TMA Legislative Hotline

Hotline is a daily electronic newsletter exclusively for TMA members that reports the legislature's latest actions on bills affecting Texas medicine.

Legislative Hotline: Act Now For Prior Authorization Relief

(TAKE ACTION NOW, Budget, End-of-Life Care, Health Insurance, Liability Reform, Medicaid, Public Health, Scope of Practice, Texas Medical Board, Women’s Health) Permanent link

Capitol_Dome

ACTION ALERT

Please call Gov. Greg Abbott’s office now at (512) 463-2000 regarding two key health insurance reform bills.

“Tell him to stand with physicians and our patients against insurance company interference,” Texas Medical Association President David Fleeger, MD, said this morning in an email to all members. “Tell the governor to give the go-ahead for strong prior authorization and utilization review protections in Senate Bill 1742 and/or House Bill 2327.”

These bills:

  • Help prevent delays in patient care by providing more transparency for patients and physicians regarding what health plans require for prior authorizations.
  • Ensure more accountability in health plan utilization reviews for patient care.

UNDER THE ROTUNDA

Three days remain in this legislative session. By midnight tonight, the House must accept Senate amendments to House bills or name a conference committee to debate the proposed changes.

By midnight Sunday, both the House and Senate must accept conference committee reports or discharge conference committees and accept amendments added by the opposite chamber.

Numerous TMA-supported bills made it through the legislature Thursday and await Gov. Greg Abbott’s signature:

  • House Bill 2261 by Rep. Armando Walle (D-Houston) would increase the Physician Education Loan Repayment Program’s allowable repayment assistance amounts by $5,000 each year, bringing the total amount of repayment assistance available to $180,000.
  • Senate Bill 750, by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham), which would improve maternal access to postpartum care through the Healthy Texas Women Program.
  • Senate Bill 749 by Senator Kolkhorst, which would establish level-of-care designations for hospitals that provide maternal and neonatal care.
  • Senate Bill 952 by Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Austin), which would require that child care facilities’ physical activity, nutrition, and screen time rules comply with American Academy of Pediatrics standards.
  • House Bill 455 by Rep. Alma Allen (D-Houston), which would direct the State Board of Education to develop recess policies that encourage outdoor playtime and physical activity.
  • House Bill 3041 by Rep. Chris Turner (D-Grand Prairie), which would allow for renewal of a prior authorization if it expires before the patient receives the medical service or procedure.
  • House Bill 448 by Representative Turner, which would require transporting a child younger than 2 in a rear-facing car seat unless the child meets certain height and weight thresholds.
  • House Bill 2050 by Rep. Chris Paddie (R-Marshall), which would require written consent for the administration of psychoactive drugs to long-term care facility residents.
  • Senate Bill 384 by Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), which would require all health care facilities to report all health care-affiliated infections.

 

Meanwhile, these TMA-supported bills are still alive: 

Insurance

  • Senate Bill 1264 by Sen. Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills) – which would require baseball-style arbitration for most surprise medical bills, removing the patient from the billing dispute and resolution process – is on today’s Senate Calendar for consideration of House amendments. After extensive negotiation, TMA supports this bill.
  • SB 1742 by Sen. Jose Menéndez (D-San Antonio) would require health plan directories to clearly identify which physician specialties are in network at network facilities. The Senate did not accept changes made in the House, and both the House and Senate named conference committee members to reconcile differences. TMA testified in support of this bill. (See Action Alert on this bill.)
  • House Bill 2327 by Rep. Greg Bonnen, MD (R-Friendswood), which would require both greater prior authorization transparency and that utilization reviews be conducted by a licensed Texas physician, awaits House agreement with a Senate amendment or the appointment of a conference committee. TMA testified in support of this bill. (See Action Alert on this bill.)
  • House Bill 1941 by Rep. Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) – which would prohibit free-standing emergency facilities from charging “unconscionable” rates, defined as 200 percent or more of the average charge for the same or substantially similar treatment at a hospital emergency room – is set on today’s House Calendar for consideration of a Senate amendment. TMA supports this bill.
  • House Bill 2536 by Rep. Tom Oliverson, MD (R-Cypress), which would require vastly improved transparency regarding prescription drug costs, is set on today’s House Calendar for consideration of a Senate amendment. TMA supports this bill.
  • House Bill 1584 by Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston), which would prohibit step therapy protocols for stage 4 metastatic breast cancer, is set on today’s House Calendar for consideration of a Senate amendment. TMA supports this bill.
  • House Bill 2041 by Representative Oliverson, which would require freestanding emergency room facilities to post conspicuous notices that the facility or the physician might be out of network, along with written disclosure of possible observation and facility fees, is set on today’s House Calendar for consideration of a Senate amendment. TMA supports this bill.

