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Groundhog Day in July

Jul 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.

You may recall the Senate’s killing of some 200+ bills, some of which were critical for state agency functions during the next year. Among them were bills related to the sunset review of the Texas Medical Board and several other health care service boards.

Why did that happen? Most political commentators agree in retrospect that the Senate leadership was unhappy with the way the “Bathroom Bill, ” school vouchers and several other pieces of legislation were handled by the House (in that the House did not pass them). The strategy for obtaining redress was to kill other important bills to “force” a special session, so that the pieces of legislation supported by and of greatest interest to conservative groups would get a second chance to be heard and, possibly, approved.

To that end, the Senate in its first three days of the special session has passed out a bill that renews the Texas Medical Board and other health professions licensure agencies. The chamber is moving on this week to the real issues that were placed on the Governor’s “call” for the special session. In a bit of theater, the Senate met at 12:01 last night to pass out on third reading the Texas Medical Board bill. And members have declared their intent to hear testimony on the “Bathroom Bill,” school vouchers and other items on Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoon this week.

Gov. Abbott’s expanded call for the special session included more than 20 items. Among them: teacher pay raises and benefits, including TRS-Care; school finance; limited school vouchers; property taxes; spending limits for cities and counties; union dues; abortion restrictions; and maternal mortality.

Meanwhile, the House has referred the Texas Medical Board and other related sunset bills to committee, and those have been passed out and will move to the floor for the usual second and final passages before going to the Governor for signature or veto.

Tune in to:  http://www.legis.state.tx.us/ to watch live sessions or committee meetings. It is the best reality TV that you are going to find, especially since the actions taken in Austin affect the real lives and pocketbooks of every Texan.   

As with any legislative session, the key for constituents will be to pay attention to the details. The Legislature seems likely to impose (needed) teacher pay raises upon local school districts, but as an unfunded mandate. With local budgets already tight, some school districts will likely have to raise taxes to cover the higher salaries. Other tax cuts discussed at the state level could likewise end up increasing individual property taxes, as counties, cities and other local taxing authorities try to balance their own tight budgets while preserving necessary services.   

So, what’s on the schedule for this week/weekend?

The Senate Health and Human Services Committee, chaired by orthopedist and UTMB alumnus Dr. Charles Schwertner (R—Georgetown), will meet on Friday to take up the following agenda items:


COMMITTEE: Health & Human Services

TIME & DATE: 8:00 AM, Friday, July 21, 2017

PLACE: E1.016 (Hearing Room)
CHAIR: Senator Charles Schwertner

 SB 4 Schwertner | et al.
Relating to prohibiting certain transactions between a governmental entity and an abortion provider or affiliate of the provider.

SB 10 Campbell | et al.
Relating to reporting requirements by certain physicians and health care facilities for abortion complications; authorizing a civil penalty.

SB 11 Perry | et al.
Relating to general procedures and requirements for do-not-resuscitate orders
.

SB 17 Kolkhorst | et al.
Relating to maternal health and safety, pregnancy-related deaths, and maternal morbidity, including postpartum depression.

SB 73 Hughes | et al.
Relating to reporting and certification requirements by certain physicians regarding certain abortions.

SB 77 Schwertner
Relating to prohibiting certain transactions between a governmental entity and an abortion provider or affiliate of the provider.

SB 80 Perry
Relating to general procedures and requirements for do-not-resuscitate orders.

SB 82 Kolkhorst
Relating to pregnancy-related deaths and maternal morbidity, including postpartum depression.

SB 85 Campbell
Relating to reporting requirements by certain physicians and health care facilities for abortion complications; authorizing a civil penalty.

SB 87 Hughes
Relating to reporting and certification requirements by certain physicians regarding certain abortions.

Witness registration will be open from 7:00 AM until 11:00 AM. Please register at the electronic kiosks outside the hearing room.

Public testimony will be limited to 2 minutes. If submitting written testimony, please provide 20 copies with your name on each.

Also on Friday’s Senate agenda will be hearings of Senator Larry Taylor’s (R—Friendswood) Education Committee as they explore creative ways to fund the state’s education enterprise. 

If you are looking for a place to cool off on Saturday afternoon, drive up to Austin to the Capitol (admission is free) and go to Room E1.036 to take in the Senate Finance Committee hearing.  Short on gas money or there’s freeway construction between you and Austin? Tune in on your laptop to see how your state government works!

COMMITTEE: Finance

TIME & DATE: 1:00 PM, Saturday, July 22, 2017

PLACE: E1.036 (Finance Room)
CHAIR: Senator Jane Nelson

To consider the following:

SB 9 Hancock | et al.
Relating to the constitutional limit on the rate of growth of appropriations.

SB 19 Nelson | et al.
Relating to bonuses and salaries for public school classroom teachers and state assistance for the Texas Public School Employees Group Insurance Program.

Witness registration opens at 12pm. Witness registration for ORAL testimony will close at 4pm. However, you may register a position or provide written testimony only at any point during the hearing.

For ORAL testimony, proceed to the witness registration table located outside E1.036 in the Capitol Extension to fill out a paper registration card.

To register a position or provide written testimony only, please register at any electronic witness registration kiosk. After you have registered electronically, drop off any written testimony at the witness registration table located outside E1.036.

Public testimony will be limited to 2 minutes. If submitting written testimony, please provide 40 copies to the committee clerk with your name on each copy.

Lastly, the Senate Business and Commerce Committee also will meet on Saturday:

COMMITTEE: Business & Commerce

TIME & DATE: 9:00 AM, Saturday, July 22, 2017

PLACE: E1.016 (Hearing Room)
CHAIR: Senator Kelly Hancock

To consider the following:

SB 8 Creighton | et al.
Relating to health plan and health benefit plan coverage for elective abortion.

SB 12 Buckingham
Relating to limiting the applicability of municipal and county regulations affecting real property.

SB 13 Burton
Relating to the issuance of a permit by a political subdivision.

SB 14 Hall
Relating to a property owner's right to remove a tree or vegetation.

SB 15 Huffines | et al.
Relating to prosecution of certain offenses involving and preemption of local regulation of the use of a wireless communication device while operating a motor vehicle.

Witness Registration

The witness registration will open at 8:00am, and will close at Noon.

You may register for this hearing using the Senate kiosk located in the extension hallways.

Public testimony will be limited to 2 minutes. If submitting written testimony, please provide 20 copies to the committee clerk with your name and bill number on each copy. Please mark on your electronic witness registration if you are providing written testimony.

Expect several other Senate committees to get into the act over the weekend, as well. As for the House, members likely will pace themselves—going home on Friday and returning Monday afternoon to work through their agenda.

There’s rarely a dull moment in our state Capitol, so as always, stay tuned!