5 Days Remaining in 2013 Legislature
UNDER THE ROTUNDA
Last night dozens of bills died when they got stuck behind a contentious debate on Senate Bill 11 by Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) and Rep. Four Price (R-Amarillo) that would have required welfare recipients to undergo a drug screening. SB 11 was the subject of much conversation during the final hours of second reading on the General Calendar. The good news is that the House took up many of TMA’s bills earlier in the day so they didn’t get stopped. Today is another critical day. It’s the last day for the House to consider local and consent Senate bills on second or third reading and all third readings of Senate bills on the House Supplemental Calendar. Wednesday is also the last day for the Senate to consider all bills on second or third reading.
To avoid a special session, lawmakers must pass Senate Bill 1 — the state budget bill. The measure now hinges on passage of Senate Joint Resolution 1, which is up on the House floor, and House Bill 1025 — the supplemental budget. And, on providing utility fee rebates to Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) electric customers in Texas. Here are the budget-puzzle pieces:
- SB 1 by Sen. Tommy Williams (R-The Woodlands) and Rep. Jim Pitts (R-Waxahachie) is the only bill lawmakers are constitutionally required to pass during the legislative session. Budget conferees finished hammering out the differences between the Senate and House versions of the state budget last Friday. Both chambers need to approve the bill before next Tuesday.
- SJR 1 by Senator Williams and Representative Pitts would require voters to approve the creation of a new state water fund to help communities pay for infrastructure projects over the next 50 years. The House postponed taking up the resolution until today.
- HB 1025 also by Senator Williams and Representative Pitts is the supplemental budget bill that covers unpaid bills in the current budget cycle, ending Aug. 30. The bill has become an important vehicle for lawmakers to fund water and education this session. The Senate will take up the bill today and could amend it to appropriate $2 billion to the water fund that SJR 1 creates as well as add $200 million in extra funding for public education.
- House Bill 7 by Rep. Drew Darby (R-San Angelo) and Senator Williams would reallocate money in several dedicated revenue accounts to residents and businesses. The Senate passed the bill yesterday.
Red Tape Reduction Bills: The House gave tentative approval to Senate Bill 1216 by Sen. Kevin Eltife (R-Tyler) and Rep. Sarah Davis (R-West University Place) yesterday. It requires TDI to appoint a stakeholder workgroup to design a standard request form for prior authorization of health care services applicable across all payers.
House Bill 1803 by Rep. Bill Callegari (R-Katy) and Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston) is on the Senate Local and Uncontested Calendar today, which likely ensures its passage. HB 1803 would start the renewal of the Department of Public Safety (DPS) Controlled Substances Registration with the online medical license renewal at the Texas Medical Board.
Insurance Reform: The House gave preliminary approval to Senate Bill 1221 by Sen. Ken Paxton (R-McKinney) and Rep. John Smithee (R-Amarillo). SB 1221 ensures physicians know when their discounted contract rates under Medicaid managed care or Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) are applied to products other than Medicaid or CHIP. The bill ensures managed care plans cannot apply physicians’ existing agreed-to discounts for their Medicaid/CHIP business to new commercial products in the health insurance exchange without notification and consent.
Medicaid: The House approved Senate Bill 7 by Senator Nelson and Rep. Richard Raymond (D-Laredo) yesterday. SB 7 aims to save money in the Medicaid program by expanding Medicaid HMOs to people with intellectual and development disabilities and to nursing home residents.
Mental Health Services: Measures dealing with mental health services received tentative approval by the House yesterday. The first one is Senate Bill 126 by Senator Nelson and Rep. John Davis (R-Houston) which would create the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Reporting program through which the Department of State Health Services would report to the public its mental health and substance abuse services. The second is Senate Bill 646 by Sen. Robert Deuell, MD (R-Greenville), and Rep. Elliot Naishtat (D-Austin), which amends current law relating to court-ordered outpatient mental health services. Texas is one of 44 states that permit assisted outpatient treatment, which is court-ordered treatment, including medication for individuals who have a history of medication noncompliance, as a condition of their remaining in the community. Studies have supported its effectiveness in keeping the patient from returning to prison.
Patient Privacy: Two TMA bills aimed at improving the state’s new privacy law for physicians are on the House Local and Consent Calendar today. They are Senate Bill 1609 and Senate Bill 1610 by Sen. Charles Schwertner, MD (R-Georgetown), and Rep. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham). The bills modify the privacy bill of last session to ensure streamlined training of staff and to prevent physicians from having to meet multiple state privacy requirements.
Controlled Substances: The House approved Senate Bill 227 by Senator Williams and Rep. John Zerwas, MD (R-Simonton), yesterday. The bill would allow physicians to dispense aesthetic pharmaceuticals in excess of the patient’s immediate needs without a pharmacist license. Drugs include bimatoprost for growing eyelashes; hydroquinone, a skin whitener; retinoid for improving skin; and metronidazole to treat rosacea.
Senate Bill 1643 by Senator Williams and Rep. Carol Alvarado (D-Houston) received preliminary approval by the House yesterday. It improves access to prescription information by physicians. It allows them to delegate information retrieval to a nurse and allows for connection to DPS through a health information exchange, as long as proper security measures are in place to protect against disclosure to unauthorized individuals. The bill also allows physicians to include that information in a patient’s medical records, but that information would be subject to any applicable state or federal confidentiality or privacy laws.
PHYSICIAN OF THE DAY
The physician of the day at the Capitol is Elise Sadoun, MD, of Sugar Land. Dr. Sadoun graduated from Ohio State University College of Medicine in 2007.
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