P.O. Box 12068, State Capitol
Austin, Texas 78711
Tel. (512) 463-0112
Fax (512) 463-0923
Session Wrap: a Guide for the Media
Note: In anticipation of end-of-session articles and the scheduling difficulties for both reporters and Senators, following is an overview of the accomplishments and perspectives of State Senator Jane Nelson, R-Lewisville, for the 78th Session of the Texas Legislature, which adjourned June 2nd.
On the session:
"This was definitely a budget session, but many other important issues were addressed as well. When the dust settles, people are going to see that this Legislature passed meaningful reforms that are going to benefit citizens for years to come."
On the budget:
"This Legislature was put through a very painful crash course in fiscal responsibility. We were forced to make difficult choices and we need to let this serve as a painful reminder that now and in the future we need to justify every penny that we spend. Times are not always as prosperous as they seem. There will be better days ahead, and there will be bad days, too. This budget meets our goal of providing essential services without increasing taxes."
"Chairing the Senate Finance Workgroup on Health & Human Services Funding, I have never been more proud of the way the Senate came together to help ensure that the most vulnerable of our citizens - the poor, the sick, the elderly - would not be left behind. We took an expedition into caverns of our health & human services agencies and mined every precious piece of savings that we could find. We were able to preserve those important services within the budget constraints." Low point: "There were a few. I would have liked to have been able to address school finance, and that will happen in a special session. I wish the House had approved my special taxing district reform legislation that we spent two years studying over the interim."
On Medical Liability Reform:
"I said at the beginning of the session that we cannot go home without passing meaningful reforms to ensure that Texas patients have access to safe, quality health care. The reforms that we passed this session are going to stabilize medial liability insurance rates and reduce the number of frivolous lawsuits that cost our health care providers a combined $1 million in legal fees. The reforms we passed allow claimants to recover an unlimited amount of damages for medical costs, lost wages and other forms of objective claims. But by capping the amount of subjective claims - such as mental anguish and pain and suffering - we can stop the exodus of health care providers and preserve patient access to medical care in Texas." Senator Nelson's liability reforms included SB 339, SB 12 (folded into HB 4), and HJR 3.
On Passing SB 418 relating to Prompt Payment of Health Care Providers:
"This legislation will reduce the fierce billing disputes between health care providers and insurance companies -- administrative hassles that are bogging down our health care system. It is a universal standard of business that each party should live up to the contracts under which they are doing business. This bill simply enforces that standard."
On Chairing the Sunset Advisory Commission:
"This was an especially important review cycle because there was so much focus on the very goal of the Sunset process - to ensure that our state agencies and commissions are working as efficiently as possible. Our recommendations led to significant budget savings and at the same time reformed several key agencies to better serve the people."
On Chairing the Senate Health & Human Services Committee:
"Everything we do in life is dependent on our health, and our mission this session was to ensure that we are doing everything within our means to help Texans have access to safe, quality, affordable health care. It was not easy in a session while we were scaling back, but we accomplished several reforms that are going to help in the areas of preventative care, organ donation and reduction of administrative burdens that are bogging down the delivery aspects of our health care system."
Bills Offered by Senator Nelson that have been sent to the Governor's Desk:
- SB 104 (State Board of Medical Examiners Reform) -"This is an important piece of the medical liability puzzle because it gives the State Board of Medical Examiners a stick to go after the tiny percentage of physicians who are causing the majority of our malpractice cases. This legislation will help ensure patient safety."
- SB 160 (Promoting Organ Donation) - "This legislation will help increase organ donation in Texas and give new hope to those on the waiting lift for lifesaving organ transplants."
- SB 161 (Texas Department of Health Programs)
- SB 162 (Texas Department of Health Facilities)
- SB 173 (Military Tax Deferral) - "Our fighting men and women should be focusing on the job at hand and about coming home safely to their families ... not worrying about their property tax bills. As they protect our interests in Iraq, it is important that we protect their interests at home."
- SB 174 (Privacy of Marriage License Applications)
- SB 176 (Emergency Call Interference) - "We hear the word terror used a lot these days. This legislation is designed to prevent those who are inflicting terror in their own home from preventing victims of domestic violence from calling for help."
- SB 263 (Dental Board Sunset)- "We put new teeth into this agency in order to improve oral health in Texas."
- SB 275 (Texas Department of Economic Development Sunset) - "We are helping our budget situation with this bill, but more importantly we are going to be helping our economy by setting up a streamlined economic development strike force in the governor's office to seek out new business opportunities for Texas and aggressively pursue those deals."
- SB 280 (Workforce Commission Sunset) - "Given our current economic situation, it is imperative that this agency is poised to help Texans find and keep good jobs and help businesses connect with the trained employees they need to be successful."
