Senate and House Committees Named
By Jennifer Perkins

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  UNDER THE ROTUNDA

In brief floor sessions yesterday, the House and Senate recognized visitors to the Texas capitol and adjourned.  

House Speaker Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton) has moved quickly, announcing committee assignments today. Typically they are announced much later in January.

Of the committees TMA works with most closely, several significant changes are noted, not but Appropriations, which will continue to be led by Rep. John Zerwas, MD (R-Richmond).

Public Health is now chaired by Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston), Insurance is now chaired by Rep. Eddie Lucio III (D-Brownsville), Human Services is now chaired by Rep. James Frank (R-Wichita Falls), and State Affairs is now chaired by Rep. Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont).

Here are the committees to which Speaker Bonnen appointed the four physician representatives, and other friends of the house of medicine:

  • Rep. Greg Bonnen, MD (R-Galveston): Appropriations, Insurance.
  • Rep. Sarah Davis (R-West University Place): Appropriations, Insurance.
  • Rep. Julie Johnson (D-Dallas): Insurance, Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence.
  • Rep. Tom Oliverson, MD (R-Cypress): Calendars, Insurance (Vice Chair), and Natural Resources.
  • Rep. J.D. Sheffield, DO (R-Gatesville): Appropriations, Public Health.

We expect bill referrals to committees to begin right away.

Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick released Senate committee appointments late last week. Of particular note to Texas physicians are the Health and Human Services Committee, now chaired by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham); the Business and Commerce Committee, still chaired by Sen. Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills); and the Finance Committee, to be led again by Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound).

Here are the committees to which Lieutenant Governor Patrick appointed the three physician senators:

  • Sen. Dawn Buckingham, MD (R-Lakeway): Nominations (Chair), Criminal Justice, Health and Human Services, and Higher Education.
  • Sen. Donna Campbell, MD (R-New Braunfels): Veterans Affairs and Border Security (Chair), Business and Commerce, Education, Finance, Health and Human Services, and Intergovernmental Relations.
  • Sen. Charles Schwertner, MD (R-Georgetown): Agriculture, Business and Commerce, Intergovernmental Relations (Vice Chair), Transportation, and Veterans Affairs and Border Security.

Two weeks into session, bills continue to be filed in advance of the March 8 filing deadline, albeit more slowly than last session. The current count is more than 1,400 bills filed. The Texas Medical Association is monitoring more than 300 of them. Attend TMA’s 2019 Winter Conference to learn more about our legislative agenda for this session and how you can quickly and easily participate in our advocacy efforts. 

 GME FUNDING HOLDS STEADY

Proposed 2020-21 funding levels for graduate medical education (GME) reflect strong support among state legislators and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, with enough funding at just over $157 million to cover the GME Grant Expansion Program for the next biennium.  

This would allow Texas to sustain the recent GME growth but will not allow for the creation of new residency positions. In total, funding for GME for the 2020-21 biennium is $267 million, an increase of almost 33 percent from 2018-2019. TMA’s goal is to ensure enough funding for 1.1 residency slots for each Texas medical school graduate. 

Funding for other programs related to the physician workforce pipeline, such as Primary Care Preceptorships, the Family Medicine Residency Program, and Physician Education Loan Repayment, is not at the increased level we hoped for, which would have restored cuts from previous sessions, but at least no new cuts have been proposed. 

All of these numbers come from the draft 2020-21 budget bills that were introduced in the House and Senate last week. The documents will go through numerous changes over the coming months, and TMA will lobby to at least maintain the GME appropriation and to reverse previous years’ cuts in the other programs. 

SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK REDUX

While the legislature continues organizing and naming committees, and before we ask you to participate in TMA’s grassroots advocacy efforts, here’s a quick refresher on how a bill becomes a law in Texas.

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.

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 Grassroots Action Center 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 Ronnie McMurry, MD, of Jasper. Dr. McMurry graduated from the Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara and is a member of TMA and the Jasper-Newton County Medical Society.

WHAT WE’RE READING 

County By County, Researchers Link Opioid Deaths To Drugmakers’ Marketing – Kaiser Health News

Rural Hospitals in Greater Jeopardy in Non-Medicaid Expansion States – Stateline

Editorial: Listen to Texans and expand Medicaid coverage [Opinion – Editorial] – Austin American-Statesman

Planned Parenthood calls ruling against group ‘extremely hostile’ as judge weighs how to proceed – The Dallas Morning News

Texas among states with highest rates of unvaccinated kids – KTRK-TV

FDA threatens to pull e-cigarettes off the market – The Hill

A Rising Threat to Pregnant Women: Syphilis – The New York Times

Last Updated On

January 23, 2019

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Jennifer Perkins

Advocacy Communication Manager

(512) 370-1469
Jennifer Perkins

Jennifer Perkins, a native Texan and University of Texas Longhorn, has worked in politics, public affairs, and advocacy for more than two decades, covering a litany of subject areas and a number of states, using a marketing-oriented communications style as informed by her MBA. Jennifer has two dogs, is a college football fanatic, loves to entertain, and prefers to be outdoors..

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