Maternal and Child Health

  • House Bill 25 by Rep. Mary Gonzalez (D-Clint), which would create a pilot program to streamline nonemergent medical transportation services in Medicaid and allow children to accompany their pregnant mothers on doctor’s visits, awaits the decision of a conference committee. TMA testified in support of this bill last month.
  • Senate Bill 355 by Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas) directs the Department of Family and Protective Services to create a strategic plan so Texas can access new federal matching funds for services to help children at risk of entering foster care. The Senate refused to agree with House amendments and requested a conference committee. TMA testified in support of this bill.

Texas Medical Board

  • House Bill 1504 by Representative Paddie, the Texas Medical Board (TMB) Sunset bill that would extend the TMB for another 12 years, was voted unanimously out of the Senate last week. The House did not accept changes the Senate made to the bill, and named a conference committee to negotiate the differences. The Texas Medical Association testified in support of this bill earlier this session.

Prescription Monitoring Program/Opioids

  • House Bill 2174 by Rep. John Zerwas, MD (R-Richmond) – which would help physicians address the opioid crisis by limiting the duration of opioid prescriptions, require electronic prescribing after Jan. 1, 2021, require opioid-related CME, and specify that prior authorization is prohibited for medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder – is set on today’s House Calendar to agree with Senate amendments or request a conference committee. TMA supports this bill.
  • House Bill 3285 by Rep. J.D. Sheffield, DO (R-Gatesville) – which would permit telehealth treatment for substance use, provide grants to law enforcement agencies to provide opioid antagonists, develop and implement an opioid misuse public awareness campaign, and collect and analyze data regarding opioid overdose deaths – is set on today’s House Calendar to consider Senate amendments. TMA supports this bill.
  • Senate Bill 1564 by Senator West, which would provide Medicaid coverage for medication-assisted treatment, is set on today’s Senate Calendar for consideration of House amendments. TMA supports this bill.  

Cannabis

  • House Bill 3703 by Rep. Stephanie Klick (R-Fort Worth), which would allow a physician to recommend low-THC cannabis for medical use by a patient with a variety of debilitating medical conditions, is set on today’s House Calendar for consideration of Senate amendments. TMA is closely monitoring this bill.

Medicaid

  • Senate Bill 1105 by Senator Kolkhorst, which would streamline and improve Medicaid managed care and reduce red tape for both physicians and patients, has been referred to conference committee as the Senate did not agree with House amendments. TMA supports this bill.
  • Senate Bill 1207 by Sen. Charles Perry (R-Lubbock) would require more explicit prior authorization denial notices for the Medicaid program and establish an explicit goal to reduce the overall number of prior authorizations. The Senate did not accept House amendments and requested a conference committee. TMA supports this bill.

Mental Health

  • Senate Bill 11 by Sen. Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood), which would address school safety, including substance use and mental health services, also includes many components of Senate Bill 10 by Senator Nelson, which was killed on a point of order. The Senate did not accept the House amendments and requested a conference committee. TMA testified in support of SB 10 and strongly supports SB 11.

Telemedicine

  • House Bill 1063 by Rep. Four Price (R-Amarillo), which would require Medicaid to cover home telemonitoring for specific pediatric patients, is set on today’s House Calendar for consideration of Senate amendments. TMA supports this bill. 

2020-21 State Budget

House Bill 1, by Representative Zerwas, is the $248 billion biennial state budget. Lawmakers on Monday released a draft of their negotiations on the final 2020-21 state budget; the deadline for agreement between the two chambers is midnight May 26 –Sunday.

