December 2002 MedBytes: Texas Legislature and U.S. Congress

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The Texas Legislature convenes next month, and MedBytes remembers that many years ago, an Austin pundit commented that when lawmakers meet, "not a man, woman, child, or civil liberty is safe." Such hyperbole probably is not warranted this time but there is no doubt that a state budget deficit will make the 78th session of the legislature an important -- and contentious - one. (What else is new?) Anyway, many issues important to Texas physicians and their patients will be on the agenda, including professional liability reform, the Texas Medical Association's top priority for 2003.

As usual, TMA's News Hotline will deliver up-to-the-minute legislative news direct to your computer every day, beginning in January.

Meanwhile, here are few Internet sites where you can find information on what's going on in the Texas Legislature and in the U.S. Congress.

Texas Legislature Online
Log on to www.capitol.state.tx.us to keep track of bills as they progress through the Texas House of Representatives and Senate. Bills can be tracked by number, subject, author, committee, or keyword, and you can find the membership and schedules of legislative committees. Video broadcasts of the House and Senate sessions can be accessed. The site also features links to House and Senate leaders, state laws, the Texas Constitution, and state agencies such as the Texas Legislative Council, the Legislative Budget Board, and the Legislative Reference Library. Don't know who your senator or state representative is? Shame on you. You can find out by clicking on "Who Represents Me?" and entering your ZIP code, address, county, or city. The site also has information on how redistricting has changed legislative and congressional districts.

Texas House of Representatives
The House Web site at www.house.state.tx.us includes updates on the status of bills and bill analyses; committee membership and schedules; audio and video of committee meetings, including archives; a directory of House members' telephone numbers; and information (including maps) about the State Capitol and Capitol complex.

Texas Senate
Go to www.senate.state.tx.us and you'll find the Texas Senate site. It has many of the same services as the House of Representatives' Web page, but the Senate offers its information in Spanish as well as English. Also available are a virtual tour of the Capitol complex and a special section for children.

American Medical Association
The American Medical Association provides the latest information on congressional action at http://www.ama-assn.org/. The site provides updates on key legislation, tips about communicating with members of Congress, and general information about Capitol Hill staffers and the legislative process. You can find out how your Texas senators and representatives voted on the issues by entering your ZIP code. It also tells you the association's position on particular bills. Daily House and Senate committee schedules are available, and you can join AMA's Grassroots Action Center. This allows you to send e-mails and faxes to elected officials.

Library of Congress
Visit thomas.loc.gov for information on legislation pending in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate. The site, sponsored by the Library of Congress, allows visitors to search bills by topic, number, title, or type. It also offers a primer on how a bill becomes law, House and Senate directories, and links to the Library of Congress, the Congressional Record, House and Senate committees, the executive and judicial branches, the General Accounting Office, the Congressional Budget Office, and the National Bipartisan Committee on the Future of Medicare.

Texas Medical Association
The TMA Web site's "Legislative Issues" page has a complete rundown of the association's legislative package for the 2003 Texas session. You can keep track of the status of top TMA priorities throughout the 140-day session.

MedBytes is a quick look at new, or newly discovered, Web sites of interest to Texas physicians. The column also highlights features of the TMA Web site at www.texmed.org. If you know of some interesting medical sites or have questions about how to use the TMA Web site, email  Erin Prather. Publication of information about Web sites in this column is not to be considered an endorsement or approval by the Texas Medical Association of the sites or sponsors, or of any products or services involved.

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