Tick, Tock…The Session Clock is Ticking

In this post, learn about the budget, looming legislative deadlines and the status of behavioral health legislation.

A Little on the Budget

The conference committee on CSSB 1 has been meeting for a couple of weeks and initially hoped to have decisions finalized by the end of this week. However, they are still working in earnest, with the expectation that the decisions will be finalized by next week.

In related news, Governor Perry has threatened to not “sign the budget until he signs significant tax relief”. Last month, the Governor called for $1.6 billion in business tax relief. While CSSB 1 currently does not include tax relief, legislation is making its way through the House that would provide businesses with tax breaks under the much-maligned franchise tax. If that legislation doesn’t make it through the Senate, the Governor may make good on his promise and keep legislators in Austin until they deliver on one of his top priorities.

Session Deadlines Are Looming

Well, on this 121st day of the 140-day legislative session, the smoke has started to clear, and we can now see where all of the dead bills lie–and there are LOTS of them.  The deadline for house bills to be voted out of the House on second reading is tomorrow, meaning that bills that still are in the Calendars Committee are, for all sense and purposes, dead.

Possibly the most noteworthy among dead bills is HB 3791, Rep. Zerwas’ “Texas Solution” healthcare coverage expansion bill. While the bill was voted out of the House Appropriations Committee 15-9, the Calendars Committee failed to set it for a vote before the full House. This obviously represents a major missed opportunity to expand health coverage options for the uninsured, but there still remains a remote possibility that the budget conference committee will include language in the budget setting forth the parameters for Medicaid expansion negotiations.  Although the House passed a non-binding resolution instructing the House budget conferees not to vote to expand Medicaid, it is worth noting that all five of the House conferees voted in favor of HB 3791.  So while the prospects for expansion still look bleak, it aint over til it’s over.

Behavioral Health Legislation

The MHA bill tracker has been updated to reflect bills that currently are dead–over half of them! The dead bills are denoted with a blacked-out box next to the bill number.  However, remember that just because a specific bill is dead, it does not mean the issue is dead.  Several of the dead bills have Senate companions that are still moving along in the process, and others may be tacked on as amendments to other legislation.  Note that the House must hear all senate bills on second reading by May 21st (for the daily or supplemental calendar) or May 22nd (local calendar).

On the other hand, just because a bill on the tracker is not dead today doesn’t mean it won’t be dead as early as tomorrow.  The current House calendar is about 2 days behind, meaning that the House is just starting to debate some bills today that were originally set to be considered on Monday.  Because of this backlog, a house bill that has been set for the daily House calendar tomorrow (the deadline) may not even come up for a vote.  A sad, but true commentary on a process designed to kill bills!

However, there is some good news.  Several good behavioral health bills (and a couple so-so bills) are moving along and still alive…for now.  They include:

Passed Out of Committee

HB 2401 (Set for House calendar tomorrow)
Relating to the provision of community-based services to individuals who have or may have mental illness.

SB 109 (Out of House Committee)
Relating to a housing plan developed and certain housing information collected and reported by the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs.

SB 1057 (Out of House Committee)
Relating to information about private health care insurance coverage and the health insurance exchange for individuals applying for certain Department of State Health Services health or mental health benefits, services, and assistance.

SB 1189 (Out of House Committee)
Relating to the disposition of certain firearms seized by a law enforcement agency.

Passed Out Of Chamber

HB 124
Relating to the addition of Salvia divinorum and its derivatives and extracts to Penalty Group 3 of the Texas Controlled Substances Act.

HB 1947
Relating to the criteria for commitment of a person with mental illness.

HB 2407
Relating to restoration of a person’s right to purchase a firearm on termination of a guardianship.

HB 2887
Relating to the establishment and expansion of community collaboratives by entities to provide services to and coordinate the care of persons who are homeless, persons with mental illness, and persons with substance abuse problems.

HB 3327

Relating to a list of mental health, substance abuse, and suicide prevention programs that may be selected for implementation by public schools. 

SB 44
Relating to maintaining and reporting certain information regarding certain child abuse or neglect cases and the provision of mental health services for children in those cases.

SB 338
Relating to the liability of certain social workers who provide volunteer health care services to charitable organizations.

SB 460
Relating to inclusion of instruction in the detection and education of students with mental or emotional disorders in the requirements for educator training programs.

Again, you can check the status of these bills (and all the dead ones) on MHA’s bill tracker by clicking here.

That’s all for now!

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