Gavel to Gavel

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By Helen Carrillo posted Feb 11,2019 10:16 AM

  

(Feb. 08, 2019) - Governor Gregg Abbott’s State of the State address this week celebrated Texas tenacity and encouraged the Legislature to continue their efforts to “… fulfill the promise of Texas”. In his address, Governor Abbott declared several emergency items for the 86th legislative session including: school finance reform, property tax reform, school safety reform, mental health funding and Hurricane Harvey relief. As emergency items, these issues are no longer limited by the Texas Constitution’s prohibition of passing legislation in the first sixty days of session. The Governor’s speech also highlighted funding for anti-human-trafficking and anti-gang efforts. The State of the State Address can be found here.

The Legislature is acting fast, and considering three bills already filed in accordance with Governor Abbott’s emergency items: Senate Bill 2, addressing property tax reform, Senate Bill 3, addressing teacher pay, and Senate Bill 10, which focuses on identifying youth at risk of mental illness. On February 6, the Senate Committee on Property Tax began consideration of Senate Bill 2, which would require voter approval for any local property tax growth above 2.5%.

Other highlights of the week included House Appropriations Chair Zerwas announcing the membership of Article subcommittees for this legislative session. This enables the subcommittees to hold hearings on individual Articles of the biennial funding bill, which will begin next week on February 11. For a full breakdown of Appropriations subcommittees, click here.

Additionally, Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht gave his annual State of the Judiciary Address. In this address, Chief Justice Hecht called for bipartisan judicial elections and urged legislators to pass bipartisan bail reform bills filed by Senator John Whitmire (D-Houston) and State Rep. Andrew Murr (R-Hill Country).

Lastly, Governor Abbott, U.S.-Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, and the Houston Congressional delegation, urged the Trump Administration to expedite the release of funds appropriated by Congress one year ago for Hurricane Harvey relief. Once released, these funds will provide $4.3 billion for flood mitigation projects to prevent further storm damage. The full text of the request can be found here.



Senate Finance Committee Hearing, January 6, 2019
 
The Senate Finance Committee took up Article II agencies this week listening to invited testimony from the Health and Human Services Commission, Office of Inspector General, Texas Office of Civil Commitments, Department of State Health Services, and the Department of Family and Protective Services.  Public testimony was considered on Wednesday, February 6th.
 
Much of the public testimony focused on the need for adequate and additional funding for services.  Many testified to the need for increasing reimbursement rates especially within home health such as community attendant wages.  Rachel Hammon, Executive Director for the Texas Association for Home Care and Hospice, testified to how home health is a cost containment solution but noted that these services are underfunded from 10 to 22% of allowable Medicaid costs. In addition, home health agencies have to comply with state and federal regulatory requirements which adds administrative burdens thus raising the cost to operate without any additional financial support for compliance.  To help alleviate the pressure, Ms. Hammon requested the Legislature authorize a 7% rate increase in the administrative allowance. To complete her testimony, Ms. Hammond pointed to previous cuts to therapy that resulted in the loss of access to care for many patients.
 
Watch the hearing using the following link:  http://tlcsenate.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?clip_id=13792
 
 
House Appropriations Committee, January 6, 2019
The House Committee on Appropriations met early Wednesday morning to discuss Medicaid, Health and Human Services Contracting, State Hospitals and various invited testimony. The Committee heard testimony from the Chief Financial Officer for the Health and Human Services Commission and Stephanie Muth, Medicaid Director, for an overview of the state Medicaid program. Eighty-one percent of the $29 billion in appropriations from FY18-19 went to the Medicaid program, nearly 94% of the funds went to client services, grants or funding for state hospitals. Key budget drivers for the agency are caseload and cost growth. HHSC testified that the Medicaid caseload is only expected to increase by 1% each year of the upcoming biennium, while CHIP is expected to grow 4.5%. Representative Cortez raised an interesting question regarding the fact that Texas has the highest amount of uninsured children in the nation and yet the caseload growth is relatively stagnant. Rep. Cortez expressed a desire to increase the number of insured children because the caseload has the capacity to do so.
 