Here are some quick highlights and lowlights:

Medicaid

  • Includes $0 for physician rate increases, despite TMA’s call for a $500 million investment in targeted rate increases in the two-year budget, a long-time TMA priority;
  • Increases inpatient rates for rural hospitals and provides for a $500 add-on payment for rural hospitals that provide labor and delivery services; and
  • Adopts $350 million in state funds ($900 million total) for Medicaid cost-containment, meaning $350 million in savings in Medicaid must be identified. TMA opposed this cut. 

Maternal Health

  • Adopts an additional $52 million for women’s health programs, including:
  • $45 million for the Healthy Texas Women program, $15 million of which is contingent on Governor Abbott signing SB 750 to help improve prenatal and postpartum coverage (the Senate agreed with House amendments to SB 750 Thursday);
  • $7 million for the Family Planning Program; and
  • $840,000 more for the Breast and Cervical Cancer Treatment Program.
  • Adds $7 million to implement measures to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity. 

Public Health

  • Adds new dollars to modernize the state’s public laboratory, including funds to make overdue repairs, replace aging equipment, and retain skilled laboratory staff, as well as to pay for X-ALD genetic screening – all TMA requests; and
  • Incorporates TMA recommendations that the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) study the economic costs of responding to vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks and submit a report to the state no later than Sept. 1, 2020. 

Behavioral Health

  • Adopts an increase of $50 million to improve community mental health services for adults and an additional $8 million for children’s mental health; and
  • Includes $100 million to establish the Texas Mental Health Care Consortium outlined in Senate Bill 10 by Senator Nelson, amended into SB 11 by Senator Taylor, including $20 million to implement the new Child Psychiatric Access Network and another $43 million to implement the Texas Child Health Access Through Telemedicine program. 

Early Childhood Intervention

$31 million more for Early Childhood Intervention programs. 

Graduate Medical Education/Workforce

  • Provides $157.2 million to preserve the hard-fought ratio of 1.1 first-year Graduate Medical Education (GME) slots for every Texas medical school graduate;
  • Provides $3 million for community psychiatry workforce expansion; and
  • Provides $1.5 million for child and adolescent psychiatry fellowships.
  • The Physician Education Loan Repayment Program did not receive any additional funding to restore cuts made in previous sessions; funding is even with the current biennium’s allocation. 

Final, detailed summaries of the budget documents are expected to be published by the Legislative Budget Board today. The budget will be debated on the House floor Saturday. We will provide a more in-depth analysis once more is known about bills passed or on life support and how they impact preliminary budget agreements.

TMA is watching each bill, committee substitute, and amendment for any changes, or for an opportunity to amend a stalled TMA-supported bill. If you have a question about a specific bill, contact the advocacy team via the TMA Knowledge Center by email or call (800) 880-7955, Monday-Friday, 8:15 am to 5:15 pm CT. 

HEALTHY VISION 2025

Healthy Vision 2025 – released in late January – is TMA’s all-inclusive, health care roadmap for legislators during the regular legislative session and the quickly approaching interim.

Want to help spread and promote TMA’s Healthy Vision for Texas? Become a TMA social media ambassador

PHYSICIAN OF THE DAY

Today’s physician of the day is Cristian Fernandez Falcon, MD, of San Antonio. Dr. Fernandez Falcon graduated from the Universidad Catolica Argentina Facultad de Ciencias Médicas in Buenos Aires and is a member of the Bexar County Medical Society.

WHAT WE’RE READING

Pain & Profit: Big Medicaid reforms snuck out of the Texas House, but will cost-cutting senators get on board? – The Dallas Morning News

Texas insurance giant tells judges brain-damaged baby and mom are stifling company’s free speech – The Dallas Morning News

Drug-price transparency bill likely headed to Gov. Abbott’s desk, stronger than many predicted – Houston Chronicle

Flu Outbreak Prompts Largest Border Detention Center to Stop Processing Migrants – The New York Times

Texas expansion of medical cannabis nears finish line after Senate approval – The Texas Tribune

Medical files found in dumpster in Tomball – Houston Chronicle

A Texas woman’s fight with a health care system she says let her down – Houston Chronicle

North Texas Physicians Honored by the Texas Medical Association – D CEO Healthcare


Texas Physicians Fight End-of-Life Bill With Passion

(TAKE ACTION NOW, End-of-Life Care) Permanent link

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When the Texas Medical Association urged members to ask their state senators to vote “no” on a key bill regarding treatment disputes at the end of life, they didn’t hold back.

