Legislative Hotline: Another Positive Step For Tobacco Restriction
By Jennifer Perkins

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UNDER THE ROTUNDA
Typically, when bills are heard in committee for the first time, bill authors will answer questions from fellow legislators, witnesses will testify, and the bill will be left pending.

Bills receiving their first reading in committee are scheduled and posted in advance of the hearing. Bills must be read a second time in committee before they can be voted on, and the second hearing is typically not posted in advance. Instead, those bills are heard as pending business at the discretion of the committee chair.

It’s been a busy week for bills that have been left pending in committee over the past several weeks. Below is an update on the status change of bills important to the house of medicine.

Senate Bill 21 by Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston), which would raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco and vape products to 21 years, excluding active duty military, was voted out of the House Committee on Public Health yesterday. It will be heard next on the House floor.

House Bill 1353 by Rep. Tom Oliverson, MD (R-Cypress), which would provide liability protection for physicians who volunteer in the aftermath of disasters, was voted out of the House Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee late Tuesday and awaits a hearing on the House floor. TMA testified in support of HB 1353 last month.

Senate Bill 1264 by Sen. Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills), which would require baseball-style arbitration for most surprise medical bills, was referred to the House Insurance Committee. It may seem late in the session for a bill to just now arrive in committee, but SB 1264 is a priority bill for its House joint authors, Representative Oliverson and Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer (D-San Antonio), and likely will be heard soon. TMA supports the revised bill.

Senate Bill 1742 by Sen. Jose Menendez (D-San Antonio), which would require health plan directories to clearly identify which physician specialities are in-network at network facilities, was placed on the Senate Local and Uncontested Calendar for Friday, meaning it has little opposition. Its companion bill, House Bill 2630 by Rep. Julie Johnson (D-Carrollton), received preliminary House approval yesterday. It is not uncommon for both bills to continue through the legislative process.

Senate Bill 2316 by Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa (D-McAllen) would delay the mandate to check the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PMP) until March 1, 2020, to allow time for electronic integration of the PMP into physicians’ electronic health records. The bill also would create an advisory committee to the Board of Pharmacy. TMA supports this bill, which was also recommended for the Senate Local and Uncontested Calendar.

BILLS MOVING

TMA is monitoring 1,945 of the 7,751 bills filed this session. Bills must be voted out of committee before they can be heard on the floor and voted on by the full body. Then the process repeats in the other chamber. Bills in the House must be out of committee by May 6 – the day before our last First Tuesdays of this session – to be considered by the Senate this session. 

As debate shifts from committees to chamber floors, the debate calendars will lengthen as hundreds of bills will be set for consideration each day. Committee meetings will bookend floor sessions and will start to run late into the night. Bills that haven’t yet moved out of committee may be proposed as amendments to legislation that is moving. 

TMA is watching each bill, committee substitute, and amendment for any changes. It is not uncommon for revised legislation to prompt a revised position from TMA, particularly when bad bills become better bills through rewriting or amending them. If you have a question about a specific bill, contact the advocacy team in the TMA Knowledge Center by email or call (800) 880-7955, Monday-Friday, 8:15 am to 5:15 pm CT. 

Below are a few TMA-supported bills which continued to move through the legislative process yesterday on the House floor: 

  • House Bill 2327 by Rep. Greg Bonnen, MD (R-Friendswood), which would require both greater prior authorization transparency and that utilization reviews be conducted by a licensed Texas physician, yesterday passed the House 144-3. The bill now moves to the Senate. TMA testified on this bill last month.
  • House Bill 2174 by Rep. John Zerwas, MD (R-Richmond) – which would help physicians address the opioid crisis by limiting the duration of opioid prescriptions, require electronic prescribing after Jan. 1, 2021, and require opioid-related CME – was amended by Rep. J.D. Sheffield, DO (R-Gatesville) yesterday to specify that prior authorization is prohibited for medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder. HB 2174 received preliminary approval and must be heard one more time on the House floor before it moves to the Senate.  

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.

At the top of the list are the state budget, insurance reform, scope of practice, maternal health, the Texas Medical Board and Medical Practice Act, and public health.

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:

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

Today’s physician of the day is Richard Young, MD, of Fort Worth. Dr. Young graduated from the UT Health San Antonio Long School of Medicine and is a member of both TMA and the Tarrant County Medical Society.

WHAT WE’RE READING

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas: ER docs at 14 DFW hospitals now out of network – WFAA

Feds issue new warning to doctors: Don’t skimp too much on opioid pain pills – USA Today

CMS invites states to test new dual-eligible care models – Modern Healthcare

US measles cases hit highest mark in 25 years – The Associated Press

World health officials take a hard line on screen time for kids. Will busy parents comply? – The Washington Post

Americans are more focused on health costs than Medicare-for-all, poll shows – The Washington Post

Last Updated On

April 25, 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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