Last Week to File Bills this Session
Today, Friday, March 12 is the last day to file bills for the 87th Legislative Session. You can access information on all the bills I have authored this session here.
- HB 2984 will require health benefit plans to provide coverage for treatment of autism spectrum disorder to an enrollee who is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder from the date of diagnosis if the diagnosis was in place prior to the enrollee’s 22nd birthday. It will prohibit health benefit plans from requiring an enrollee to be evaluated for autism spectrum disorder more than once every 10 years.
- HB 2987 will enhance the penalty for someone convicted of indecent assault if they have a prior conviction history or are a health care or mental health care provider that commits the act while providing treatment.
- HB 3095 will hold senior living communities liable for the deaths of residents through dishonesty or negligence and requires communities to perform criminal background checks for employees and report any criminal activity to police.
- HB 3542 will require a health maintenance organization shall have appropriate personnel reasonably available at a toll-free telephone number to provide a verification under this section 24 hours a day, every day of the year, including on Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays. It also requires these organizations to accept and record incoming calls when personnel are not available.
- HB 3552 will protect breastfeeding mothers by allowing mothers who are discriminated for breastfeeding in public to receive injunctive relief and damages up to $500 for each day the violation occurs.
Legislative Committee Hearings
Committee hearings have started in the Texas House of Representatives. This week, the House Appropriations Committee did not meet. However, my second committee, Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence, held hearings on multiple bills for the first time this session.
Committees have begun to hear and debate bills. I am proud to announce that I have had my first two hearings in committee for HB 410 and HB 411. I look forward getting these bills out of committee in the coming weeks.
- HB 410, which prohibits prior authorizations for health benefits that are already required to be covered by health plans, was heard in the House Committee on Insurance on March 9th.
- HB 411, which aligns state statute and TEA rules with federal law regarding special education terminology. This will sponsor a more collaborative environment between school districts, parents, and students. HB 411 was heard in the House Committee Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence on March 9th.
House Democratic Caucus Pandemic Response Subcommittee
I am proud to be appointed to the Texas House Democratic Caucus Pandemic Response Subcommittee by HDC Vice Chair State Representative Toni Rose to help combat very poor decisions made by our state executive branch. The goal of our pandemic response team is multilayered. We will work tirelessly in the TXlege during the 87th legislative session to:
1. Improve health care infrastructure.
2. Expand equitable health coverage and access.
3. Mitigate economic impacts on businesses and workers during a pandemic.
4. Address matters of governance related to pandemic disaster response.
Texas House Priority Electricity Reforms
Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) announced the first phase of the House’s legislative reforms to protect consumers and strengthen our state’s electric grid after last week’s marathon hearings that examined the collapse of our electric infrastructure. Members of the Texas House have filed and will file the following legislation:
- HB 10 (Paddie) restructures the ERCOT board, replacing the unaffiliated members with members appointed by the Governor, Lt. Governor, and Speaker of the House. It also requires all board members to reside in the state of Texas and creates an additional ERCOT board member slot to represent consumer interests.
- HB 11 (Paddie) requires electric transmission and generation facilities in this state to be weatherized against the spectrum of extreme weather Texas may face.
- HB 12 (Raymond) creates a statewide disaster alert system administered by Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) to alert Texans across the state about impending disasters and extreme weather events.
- HB 13 (Paddie) establishes a council composed of ERCOT, Public Utility Commission of Texas, Railroad Commission, and TDEM leaders to coordinate during a disaster. The committee will identify challenges with fuel supplies, repairs, energy operations and prevent service interruptions from the wellhead to the consumer.
- HB 14 (Goldman) requires the Railroad Commission to adopt rules requiring gas pipeline operators to implement measures that ensure service quality and reliability during an extreme weather emergency.
- HB 16 (Hernandez) bans variable rate products like Griddy for residential customers. This bill will provide consumer protection to residential customers while still allowing the competitive market to flourish.
- HB 17 (Deshotel) prevents any political subdivision or planning authority from adopting or enforcing an ordinance, regulation, code, or policy that would prohibit the connection of residential or commercial buildings to specific infrastructure based on the type or source of energy that will be delivered to the end user.
Reopening Texas and Lifting the State Mask Mandate
Governor Greg Abbott’s Executive Order (GA-34) went into effect on Wednesday, lifting the mask mandate in Texas and increasing capacity of all businesses and facilities in the state to 100 percent. Businesses may still limit capacity or implement additional safety protocols at their own discretion. If COVID-19 hospitalizations in any of the 22 hospital regions in Texas get above 15% of the hospital bed capacity in that region for seven straight days, a County Judge in that region may use COVID-19 mitigation strategies.
