UNDER THE ROTUNDA
Week two of the Texas Legislature’s first called special session is complete, and separate Texas Medical Board (TMB) sunset bills have passed their respective House and Senate chambers. Either House Bill 1 or Senate Bill 20 now needs to pass the other chamber. Without legislative action, the Texas Medical Board and the Medical Practice Act both will expire Sept. 1. The primary focus of state lawmakers has 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 bill — HB 1 by Rep. Larry Gonzales (R-Round Rock) — won final approval on the House floor Tuesday with no opposition. Reps. Cindy Burkett (R-Sunnyvale), Richard Peña Raymond (D-Laredo), Dan Flynn (R-Van), and Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) — all fellow members of the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission — signed on as joint authors. An additional 13 members signed on as coauthors this week. HB 1 has been received by the Senate where it awaits referral to committee.
The House version of the TMB funding bill — House Bill 2, also carried by Representative Gonzales — won final approval on the House floor Friday with no opposition and will be sent to the Senate for consideration.
As Governor Abbott promised, he opened the agenda for the special session to 20 additional items after the Senate passed the sunset bills late last week. The items of interest to medicine are:
- 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 strengthening the laws applicable to the reporting of abortions and abortion complications to the state;
- Legislation prohibiting financial transactions between a governmental entity and an abortion provider or affiliate of the abortion provider; and
- Legislation restricting health plan and health benefit plan coverage for abortions.
Despite comments from Sen. Charles Perry (R-Lubbock) late last week praising TMA’s thoughtful contributions to Senate Bill 11 regarding DNR orders, no amendments were accepted to clarify that complying with the legislation would result in protections similar to what exists in all the other advance directives provisions, as TMA pointed out in a letter Monday to Senator Perry. SB 11 passed out of the Senate earlier this week and has been received by the House where it awaits committee referral. Negotiations on the companion, House Bill 12 by Rep. Greg Bonnen, MD (R-Friendswood), continue. HB 12 awaits a hearing date in the House State Affairs Committee.
Debate around the Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Task Force has been uncontroversial so far, and the expectation is the task force’s expiration date will be extended. Senate Bill 17 by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham) passed on third reading earlier this week and has been received by the House where it, too, awaits committee referral. Its companion bill, House Bill 9 by Representative Burkett, and a number of other bills on the issue were reported favorably from the House Public Health Committee yesterday and will be scheduled for a vote by the House.
Financing bonuses for schoolteachers as proposed in Senate Bill 19 has become somewhat contentious because the Senate version of the funding is expected to come from a temporary diversion of funds designated for Medicaid managed care organizations. TMA sent a letter to Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), chair of the Senate Finance Committee, expressing concerns about that diversion. Senator Nelson has promised the “loan” will be repaid. SB 19 passed on third reading and 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 Thursday and awaits scheduling to be heard on the House floor.
The rate of bill filing has slowed but remains high, with more than 500 introduced thus far in a condensed session and two weeks to go. TMA is tracking 121 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.
WHAT WE'RE READING THIS WEEK
VIDEO: TMA President: ‘These are unsettling times in healthcare’ — Rio Grande Guardian
Senate races through agenda to get to other-than-Sunset bills ― Austin American-Statesman
House Committee Tackles Therapy Cuts Not Included In Special Session Agenda ― KERA
Texas Senate approves bill to nix local cell phone laws ― Houston Chronicle
Texas maternal mortality bills marked by key difference ― Austin American-Statesman
Senate gives early OK to bill regulating do-not-resuscitate orders — The Texas Tribune
McCain Votes No, Derails ‘Skinny Repeal’ In Marathon Session ― Kaiser Health News
Doctors’ Group Tells Senate to Fix, Not Repeal ‘Obamacare’ ― Associated Press
TMA Letters and Testimonies
TMA's Texas Legislature main page