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Ben's Blog


  • Legislative Trip 16x9 Featured

    The Legislative Session Marches On

    April 8, 2019, 11:24 AM by Dylan Lancaster
    With March now in the rear-view mirror, Dr. Ben Raimer reflects on both the UTMB School of Medicine and Galveston County chamber of commerce trips to Austin. Following this reflection he provides an update on priority legislation and related UTMB interests.
  • Close Gaps Ben Blog

    Closing the Gaps

    February 28, 2019, 13:31 PM by Dylan Lancaster
    With several more weeks of the Texas Legislature’s 86th session behind us, Dr. Ben Raimer examines the effects of past legislative sessions on UTMB and how those effects gave rise to our requests this session. He also touches on the warm welcome UTMB received in Austin.
  • Legislative Session 2019

    Texas 86th Legislative Session Begins!

    January 29, 2019, 15:09 PM by Dylan Lancaster
    With the first couple of weeks of the Texas Legislature’s 86th session in the rear-view mirror, Dr. Ben Raimer provides insight on legislative personnel changes, the budget outlook and UTMB's budget requests. Get ready for another fantastic series of Ben's Blog posts in 2019!
  • groundhog

    Groundhog Day in July

    July 21, 2017, 08:10 AM by Ben Raimer
    Austin is back at it. The Texas Legislature gaveled into the first called special session at midday on Tuesday, July 18, to take up business that fell victim to the Mothers’ Day Massacre near the end of the 85th regular session.
  • Sine Die Budget Results

    The Results are In!

    June 1, 2017, 15:57 PM by Dylan Lancaster
    Sine die—the last day of the regular session of the 85th Texas Legislature—arrived on Memorial Day, May 29. As we await word of a special session, I thought a review of where we’ve been and how our funding looks for the FY2018/2019 biennium would be helpful.
  • Bill Massacre 2017

    The Great House Bill Massacre of 2017

    May 19, 2017, 09:33 AM by Dylan Lancaster
    This week in Austin saw one of the most dramatic bill killings of all times. Pent up emotions found their way onto the House floor in what the media has termed the "Mother’s Day Massacre." The House Freedom Caucus, composed of very conservative members from north central Texas, used various parliamentary maneuvers Thursday evening and Friday to kill scores of bills.
  • Bills Live or Die

    Proposed Bills: Live or Die?

    May 12, 2017, 15:44 PM by Ben Raimer
    Today (Thursday, May 11) is a magic day for this legislative session: when the clock strikes midnight tonight, the hundreds and hundreds of House bill that have made it through the laborious legislative process either live or die. If a bill has not cleared the hurdles of approval in the House by that time, it is dead. The only hope for resuscitation is to find a suitable bill that has cleared the House, and attach all or parts of the failed bill to the active bill as a floor amendment.

Older Ben's Blog Posts

UTMB School of Medicine Students Advocate

Mar 15, 2017, 16:26 PM by Dylan Lancaster

One-hundred twenty-five students from UTMB’s School of Medicine representing the Class of 18, 19, 20 and 21 traveled to Austin on Tuesday March 7 on chartered buses provided by the UTMB Alumni Association to share their concerns regarding the future of health care and the practice of medicine with members of the Texas Legislature.  Led by SOM TMA-AMA Student Association President Faith Mason and last year’s president and vice-president Vanessa Collins and Matthew LaCoure, the students arrived in Austin at 10 AM on Tuesday morning and set out for a day at the capitol that would include introductions and recognitions in the State House, the State Senate and visits in member offices from their local hometown districts.  As usual, the students were most interested in sustaining their commitment to graduate education programs in the state as well as preserving support for the state’s medical and health professions education programs.

Students Outside Capital

Students were able to meet with State Representatives Greg Bonnen of Friendswood and Wayne Faircloth of Galveston.  Dr. Bonnen grew up in Brazoria County, attended local schools there prior to his graduation from A&M University in College Station.  He entered UTMB as a freshman medical student and in his second year of medical school married his wife Kim who is a graduate of UTMB’s School of Health Professions with a degree in occupational therapy.  Greg graduated from UTMB, started a residency in orthopedic surgery and switched to neurosurgery at UTMB a year later.  He is a board certified neurosurgeon, served on the UTMB faculty for a number of years before entering his own practice in the Bay Area.  State Representative Faircloth started his post college career as a pharmaceutical representative and later became the owner of his own insurance brokerage.

Students with Representatives  

Over in the Senate, the students were introduced by Senator Dawn Buckingham.  Buckingham is from West Lake (near Austin).  She received her Doctor of Medicine degree from UTMB and specializes in oculi-plastic surgery.  Prior to her election to the Texas Senate in 2017, Dr. Buckingham was an active member of the Texas Medical Association advocating for the medical education, physician and patient rights, quality, and high standards of professionalism.  Joining Dr. Buckingham was a contemporary from her UTMB School of Medicine days, Dr. Charles Schwertner.  Dr. Schwertner, an orthopedic surgeon from Georgetown, Texas, did his undergraduate education at Texas A&M and enrolled in UTMB for medical school.  Dr. Schwertner graduated from UTMB and also did his orthopedic surgery residency there.  UTMB students presented Dr. Buckingham with a print of the Ashbel Smith (Old Red) Building.

Students with Senators

Medical students spent their afternoon visiting with members of the legislature and their staff in their capitol offices before moving over to the Thompson Auditorium at the TMA Building.  Students were treated to a question and answer period with Dr. Greg Bonnen as well as an alumni report from Dr. Debra Fuller of Dallas.  Also addressing the students were former TMA president Ray Callas from Beaumont, Darren Whitehurst (TMA lobbyist), and Doctors Bill Bailey and Ben Raimer.  UTMB Alumni provided a feast off Austin BBQ with all the trimmings.

Sixty days into the 140 day session, where are we?  There has been a lot of Brownian movement throughout the halls of the capitol and a lot of early morning and late evening committee and subcommittee meetings.  As I’ve said, the Senate came out the shoot at full throttle, and then the energy sort of dissipated as clandestined small groups began to meet looking at a litany of ways to further decrease the budget and find cost savings.  The House took a bit more time to get organized but did so in a very methodical and predictable way, so the House budget has been discussed in a very transparent and inclusive manner with open meetings, minimal rhetoric and civility.  Subcommittees have returned to the main House Appropriations Committee chaired by Representative Zerwas and for the most part putting the pieces of the proposed budget into place have been orderly and inclusive.

Both chambers should have the bulk of their work done by weeks end with a few adjustments that may carry them over into next week, but we expect to see budgets for comparison in the next few days.  They will most certainly be different budgets, with different priorities emphasized by way of funding sources and funding choices.  For one thing, the House feels strongly that use of funds from the Rainy Day Fund is essential, and that a few other shifts in revenue sources is indicated. 

The Senate Finance Committee has suggested that it will attempt to limit the adverse impact on some of the health related institutions who are heavily dependent upon their special item funding and offer a graduated reduction plan over a period of time. 

UTMB remains focused on (1) obtaining minimal reductions to its formula and special item funding and (2) shifting hospital general revenue funding into a mission specific formula like that provided to MD Anderson and UTHSC-Tyler.  This last request is revenue neutral and does not result in reductions or increases in the hospital budget funding.  Of utmost importance to UTMB remains funding for the operation of its Biocontainment treatment facility which is under construction, retention of funds for the provision of indigent health care and funding for our nationally recognized primary care programs.