P.O. Box 12068, State Capitol
Austin, Texas 78711
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GOVERNOR PERRY SIGNS SENATOR NELSON'S BILLS AS VETO PERIOD ENDS
AUSTIN — The veto period for the 83rd Regular Session of the Texas Legislature expired yesterday with 40 bills by Senator Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, having survived the Governor's veto pen.
"I'm pleased several important pieces of legislation are now on their way to becoming law," said Senator Nelson. "These bills will make a positive impact on the lives of Texas families and businesses."
Governor Perry signed many significant pieces of legislation by Senator Nelson, including:
Long-Term Care: SB 7 redesigns the Medicaid long-term care system by establishing a long-term plan for ensuring that seniors and individuals with disabilities receive services in a coordinated manner through managed care. It also sets up advisory committees at the Health and Human Services Commission to aid in the transition. "This bill will not only ensure we are providing the best possible services to those Texans who currently receive them, but also 12,000 Texans who are currently receiving no services. SB 7 will make our Medicaid system more sustainable, allowing us to provide services into the future for seniors and Texans with disabilities -- who are thankfully living longer, more productive lives than ever before."
Medicaid Fraud: SB 8 enhances the state's ability to detect and prevent Medicaid fraud, waste and abuse by establishing a unit at the Health and Human Services Commission to identify anomalies and red flags, as well as confirming the Office of Inspector General's authority to investigate fraud and strengthening policies against fraudulent practices. "After the difficult budget decisions we made last session, I was determined this session to prevent our precious resources from being lost to fraud, waste and abuse. Money lost to fraud, which is estimated to be as high as $6 billion from 2004 to 2011, robs us of resources we desperately need to help those who truly need these services.
CPRIT Governance: SB 149 addresses breakdowns at the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas and ensures that the institute operates in a fair, transparent manner, incorporating several recommendations from a recent report from the State Auditor's Office. "Because of this legislation, I truly believe CPRIT can now begin to move past the transgressions of the last year and return to their mission of eradicating cancer. The work of CPRIT is too important to be derailed by the poor decisions of a few people. I still believe this effort will yield life-saving treatments and cures for this terrible disease which impacts millions of Texans."
Mental Health Reform: SB 58 increases efficiency and improves outcomes for mental health care in Texas by placing mental health services into a managed care setting and integrating behavioral and physical health. "SB 58 ensures that mental health services in Medicaid are provided in a coordinated manner, which will reduce costs and increase the quality of care. Improving these mental health services will also reduce the fiscal strain on our state and local governments, particularly within our prison system and emergency rooms. The Legislature has made mental health care a top priority this session, and this bill will have a real impact in improving mental health services in Texas."
Obsolete Reports: SB 59 eliminates or modifies approximately 100 obsolete or redundant reports identified by the Legislative Budget Board and other state agencies. "SB 59 increases government efficiency and eliminates waste. One of my top priorities this session was to make sure every tax dollar is spent appropriately and usefully, and this bill helps to accomplish that goal."
Child Credit Protection: SB 60 better protects children from identity theft by allowing parents to place a freeze on their child's credit history. "By allowing parents to place a 'Do Not Enter' sign on their child's credit record, this legislation will help protect young Texans from identity theft. This crime can have a devastating effect on an individual's personal finances, and we should ensure that our young people can begin their adult lives with a clean financial slate."
Military Physicians: SB 61 allows the Texas Medical Board to issue a "volunteer medical license" for current and retired military physicians who would like to volunteer their time and services at charitable clinics in Texas. "This legislation will make it possible for the physicians who have served our country in the military to provide charitable care in Texas. I am proud to have authored this legislation that will eliminate an obstacle for retired military doctors who want to volunteer their skills and expertise to help the uninsured."
Stem Cell Reporting: SB 67 expands current data collection from universities in Texas regarding stem cell research. "The goal of this legislation is to ensure we have an accurate understanding of the type of stem cell research being conducted at our universities and how that research is being funded."
Mental Health Outcomes: SB 126 requires the Department of State Health Services to create a public reporting system to allow the public to view and compare performance and outcome measures among community mental health and substance abuse providers. "We invest a significant amount of taxpayer dollars in our community mental health and substance abuse programs, and it is imperative that the public can see how these resources are used and what outcomes are resulting from our investment."
Protective Order Filing: SB 129 allows domestic violence victims to file protective orders in the county where the offense occurred. "By giving domestic violence victims another avenue to ensure their safety, this legislation will help make our protective orders more effective and save lives."