“I believe the whole thing is motivated by a lack of faith in physicians and a desire to impose one group's political will on everyone else without their say so,” Mary Elizabeth Paulk, MD, wrote in an email to Sen. Nathan Johnson (D-Dallas). “This is just wrong.”

Dr. Paulk wasn’t alone. Hundreds of Texas physicians took up the call, using TMA’s Grassroots Action enter to share very personal and passionate messages with their senators.

The outpouring came in response to a TMA action alert against Senate Bill 2089. That bill would require hospitals, physicians, nurses, and other health care professionals to provide medically inappropriate and potentially harmful care for an unlimited period of time.

“Deciding how to spend the final days and hours of life is a highly personal decision, and it’s one we encourage our patients to make long before the need arises,” TMA President Doug Curran, MD, wrote in the alert. “Requiring care in perpetuity would prolong the dying process, exacerbate suffering for both patients and loved ones, and violate the standard of care to do no harm.”

When writing their lawmakers, some physicians shared personal stories of their experiences; excerpts of some of those emails are below:

“SB 2089 takes decisionmaking about dying patients out of the hands of ethicists and physicians who have spent their lives dedicated to training and study so that we understand how best to provide care in exactly these kinds of situations. … When I think of the amount of suffering this bill is going to cause for patients, families, hospitals, and our health system as a whole, I am overwhelmed with sadness.”

- Faith Holmes, MD, to Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) 

“In all honesty there isn't going to be another physician who will accept the transfer. So the patient will be on life support indefinitely without the physician in the current hospital being able to withdraw care. In effect, the first physician could not withdraw care, but a second physician will not likely accept, and therefore, the first physician will be legally obligated to continue care for the patient on life support indefinitely.”

- Amber van den Raadt, DO, to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick  

“During my intern year, I had a patient with metastatic breast cancer who was only in her 50s. Unfortunately, her cancer was so aggressive that she had now begun to develop fluid buildup (ascites) due to liver failure and later developed renal failure. Because of this, she also had a tremendous amount of acid build-up in her body. She had a husband and two children, and we went above and beyond extraordinary measures trying to save her life as they continued to want aggressive care. Throughout the final stages of our aggressive treatment, I felt sick to my stomach, because it was obvious our interventions were doing more harm than good, and the patient was clearly suffering.”

- Nitya Kumar, MD, to Sen. Borris Miles (D-Houston)

“End-of-life issues are not something that can be legislated in the fashion proposed in SB 2089. These things have to be individualized by patients, families, and their physicians. … It is foolhardy for legislators to presume to know what is correct on an individual basis from a global perspective. Perhaps God can do that but not the Texas Senate. Please keep the state rational and vote against this bill and any others like it that see the light of day.”

- Vik Wall, MD, to Sen. Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo)

TMA is vehemently opposed to SB 2089 by Sen. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola), which is currently poised for debate on the Senate floor. TMA continues to encourage you to help stop it from making any further progress.

Please contact your state senator today and ask him or her to oppose SB 2089.

Legislative Hotline: Working to Keep Balance Billing Reform Moving

(TAKE ACTION NOW, End-of-Life Care, Health Insurance, Public Health) Permanent link

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UNDER THE ROTUNDA
Most of yesterday’s high profile action took place on the House and Senate floors, but one of the most important bills for the Texas Medical Association is still being negotiated behind the scenes.

Senate Bill 1264 by Sen. Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills), which would require baseball-style arbitration for most surprise medical bills, is currently awaiting a hearing in the House Insurance Committee. SB 1264 seeks to end the problem of surprise or balance billing for patients by removing them from the process altogether. It would implement an arbitration process in which health plans and physicians work out billing differences using market rate benchmarks.