- SB 285 (Department of Human Services Sunset)
- SB 330 (Medical Privacy Clarification)
- SB 339 (Flexible Insurance for Health Care Providers) - signed. "It is sad that medical lawsuit abuse and runaway insurance rates have become so severe that our health care providers need to resort to short-term policies or installment plans in order to extend the life of their insurance policies. Many of them are paying their bills month to month, and many simply cannot afford the skyrocketing premiums. These flexible plans are unfortunately needed to ensure that when we walk into a hospital, there is a physician available to treat us."
- SB 418 (Prompt Pay) - "This legislation will reduce the fierce billing disputes between health care providers and insurance companies -- administrative hassles that are bogging down our health care system. It is a universal standard of business that each party should live up to the contracts under which they are doing business. This bill simply enforces that standard."
- SB 433 (Sexual Assault Protective Orders) - "If an individual is sexually assaulted they are not allowed to seek a protective order unless the perpetrator is someone with whom they have had a prior relationship. This legislation will especially help individuals on college campuses so that they can be protected from their attacker who may well live in the same housing complex."
- SB 464 (MHMR Management Teams)
- SB 610 (Federally Qualified Health Centers) - "We need to capitalize on this opportunity to draw down federal dollars to provide a much needed shot in the arm of our public health services and at the same time relieve some of the burden on our local emergency rooms."
- SB 637 (Insurance Database Fees)
- SB 756 (Dallas Fort Worth Airport Disaster Declaration) - "DFW is such an important hub for our region and, in fact, our nation. We need to ensure that it has the tools it needs to be prepared against terrorism or disaster."
- SB 611 (Personal Privacy of SSNs) - "Social Security numbers were never supposed to become national identification numbers. Their use should be limited. In light of the rise in identity theft, these numbers should be guarded with our lives - not printed on ID cards."
- SB 1050 (Privacy for Domestic Violence Victims)
- SB 1163 (Update for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act)
- SB 1225 (Organ Donation Procedures)
- SB 1320 (Advanced Directives) - "We do not have the right as legislators to step in and say whether someone should live or die. Neither do our health care providers. However, we all have a responsibility to help frame and clarify the options for those family members who are facing the most difficult choices of their lives."
- SB 1356 (Drug Enforcement Agency Numbers)
- SB 1357 (Physical Education Requirement Accountability) - "This will ensure that the our children are getting the exercise they need to fight obesity and prevent chronic illnesses such as juvenile diabetes."
- SB 1400 (Prescription Drug Labels)
- HJR 3 (Calling An Election for Lawsuit Caps) - "By giving the voters of Texas the ability to affirm the Legislature's right to set damage caps, we will avoid having our lawsuit reform package being tied up in the courts for the next decade. We do not have 10 months to address this crisis, let alone 10 years."
- HB 136 & HJR 16 (Allowing a Property Tax Freeze for Seniors) - This legislation gives cities the option of freezing property taxes for our seniors, many of whom are living on fixed incomes and cannot afford dramatic increases in property tax. We want our seniors to be able to keep their homes."
- HB 1218 (Certified Public Accountancy Board)
- SB 1219 (Early Childhood Education) - amended to HB 2292.
- HB 1549 (Help America Vote Act)
- HB 1564 (Westlake Charter School Funding)
- HB 1743 (Confronting Medicaid Fraud)
- HB 1776 (Celebrate Freedom Week)
- HB 1899 (International Child Abduction) - "This legislation will give our courts the tools they need to prevent children from being abducted into foreign countries where they are out of the reach of our laws. No child should be forcibly separated from their mother or father, and the courts must step in to protect that child whenever there is a flight risk, especially into nations that do not cooperate with our courts."
- HB 2292 (HHS Reorganization) - "This bill ensures that every Texan who relies on the government will continue to have access to those services under a streamlined health & human services system, and it does so in a way that reduces redundant services and inefficiencies, providing a significant savings of $1.1 billion to taxpayers."
- HB 3017 (Denton County Transportation Authority) - "We are all aware of our gridlock problems. That was evident in the overwhelming vote by our citizens to further explore the idea of public transportation in our community. This legislation takes us a step further down that road."
- HCR 73 (Virtues Education) - "It is a parent's responsibility to teach our children fundamental values. But our schools can play a pivotal role in reinforcing the lessons that will help our children succeed as they navigate the pitfalls of adolescence. This resolution directs the Texas Education Agency to implement a model for character education that can help our children make the best possible decisions."
For more information or to review archived press releases that were issued during the session, visit Senator Nelson's home page at www.nelson.senate.state.tx.us