The Committee also heard testimony from Dr. Courtney Philips, Executive Commissioner for HHSC, and Mike Maples, Deputy Executive Commissioner for the Health and Specialty Care System. Dr. Philips discussed the changes that have taken place in the agency since her arrival, and HHSC’s desire to make sure the perception of the agency matches the hard work they do. Mike Maples outlined the 10-year, three-phase plan to improve the state hospitals. He discussed findings from 2014 that showed a need to improve the hospitals and the capacity for patients. A majority of the population in treatment are those in need of competency restoration or those found not-guilty by reason of insanity. The committee took no public testimony for this hearing.
 
Part 1 of House Appropriations can be found here: http://tlchouse.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=44&clip_id=16105
 
Part 2 of House Appropriations can be found here:
http://tlchouse.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=44&clip_id=16111
 
HHSC’s presentations below:
Trey Wood, Chief Financial Officer, and Stephanie Muth, Medicaid Director
 
Victoria Ford’s presentation on agency contracting
 
Mike  Maples’ presentation on state hospital redesign

TAHC&H Bill Tracking List (week ending 02/08/2019): 

BILL

AUTHOR

RELATING TO

LAST ACTION

DATE

SJR   5

Menendez, Jose

Proposing a constitutional amendment establishing an increased minimum wage.

Introduced and referred to committee on Senate Natural Resources and Economic Develop

2/1/19

SB   82

Hall, Bob

Relating to expenditures for lobbying activities made by a recipient of state funds.

Introduced and referred to committee on Senate State Affairs

2/1/19

SB  113

Menendez, Jose

Relating to minimum wage.

Introduced and referred to committee on Senate Natural Resources and Economic Develop

2/1/19

SB  147

Rodriguez, Jose

Relating to the Medicaid eligibility of certain women after a pregnancy.

Introduced and referred to committee on Senate Health and Human Services

2/1/19

SB  197

Schwertner, Charles

Relating to requiring state contractors to participate in the federal elctronic verification of employment authorization program, or E-verify.

Introduced and referred to committee on Senate Business and Commerce

2/1/19

HB 1295

Davis, Sarah

Relating to early childhood intervention and rehabilitative and habilitative services.

Filed

2/1/19

SB  630

Rodriguez, Jose

Relating to a study and report regarding shortages in certain health professions.

Filed

2/4/19

HB 1336

Pacheco, Leo (F)

Relating to the minimum wage.

Filed

2/4/19

HB 1353

Oliverson, Tom

Relating to liability of health care providers who provide certain assistance in disaster situations.

Filed

2/4/19

HB 1395

Reynolds, Ron

Relating to a Texas Way" to reforming and addressing issues related to the Medicaid program

Filed

2/5/19

SB  637

Zaffirini, Judith

Relating to the period of continuous eligibility for the medical assistance program.

Filed

2/5/19

SB  670

Buckingham, Dawn

Relating to Medicaid telemedicine and telehealth services.

Filed

2/6/19

HB 1430

Guerra, Bobby

Relating to termination by a managed care organization of a provider's participation in Medicaid and child health plan program provider networks.

Filed

2/6/19

SB    1

Nelson, Jane

General Appropriations Bill.

Meeting cancelled for 02/08/19 - Senate Finance

2/6/19

HB 1470

Raymond, Richard

Relating to allowing the parents or guardians of certain medically dependent children to opt out of the STAR Kids managed care program under Medicaid.

Filed

2/7/19

SB  237

Nelson, Jane

Relating to the criteria for review by the Sunset Advisory Commission of an agency that licenses an occupation.

Introduced and referred to committee on Senate Business and Commerce

2/7/19

SB  281

Zaffirini, Judith

Relating to the use of respectful terminology in provisions of Texas statutes relating to the deaf community.

Introduced and referred to committee on Senate Committee on Administration

2/7/19

SB  308

Watson, Kirk

Relating to the Medicaid eligibility of certain women after pregnancy.

Introduced and referred to committee on Senate Health and Human Services

2/7/19

SB  327

Alvarado, Carol (F)

Relating to the expansion of eligibility for Medicaid in certain counties under the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Introduced and referred to committee on Senate Health and Human Services

2/7/19

SJR  22

Menendez, Jose

Proposing a constitutional amendment establishing an increased minimum wage.

Introduced and referred to committee on Senate Natural Resources and Economic Develop

2/7/19

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