TMA strongly supports the arbitration process because it uses benchmarks based on market rates. However, TMA continues to work with the bill authors – Senators Hancock and John Whitmire (D-Houston); and Reps. Tom Oliverson, MD (R-Cypress), and Trey Martinez Fischer (D-San Antonio) – to get the best arbitration process that is fair to patients and physicians. Recommendations have been submitted to the authors to address medicine's concerns with potential barriers to utilization of the arbitration process, such as a quick time frame to resolve an arbitration, ensuring physicians have the information necessary to collect allowed amounts from the patient, and ensuring enforcement on all parties. TMA has full faith in the authors that once these clarifications are made, a bill everyone supports will pass this session.

ALERT ON END-OF-LIFE BILL

Senate Bill 2089 by Sen. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola) would require hospitals, physicians, nurses, and other health care professionals to provide what physicians believe amounts to medically inappropriate and potentially harmful care for an unlimited period of time. The Senate Health and Human Services Committee approved SB 2089 yesterday.

TMA is vehemently opposed to this bill and issued a legislative alert earlier today to stop the bill from making any further progress. Please contact Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick today and ask him to not bring SB 2089 up for debate on the Senate floor.

BILLS MOVING

TMA is monitoring 1,952 of the 7,771 bills filed this session. Bills must be voted out of committee before they can be heard on the floor and voted on by the full body. Then the process repeats in the other chamber. House bills must be out of House committee by Monday, May 6 – the day before our last First Tuesdays of this session – to be considered this session.

Bills that haven’t yet moved out of committee may be proposed as amendments to legislation that is moving.

A long debate on property taxes consumed the vast majority of the time on the House floor yesterday, so not many of the bills medicine is tracking made any progress. Below is an update on a few TMA-tracked bills:

  • House Bill 2387 by Rep. Greg Bonnen, MD (R-Friendswood), which would require that utilization reviews be conducted by a Texas-licensed physician and that prior authorization processes be more transparent, passed the House 141-0 yesterday and heads to the Senate for deliberation. TMA testified in support of HB 2387 in late March and continues to strongly support this bill.
  • House Bill 39 by Rep. John Zerwas, MD (R-Richmond), which would allow the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) to continue its cancer research beyond 2022, was set for a hearing in the Senate Administration Committee today. As of press time, the bill had not yet come up. TMA strongly supports this bill.
  • House Bill 1065 by Rep. Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin), which would create a grant program to develop residency training tracks to prepare physicians for practice in rural, underserved settings, is set for a hearing today in the Senate Higher Education Committee. TMA testified in support of HB 1065 in early March.

TMA is watching each bill, committee substitute, and amendment for any changes. It is not uncommon for revised legislation to prompt a revised position from TMA, particularly when bad bills become better bills through rewriting or amendments. If you have a question about a specific bill, contact the advocacy team via the TMA Knowledge Center by email or call (800) 880-7955, Monday-Friday, 8:15 am to 5:15 pm CT. 

ARE YOU A LEGISLATIVE JUNKIE?

If talk of bills and committees and backroom deals initiate tachycardia, you might want to join TMA Leading Advocates. It’s TMA’s exclusive Facebook group for legislative advocacy. Enjoy special features, news in advance, and a community of TMA members who are excited to talk about the Texas legislature and medicine's advocacy priorities. This closed group is open only to TMA and TMA Alliance members, and TMA and county medical society staff. Join today.

TAKE ACTION

TMA’s 2019 legislative agenda includes priorities to help advance patient care in Texas.

At the top of the list are the state budget, insurance reform, scope of practice, maternal health, the Texas Medical Board and Medical Practice Act, and public health.

TMA member physicians and medical students, and TMA Alliance members play a significant role in advancing medicine’s priorities at the Capitol. Here are some ways you can help:

Make sure you receive TMA’s Legislative News Hotline each day, via Texas Medicine Today. Here’s how: Just log in to the Edit My Interests page on your TMA profile. Ensure you get all the legislative updates by selecting "Health care issues in the Texas Legislature" as one of your Grassroots and Advocacy interests. TMA’s updates on the latest bills affecting medicine will arrive in your inbox as part of Texas Medicine Today at 2 pm each day lawmakers convene at the Capitol throughout Texas’ 86th legislative session. 

