’ compliance with contractual obligations and the use of incentives and sanctions to enforce compliance. Assess the commission’s progress in implementing competitive bidding practices for Medicaid managed care contracts and other initiatives to ensure the best value for taxpayer dollars used in Medicaid managed care contracts.
Implementation of New Health and Human Services Laws: Monitor the implementation of legislation addressed by the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services, 85th Legislature and make recommendations for any legislation needed to improve, enhance, and/or complete implementation, including but not limited to:
- Initiatives to increase capacity and reduce waitlists in the mental health system, including the construction of state hospitals and new community grant programs; Initiatives to better understand the causes of maternal mortality and morbidity, including the impact of legislation passed during the first special session of the 85th Legislature.
Initiatives intended to improve child safety, Child Protective Services workforce retention, and development of additional capacity in the foster care system. Make additional recommendations to ensure children with high levels of medical or mental health needs receive timely access to services in the least restrictive setting.
Initiatives to strengthen oversight of long-term care facilities to ensure safety and improve quality for residents and clients of these entities.
Senate Intergovernmental Relations Committee
- Housing and Natural Disasters: Examine and report on ways to improve the coordination of rebuilding housing and infrastructure following a natural disaster, including evaluating additional cost effective options for FEMA to utilize in providing direct housing assistance immediately following a disaster, creation of comprehensive lists of housing opportunities or web portals to disseminate information to survivors, ways to automatically waive local government regulations to facilitate rebuilding, and additional local resources available for rebuilding efforts.
Reconstruction Funds and Disaster Recovery: Monitor the distribution of federal disaster relief funds related to housing and infrastructure, including community development block grant (CDBG) funds, to ensure the timely dissemination of monies by state entities to local governments for reconstruction efforts. Develop recommendations for any statutory changes necessary to improve the efficiency of disaster recovery efforts, maximize housing and infrastructure funds, and ensure cooperation between private and government partners.
Disaster Training Programs: Identify and report on existing disaster training opportunities available for local officials and make recommendations for training programs that equip them to efficiently interact with state and federal agencies during times of disaster.
Senate State Affairs Committee
p style=”padding-left:30px;”>Emergency Situation Operation Interactions: Review the interaction between federal, state, and local agencies in charge of responding to natural disasters. Examine emergency situation operations, including evacuation routes and procedures, and the efficient use of Disaster Recovery Centers. Make recommendations to ensure emergency management officials have the tools and authority necessary to promptly and appropriately respond to disaster areas and alert citizens to potential threats.
Senate Select Committee on Election Security
p style=”padding-left:30px;”>Electoral College and Election Integrity: In light of recent election irregularities in Texas, review voting security protocols as well as the responsibilities and duties of members of the Electoral College. Specifically, examine the use of electronic voting machines and paper ballots, voting fraud and disenfranchisement occurring inside nursing homes and assisted living facilities, outside interference and manipulation of elections, and the voting requirements of presidential electors. Make recommendations to safeguard the integrity of elections, ensure the confidentiality and security of voting records, and ensure the will of the people is reflected through their ballot and carried out through their presidential electors.