The Final Month,
Important Bills,
$11.2 Billion for Education

April 30, 2021

109 days down, with only 31 days to go before the end of the legislative session. As I've mentioned before, the Texas Constitution contains strict language detailing when session begins and ends, with May 31st being the constitutionally required final day of this session. This means that if a bill has not passed both chambers before the 31st, it is dead for at least two years. As one might imagine, this deadline results in a frenetic final few weeks.

We have been extremely fortunate this session in that our high-priority bills continue to make steady progress. In fact, I'm pleased to report that we had our first bill passed out of both chambers and sent to the Governor's desk this week. I won't get into the details again, but HB 567, The Childhood Trauma Reduction Act, was our bill to protect children from being unnecessarily taken from their families. I sincerely believe that the changes made in this bill will improve our CPS system and lead to better outcomes for children and families. 

Several other high-profile bills were voted out of the House this week, and I wanted to highlight a few of particular importance: 
  • HB 2622 is better known as the Second Amendment Sanctuary bill. In effect, it prevents state agencies and local governments from enforcing any new federal gun laws or restrictions. 
  • HB 19 seeks to protect commercial vehicle operators from inordinate, unfair lawsuits that often jeopardize small businesses and the transportation services Texans depend on. 
  • HB 2283 prohibits election administrators from accepting large donations from individuals and organizations for the purposes of administering elections. 
Finally, there have been concerns surrounding the status of federal dollars sent to the state for schools. While it's true that the money was not immediately disbursed to districts, this delay was due to outstanding questions regarding the guidelines and stipulations attached to the funds. There was understandable consternation from many school districts worried about receipt of these dollars, but now that those questions have been answered, the state was able to release the funding as intended. More on this below. 

May God bless you and your family,
James B. Frank Signature
James B. Frank

Bills Moving

In addition to the final passage of HB 567, two of our bills were voted out of the House this week, and one was voted out of committee. I've talked about each of these bills before, but as a reminder:

Out of the House 

HB 548 will allow physicians and nurses in good standing to waive into a Texas License and continue to practice in Texas once they leave active duty service if they have served at a military installation, are licensed in good standing in another state, and pledge to provide their services in a part of the state that is deemed medically underserved. All of HD-69 (Archer, Baylor, Clay, Foard, Knox, and Wichita) is considered "medically underserved" and would fit within the parameters of the legislation.

Texas has a shortage of physicians and nurses, especially in rural areas of the state. We are also the proud home of the largest number of military installations in the country. It only makes sense that active duty medical personnel that have served our armed forces in a responsible manner be allowed to continue their practices once they leave active service in the military.

HB 3041 implements federal funding made available through the Family First Preservation Services Act to allow children to remain safely at home with their parents as a direct alternative to removal into state conservatorship through the delivery of evidence-based services to families who are reported to DFPS.

Importantly, it defines the available participants as those at immediate risk of entering the system in order to focus on providing services without resorting to actual removal from homes. 

Out of Committee

HB 3720 would improve the interest list process for Medicaid waiver programs. 

In an effort to serve Texans who have an intellectual or developmental disability, the state has several Medicaid waiver programs which allow us to use Medicaid funds to provide long-term care services outside of an institutional setting. This practice has meant better health and well-being outcomes for the participants themselves, and has allowed the state to serve more individuals.
 
Unfortunately, there is a lengthy list of individuals who are interested in getting services but for whom there are not enough waiver slots currently. Also, we do not have a clear idea of how many of those on the interest list: (a) are actually eligible for services; (b) need the services immediately or soon; and (c) most need the services. If the Legislature is going to tackle the problem of lengthy (and growing) interest lists, we have to do a better job of accurately assessing who needs what services when.
 
HB 3720 would work toward that goal by requiring persons on an interest list to fill out a questionnaire that includes information pertinent to their individual needs. The bill would also direct the Health and Human Services Commission to explore the possibility of creating an online portal for applicants to update their status so that the interest list picture is more current.



School Funding Update

As we mentioned last week, the federal government has designated significant funding for states to use on certain items. In particular, a large pot of money has been marked for public education. In line with federal stipulations, these funds have now been released to school districts and will hopefully help our schools overcome the learning loss and other challenges caused by the pandemic.

I'd note that this funding is in addition to what the Texas Legislature is already appropriating. While we were forced to make cuts on several budget items due to revenue shortfalls, we were able to fully fund our public schools.




Bill Tracker


COVID-19 Protocols at the Capitol

If you are planning to visit the Capitol during the next few months, I encourage you to contact my Austin office (512-463-0534) to get the latest updates on health and safety protocols before making the trip down.  The rules are constantly changing but are gradually heading toward normalcy once again. 

You may find the following information useful as your plan your visit:
  • My office is always open to constituents. 
  • The House Gallery will be open to the public at reduced capacity.
  • Committee hearings will be open to the public both in-person and virtually. 
  • There are no public tours, groups, or sponsored event spaces.
  • All visitors must enter the Capitol through the north door.
  • COVID-19 rapid testing is available prior to entering the Capitol (located outside, north of the building).
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