PHYSICIAN OF THE DAY

Today’s physician of the day is David Palafox, MD, of El Paso. Dr. Palafox graduated from the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Medicine and is a member of both TMA and the El Paso County Medical Society.

WHAT WE’RE READING

Despite Insurer Pushback, Bill to Protect Poor and Disabled Texans Clears Committee – D CEO Healthcare

Measles Cases Surpass 700 as Outbreak Continues Unabated – The New York Times

Study: Kids’ Suicides Spiked After Netflix’s ‘13 Reasons’ – The Associated Press

Huge step in HIV fight is happening in San Antonio – KENS-TV

Why does the country’s largest tobacco company support raising the smoking age? – KXAN-TV

Time for Texas to ban powdered alcohol [Opinion] – San Antonio Express-News

Searching for a bipartisan solution to runaway prescription drug price hikes [Opinion] – Corpus Christi Caller-Times

Getting Right to Work: Canvassing Votes and Setting Rules — Hotline Jan. 10

(TAKE ACTION NOW, Public Health) Permanent link

abortion_blog

UNDER THE ROTUNDA

The House and Senate convened a joint session today to canvass the votes from the November general election for governor and lieutenant governor. All members are now officially elected to office, save for the three vacant House seats that will be filled in by special elections over the next 35 days.

The operating rules both chambers adopted yesterday established standing committees and the number of members per committee. Committee member assignments are still in the works.

While no significant, substantive rule changes occurred, the House debated several issues that could resurface as legislation later this session, such as expanding the opportunities for constituents to participate in the deliberative process, and streamlining discussions on parliamentary points of order to keep bills moving through the process. Many bills die each year because time simply runs out in the 140-day session.

Both chambers adjourned until Tuesday, when the governor and lieutenant governor will be inaugurated during a day of festivities.

New legislative sessions mean office relocations for many senators and representatives; find your lawmakers’ offices on this list.

TAKE ACTION

The Texas Medical Association's 2019 legislative agenda includes priorities to help advance patient care in Texas. 

Top on the list are the state budget, insurance reform, scope of practice, maternal health, the Texas Medical Board and Medical Practice Act, and public health. 

For more details, see “On Call at the Capitol” in the January issue of Texas Medicine

TMA member physicians and medical students, and TMA Alliance members play a significant role in advancing medicine’s priorities at the Capitol. Here are some ways you can help:  

 

  • Register for First Tuesdays at the Capitol;
  • Testify before a House or Senate committee;
  • Learn more about TEXPAC, TMA’s bipartisan political action committee;
  • When called to do so, respond to Action Alerts on specific bills; and/or
  • Make sure you receive TMA’s Legislative News Hotline each day, via Texas Medicine Today. Here’s how: Just log in to the Edit My Interests page on your TMA profile. Ensure you get all the legislative updates by selecting "Health care issues in the Texas Legislature" as one of your Grassroots and Advocacy interests. TMA’s updates on the latest bills affecting medicine will arrive in your inbox as part of Texas Medicine Today at 2 pm each day lawmakers convene at the Capitol throughout Texas’ 86th legislative session. 

 

PHYSICIAN OF THE DAY 

Physician of the Day is a service the Texas Academy of Family Physicians (TAFP) provides the Texas Legislature. Each day the legislators are in session, the group names a physician to serve in the Capitol. This tradition started in 1971 and has continued every legislative session since, including special sessions. This program is organized by TAFP with support from TMA and the Texas Department of State Health Services. The Physician of the Day is introduced in both the Senate and the House of Representatives each day, and his or her name becomes a permanent part of the official legislative record.

Today’s physician of the day is T. David Greer, MD, of Henrietta. Dr. Greer graduated from The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston and is a member of TMA and the Wichita County Medical Society.

