Take Three: COVID Relief Funds, Local Vaccine Mandates on Third Special Session Agenda
By Joey Berlin

As anticipated, the Texas Legislature will return for a third 2021 special session – and fourth session overall this year – with federal COVID-19 relief funds on the agenda and the House of Medicine hoping to influence how lawmakers will allocate those funds.

Gov. Greg Abbott announced Tuesday that he was calling back the legislature for a third “extraordinary” session that will begin Sept. 20. Special, or “called,” sessions can last up to 30 days.

Redistricting, as expected, is at the top of the governor’s proclamation, followed by meting out relief funds from the American Rescue Plan Act. Nearly $16 billion is expected to be up for distribution, and Texas Medical Association staff said recently they were working to identify how some of the funds can be applied to medicine’s top policy goals. Because the funds aren’t recurring, the focus will be on one-time expenditures.

Potential TMA targets for the funding may include training primary care physicians in managing long COVID; an outreach campaign to encourage low-income parents to enroll their uninsured children in Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program; and improvements to physician payments in Medicaid, which have sat relatively stagnant for decades.

Medicine also will take strong interest in an agenda item in which Governor Abbott asks lawmakers to consider legislation on “whether any state or local governmental entities in Texas can mandate that an individual receive a COVID-19 vaccine and, if so, what exemptions should apply to such mandate.” President Joe Biden's recent, wide-ranging plan to increase vaccinations will likely trigger a legislative response during the new special session.

Last Updated On

September 19, 2021

Originally Published On

September 08, 2021

Joey Berlin

Associate Editor

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Joey Berlin is associate editor of Texas Medicine. His previous work includes stints as a reporter and editor for various newspapers and publishing companies, and he’s covered everything from hard news to sports to workers’ compensation. Joey grew up in the Kansas City area and attended the University of Kansas. He lives in Austin.

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