Domestic Violence Victim Representation: SB 130 permits a prosecutor to represent a victim of domestic violence and file protective orders without conflict when the prosecutor has or is currently representing the Department of Family and Protective Services in a matter involving the victim. "I am proud that we have eliminated this unnecessary burden for victims of domestic violence. This bill will make it easier to obtain the protective orders they need to keep them safe."
Physician Workforce: SB 143, which was amended on to HB 2550 and signed by the Governor, grows the physician workforce and encourages greater participation in state-operated health programs by establishing programs to create new residency slots and incentivizing physicians to serve Texas' Medicaid and Texas Women's Health Program patients. "The critical shortages we face in our health care work force are not going away. As our population continues to grow, we have to graduate and train more health care professionals in order to meet the health care needs of our citizens. This bill will improve access to qualified physicians for patients in our government-sponsored programs — and for all Texans."
State Hospital Patient Safety: SB 152 expands protections for patients at state hospitals by increasing oversight, enhancing employee training and strengthening abuse and neglect reporting requirements. "After hearing of preventable tragedies at state hospitals during the interim, the Legislature has responded quickly to solve these issues. Individuals in our state hospitals are one of the most vulnerable populations we serve, and we must ensure they are treated with the highest level of care."
Denton County Court: SB 290, which was amended on to HB 3153 and signed by the Governor, creates a new general jurisdiction court for Denton County intended to help manage rising caseload growth. "This new court will help alleviate backlogs and ensure that Denton County citizens have efficient access to our courts, and I will be working to help this legislation along in the Senate."
Health Care Collaboration: SB 406 improves access to health care by making it easier for physicians, advanced practice nurses, and physician assistants to work together to deliver services and gives doctors more authority to delegate their authority. "This bill allows highly trained medical professionals to practice to the top of their training, increasing patient access to qualified health care providers at a time when we are working to address critical shortages in our medical workforce."
Child Protective Services: Senator Nelson's legislative package to better protect children in foster care and help families through the Child Protective Services (CPS) system has been successful this session. SB 423 creating an alternative response system for low-risk was signed by the Governor, as well as the companion bill to SB 424 ensuring the use of psychotropic medications by foster children is appropriate, necessary and monitored. Bills to increase community collaboration in child placement decisions and strengthen prevention programs like home-visits and mentoring were also signed. "This session I made it a priority to ensure our programs are creating good outcomes for our children in state care. These pieces of legislation will help to find our foster care children permanent, supportive homes, as well as keep families together where possible."
Continuous Violation of a Protective Order: SB 743 creates a 3rd degree felony for offenders who violate a protective order two or more times within a 12-month period while the first violation is still pending in court. "Repeated violations of a protective order indicate a heightened risk of danger. By giving our prosecutors another tool to deter individuals who commit these crimes, we can better protect victims of abuse."
Psychiatric Patient Protection: SB 944 requires that all non-licensed employees working in mental health units of hospitals undergo a criminal background check and bars individuals who have committed violent crimes from employment. "Texans who enter psychiatric units in hospitals are in an extremely vulnerable state, and this bill will further ensure we live up to our responsibility to keep them safe. We must protect our patients from those with a history of violence or abuse."
Hospital Name Badges: SB 945 requires all hospital health care providers to wear badges with photo identification that clearly state their names, their departments and their job titles to better help patients identify their caregivers, as well as their level of training. "This legislation will help ensure Texans know the expertise of their health care provider. Often patients enter our hospitals in very vulnerable states, and they deserve clear information about who is caring for them."
Domestic Violence Victim Safety: SB 946 allows victims of stalking and other domestic violence crimes to terminate their lease agreements under certain circumstances. "By making it easier for victims to choose their safety over the financial impact of breaking a lease, this bill will keep domestic violence victims safe and allow them to feel comfortable in their own homes."
DCTA: SB 948 increases representation on the Denton County Transportation Authority board of directors, clarifies contracting issues, and authorizes the Denton County Transportation Authority to join a Local Government Corporation. "I am thankful that this bill moved swiftly through the House and is now on the Governor's desk. This is an important piece of legislation for Denton County that will help improve public transportation and give DCTA the tools it needs to better serve our rapidly-growing community."
EDITOR'S NOTE: All quotes in the capsules above are attributable to Senator Nelson.
SENATOR JANE NELSON represents District 12, including portions of Tarrant and Denton Counties. She is Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health & Human Services.