WHAT WE’RE READING 

Former Texas HHSC executive commissioner named acting director for Center for Medicaid and CHIP ServicesThe Texas Tribune

US Cancer Death Rate Hits Milestone: 25 Years of DeclineThe Associated Press

Texas hospitals adapt existing technology to tackle opioid crisisHouston Chronicle

Texas governor weighs in on push to remove Muslim from Tarrant GOP post Fort Worth Star-Telegram


Jan. 9, 2019: Rep. Dennis Bonnen Elected Texas House Speaker

(TAKE ACTION NOW, Public Health) Permanent link

vote story
And they’re off.

With much opening-day fanfare, the 86th Texas Legislature convened at noon yesterday and quickly got to work.

After heartfelt, bipartisan nominating speeches, the Texas House unanimously elected Rep. Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton) as speaker. With his typical humor and candor, Speaker Bonnen eagerly accepted the honor and the challenge. In his remarks, he stressed the importance of fostering collaboration and working together to find solutions to the problems that face the state, and leaving the “House and our state better than we found it.”

Led by Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) in the absence of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the Texas Senate selected Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Austin) as its president pro tempore. The position puts him third in line as acting governor if both Gov. Greg Abbott and Lieutenant Governor Patrick are out of the state.

Today, members of both chambers established the rules to guide them through the session. While we don’t expect many substantive changes, we do eagerly await the naming of House and Senate committee members. Senate committees are expected to be determined within the next week. Sen. Charles Schwertner, MD (R-Georgetown) no longer wants to chair the Health and Human Services Committee, so a new face will lead that committee. The House will take longer to sort out as the new speaker considers the preferences of his 149 colleagues, but we expect committees to be named within a couple of weeks.

New legislative sessions mean office relocations for many senators and representatives; find your lawmakers’ offices on this list.

TAKE ACTION

The Texas Medical Association's 2019 legislative agenda includes priorities to help advance patient care in Texas. 

Top on the list are the state budget, insurance reform, scope of practice, maternal health, the Texas Medical Board and Medical Practice Act, and public health. 

For more details, see “On Call at the Capitol” in the January issue of Texas Medicine

TMA member physicians and medical students, and TMA Alliance members play a significant role in advancing medicine’s priorities at the Capitol. Here are some ways you can help: 

  • Register for First Tuesdays at the Capitol;
  • Testify before a House or Senate committee;
  • Learn more about TEXPAC, TMA’s bipartisan political action committee;
  • When called to do so, respond to Action Alerts on specific bills; and/or
  • Make sure you receive TMA’s Legislative News Hotline each day, via Texas Medicine Today. Here’s how: Just log in to the Edit My Interests page on your TMA profile. Ensure you get all the legislative updates by selecting "Health care issues in the Texas Legislature" as one of your Grassroots and Advocacy interests, and TMA’s updates on the latest bills affecting medicine will arrive in your inbox as part of Texas Medicine Today at 2 pm each day lawmakers convene at the Capitol throughout Texas’ 86th legislative session.

PHYSICIAN OF THE DAY 

Physician of the Day is a service the Texas Academy of Family Physicians (TAFP) provides the Texas legislature. Each day the legislators are in session, the group names a physician to serve in the Capitol. This tradition started in 1971 and has continued every legislative session since, including special sessions. This program is organized by TAFP with support from TMA and the Texas Department of State Health Services. The Physician of the Day is introduced in both the Senate and the House of Representatives each day, and his or her name becomes a permanent part of the official legislative record.

Today’s physician of the day at the Capitol is Manojkumar Dobariya, MD, of Coppell. Dr. Dobariya graduated from BJ Medical College Gujarat University in India and is a member of TMA and the Dallas County Medical Society.

WHAT WE’RE READING

Texas Legislature to convene with a list of big issues to tackle San Marcos Daily Record 

Two Years Ago, The Texas Legislature Started With a Bang. This Year, It’s QuieterThe Texas Tribune

Texas House leader-to-be Dennis Bonnen is aggressive, colorful – and has a lot of different people to pleaseThe Dallas Morning News

How to stop teen vaping? Make e-cigarettes harder to getNBC News

A Virus Even More Dangerous Than Zika to Pregnant WomenThe New York Times