UNDER THE ROTUNDA
Let the fun begin.
The 86th Texas Legislature convened at noon today. By the time you read this, House members likely will have selected veteran Rep. Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton) to serve as House speaker. Representative Bonnen replaces Joe Straus (R-San Antonio), who had been speaker since 2009 and who retired last year.
Once again, the Texas House of Representatives has a large freshman class. Twenty-nine of the 150 House members are first-time members. One of note is Rep. Julie Johnson (D-Addison), whose wife is a physician and Texas Medical Association member. Returning TMA physician members Rep. Tom Oliverson, MD (R-Cypress), Rep. John Zerwas, MD (R-Richmond), Rep. Greg Bonnen, MD (R-Friendswood) the new speaker’s brother — and Rep. J.D. Sheffield, DO (R-Gatesville), will lead on health care in the House.
Republicans had a net loss of 12 seats, resulting in a partisan split in the House of 83 Republicans and 64 Democrats. Three Democrat-held seats are currently open and will be filled by special election this month.
Likewise, the Senate added several freshman members this session, two of whom previously served in the Texas House.
New senators include Sen. Carol Alvarado (D-Houston), who moves over from the House; and Sens. Angela Paxton (R-McKinney), Beverly Powell (D-Fort Worth), Nathan Johnson (D-Dallas), Pat Fallon (R-Frisco), who also moves over from the House; and Pete Flores (R-San Antonio).
TMA member physicians Sens. Dawn Buckingham, MD (R-Lakeway), Charles Schwertner, MD (R-Georgetown), and Donna Campbell, MD (R-New Braunfels) will lead on health care issues in the Senate. Republicans continue to hold a 19-12 majority in the Senate.
All legislators are settled into their offices in the Capitol or Capitol Extension. Find your lawmakers’ offices on this list.
Lawmakers have been busy filing bills since the Monday after the election. So far, senators and representatives have filed close to 1,000 bills, fewer than at this point last session, and a fraction of the anticipated 7,500-plus bills to be filed before the bill filing deadline of March 8.
The house of medicine is already tracking 224 of them, so the weeks ahead will be busy, and we will ask you to participate by contacting your legislators in support of or opposition to bills. Stay tuned.
No bill will be more important to pass than the state’s budget, which is the only “must-do” task on lawmakers’ list.
Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar released his official biennial revenue estimate yesterday, reporting that legislators will have $119.1 billion in state general revenue funds to work with in crafting the next two-year budget. That’s an 8.1-percent increase from his estimate ahead of last session. Even with projected revenues higher than last session, expect much discussion about where to trim and where to enhance the budget.
TMA’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 to the Texas legislature. Each day lawmakers 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 Rebecca Hart, MD, of League City. Dr. Hart graduated from UT Southwestern Medical School and is a member of the Galveston County Medical Society.