UNDER THE ROTUNDA
Week three of the Texas Legislature’s first called special session has started, and while separate Texas Medical Board (TMB) sunset bills have passed their respective House and Senate chambers, neither has taken any action on the others’ bills.
Either House Bill 1 or Senate Bill 20 must pass the other chamber. Without legislative action, the TMB and the Medical Practice Act both will expire Sept. 1. The primary focus of state lawmakers has now shifted to the 20 additional items Gov. Greg Abbott added to the special session agenda.
The Senate’s TMB sunset bills — SB 20 and Senate Bill 60 by Sen. Van Taylor (R-Plano) — have both been received by the House and await committee referral. SB 60 is needed to finance the agency for the 2018-19 budget period. SB 20 extends the life of TMB and the Medical Practice Act through Sept. 1, 2019.
The House’s TMB sunset bills — HB 1 and House Bill 2 by Rep. Larry Gonzales (R-Round Rock) — won final approval in the House last week with no opposition. HB 2 is the funding bill. They have been received by the Senate and await referral to committee.
Governor Abbott opened the agenda for the special session to 20 additional items. Those of interest to medicine are taking center stage as debate rolls on:
- Legislation enhancing patient protections contained in the procedures and requirements for do-not-resuscitate (DNR) orders;
- Legislation continuing the operation and expanding the duties of the Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Task Force to ensure action is taken to reduce the maternal mortality rate in Texas;
- Legislation prohibiting financial transactions between a governmental entity and an abortion provider or affiliate of the abortion provider;
- Legislation restricting health plan and health benefit plan coverage for abortions; and
- Legislation strengthening the laws applicable to the reporting of abortions and abortion complications to the state.
Sen. Charles Perry (R-Lubbock), author of Senate Bill 11 regarding DNR orders, refused amendments to clarify that complying with the legislation would result in protections similar to what exists in all the other advance directives provisions. SB 11 passed out of the Senate and has been received by the House where it awaits committee referral. House Bill 12 by Rep. Greg Bonnen, MD (R-Friendswood), the companion bill to SB 11, will be heard in the House State Affairs Committee tomorrow and negotiations continue.
The Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Task Force will study trends and conditions associated with pregnancy-related deaths, and the expiration date will be extended by four years. Senate Bill 17 by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham) passed the Senate with no opposition and has been received by the House where it, too, awaits committee referral. Its companion bill, House Bill 9 by Rep. Cindy Burkett (R-Sunnyvale), and a number of other bills on the issue were reported favorably from the House Public Health Committee last week and will be heard on the House floor today.
Even though raises were stricken from the bill, financing bonuses for schoolteachers as proposed in Senate Bill 19 remain somewhat controversial because the funding is expected to come from a temporary diversion of funds designated for Medicaid managed care organizations. Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), chair of the Senate Finance Committee, has promised the “loan” will be repaid. SB 19 has been received by the House where it awaits committee referral.
TMA submitted testimony on House Bill 215 by Rep. Jim Murphy (R-Houston) regarding additional reporting requirements for abortions. While neutral on the bill, TMA sought to reinforce that in an emergency situation, the physician’s focus must be on saving the patient. HB 215 was reported favorably from the House State Affairs Committee last week and awaits scheduling to be heard on the House floor.
The rate of bill filing has slowed but remains high, with more than 515 introduced thus far in a condensed session and two weeks to go. TMA is tracking 125 of them, or nearly 25 percent of the bills filed to date — many of which are reprised from the regular session. Stay tuned for daily updates.
PHYSICIAN OF THE DAY
The physician of the day at the Capitol is David Palafox, MD, of El Paso. Dr. Palafox graduated from Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. He is a member of TMA and the El Paso County Medical Society.
WHAT WE'RE READING
Obamacare saved: The vote on health care made for good TV, but now Congress must return to normalcy — Houston Chronicle
How to Repair the Health Law (It’s Tricky but Not Impossible) — The New York Times
Doctors frustrated that electronic records steal time from patients — Reuters
FDA aims to lower nicotine in cigarettes to get smokers to quit — The Washington Post
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