Masks work to slow the spread of COVID-19. We need to follow the advice of doctors and experts and continue to keep each other safe until the CDC tells us otherwise. Continue following CDC social distancing and masking guidelines until further notice.
State-Run COVID-19 Mobile Testing Sites
The Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM), in partnership with the Texas Military Department, is continuing to run COVID-19 testing locations across the state. Texans can find a testing site near them by visiting the COVID-19 Test Collection Site map.
Texas COVID-19 Vaccine Provider Locations
Texas Health and Human Services has created a map tracking the distribution of and locations providing COVID-19 vaccines. Texans can find providers near them in the coming months by visiting the COVID-19 Vaccine Availability map. A list of vaccine hub providers can be found here. Information about vaccination distribution and availability can also be found here. Information about the vaccine can be found here.
COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Updates
This week, Texas has reached a milestone of providing vaccine doses to over 50% of the state’s seniors. This is important because that age group represents the overwhelming majority of COVID hospitalizations & fatalities. 34 counties will be participating in the second week of The Save Our Seniors program, including in Dallas County. The Grand Prairie and Irving join vaccination site also opened this week. Information about registration at the site can be found here. Additionally, the state will receive over 1.3 million vaccine doses in next week’s allocation. Overall, about 4.7 million people have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, and 2.5 million are fully vaccinated.
Texas is expanding vaccination to people 50 to 64 years of age on March 15. More than 93 percent of the Texas fatalities directly caused by the coronavirus have been in people 50 and older, with those ages 50 to 64 accounting for 20 percent of all fatalities. More information on the new 1C priority group is available on the DSHS COVID-19 Vaccine Information website (English and Spanish). The Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel will continue to meet and make recommendations about the further allocation and distribution of COVID-19 vaccine.
Winter Storm Recovery Resources
The Texas Department of Emergency Management (TDEM) has daily updates on the winter weather situation here. TDEM has also released a flow chart to guide those impacted by the winter storm with disaster assistance. The chart can be accessed here. On the www.tdem.texas.gov website, the home page has disaster assistance links and a “winter weather” box which opens to all the TDEM resources for individuals and locals. Texans are also urged to fill out the Texas Division of Emergency Management’s Texas Individual Assistance Reporting Tool (TIART) to help the state identify damages across Texas.
On February 22, Governor Abbott announced that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has approved a total of 108 Texas counties to receive Individual Assistance. Residents in FEMA Declared Counties can visit www.disasterassistance.gov or call 1-800-621-3362 (6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. CT, 7 days a week. Additional counties will continue to be re-requested as the State of Texas continues to receive information reported from individuals who have suffered damage from the winter storm.
Additionally, city of Dallas residents whose homes sustained damage from the 2021 winter storm may be eligible for reimbursement for repairs made by licensed contractors. Call (214) 670-3644 or email HIPP@dallascityhall.com to find out if you’re eligible.
Affordable Care Act Special Enrollment
President Biden has reopened enrollment on the federal Affordable Care Act exchange to allow individuals additional time to sign up for health care plans or change their existing coverage. The special enrollment period will run until May 15, 2021. Consumers looking to sign up for a new plan or make a change to an existing plan may do so by visiting HealthCare.gov, by contacting the Marketplace Call Center or through Direct Enrollment.
Shuttered Venue Grant Preliminary Application Checklist
On March 5, the Small Business Administration released the Shuttered Venue Grant preliminary application checklist. Small venue owners who may qualify due to Covid-19 mitigation closure should begin reviewing the application checklist so everything is in order the minute the application does became available. More information and the checklist can be accessed here. More information on signing up during the Special Enrollment Period can be found on Cover Texas Now’s website.
City of Coppell Arts Center Art Classes and Shows
The Coppell Arts Center hosting new Try Something New art classes for children! Let them exercise their imagination and develop fine motor skills with a one-hour art class, designed for ages 3-12. February classes include a free “Make and Take Crafts” on March 13 and $30 “Spring Flowers Painting” on March 25. For adults, the center is hosting two hour art sessions. The adult class this month is “Teapot Charcoal Drawing” on March 24.
The Coppell Arts Center is also hosting a variety of live performances in the coming month. This month’s free virtual stream performance is “Spring Bouquet” by the Coppell Community Orchestra on March 28. The Selkie Girls are also performing a Celtic folk concert on March 13; tickets are $15. Concert information can be found here.