TEXAS SENATE COMMITTEE ON HUMAN SERVICES MET AT THE STATE CAPITOL
AUSTIN - The Senate Committee on Human Services held its first interim public hearing today, Thursday, October 28, 1999 at the State Capitol. Members of the committee include Senators Judith Zaffirini of Laredo, chair, John Carona of Dallas, vice-chair, David Bernsen of Beaumont, Mario Gallegos, Jr. of Galena Park, and Chris Harris of Arlington.
The members of the committee read and discussed the charges ordered by Lieutenant Governor Rick Perry. Testimony was taken regarding long-term care services that are available to elderly and disabled Texans. The state wants patients to remain at home, to promote their independence. A plan to make a family member a paid care taker is being discussed as an alternative to removing patients from home when their condition worsens. But many families are unable to provide such care, and panelists and legislators alike showed concern for the long waiting list of people who are trying to get into the different programs. Also, there are more than 200 children in Texas nursing homes, and 1,300 more are waiting to get in. Funding issues were also discussed, such as the use of funds from the tobacco settlement, federal funding for the Childrens Health Insurance Program (a new health insurance program that would provide care to many children currently without health insurance), and other programs. Today there are 314 nursing homes in Texas that are facing serious financial problems, potentially putting patients housed in these homes at risk.
The committee also discussed how to meet the challenge of caring for an ever-increasing number of elderly, the eventual consolidation of the Texas Department of Human Services and the Texas Department on Aging; and problems regarding the services provided to hardest-to-serve adult welfare recipients and children on welfare.
The committee also heard from the Texas Department of Health on its public education process regarding SB 30. This new law requires parental notification before a minor can get an abortion. In certain cases a judge can give approval for the procedure and the committee wanted to make sure that the process works smoothly.
Testimony was heard from Don Gilbert, Commissioner of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission; Eric Bost, Commissioner of the Texas Department of Human Services; Karen Hale, Commissioner of the Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation; Dr. William "Reyn" Archer, Commissioner of the Texas Department of Health; Mary Sapp, Executive Director of the Texas Department on Aging; Kim Stokes, Senior Associate Commissioner of the Texas Department of Insurance; Diane Rath, Commissioner of the Texas Workforce Commission; Cheryl Halliburton, Director of the Texas Council for Workforce and Economic Competitiveness; Patrick Bresette, Associate Director of the Center for Public Policy Priorities; Laurie Rich, Executive Director of the Office of State and Federal Relations; Robert Pemberton, attorney rom the Supreme Court of Texas; and Jim Hine, Executive Director of the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services.
The committee will have a series of public hearings during the interim. Members will submit their findings in the form of a report to be presented to the 77th Legislature which will convene in January of 2001.
TEXAS SENATE COMMITTEE ON INTERGOVERNMENTAL RELATIONS HELD PUBLIC HEARING
AUSTIN - The Texas Senate Committee on Intergovernmental Relations held its first interim organization meeting today, Thursday, October 28, 1999 in the State Capitol. Members of the committee include Frank Madla of San Antonio, chair; Jon Lindsay of Houston, vice-chair; and Rodney Ellis of Houston, Mike Moncrief of Fort Worth, and Drew Nixon of Carthage.
The committee concentrated today on the first two charges given to the members by Lieutenant Governor Rick Perry. The first charge deals with the 'design-build' form of bidding, which allows engineers, architects, and builders to form teams and bid on state projects, in contrast to the current method which mandates that each entity bid separately. Testimony was provided by Michael Behrens representing the Texas Department of Transportation, James A. Broaddus representing Design-Build Institute of America, Jose Guerra representing the Texas Board of Professional Engineers, Mike Holeman representing the Texas Society of Architects, Tom Johnson representing the Associated General Contractors of Texas, Steve Nelson representing the Texas Building Branch-Associated General Contractors, Randall Reaves and Phil Shoemaker representing the University of Texas System, and Steve Stagner representing the Consulting Engineers Council of Texas. Many of the witnesses praised this form of bidding, which is in place in 46 other states in a total or limited form. Witnesses say the collaboration creates a 12% saving in construction time. The system allows construction teams to be involved in the project from the beginning, and this translates in positive results. The practice began in the private sector and extended into some states for public projects like buildings and roads. Participants agree it works best with major projects, with the traditional system working better for small enterprises. Senator Ellis asked for information about the participation that minorities, women, and small businesses have in other states that adopted the system. Information and discussion of the issue are pending for next meetings.
The second charge relates to the funding and expenditures of Councils of Government (COG), and the changing relationship between COG and the state and federal governments since 1982. Testimony was provided by Tom Adams representing the Governor's Office of Budget and Planning, Jim Ray representing the Texas Association of Regional Councils, Frank Pennington representing the Texas Department on Aging, James Goerke representing the Commission on State Emergency Communications, and Machelle Pharr and Julia Rathgeber representing the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission.
The committee will hold a number of public hearings during the interim. The committee will submit their findings in the form of a report to be presented to the 77th Legislature which will convene in January of 2001.
SENATE COMMITTEE ON STATE AFFAIRS HELD PUBLIC HEARING
AUSTIN - The Senate Committee on State Affairs held its first meeting today, Thursday, October 28, 1999 in the Senate Chamber at the State Capitol. The committee is chaired by Senator Florence Shapiro of Plano, vice-chaired by Senator Eliot Shapleigh of El Paso, and its members include Senators David Bernsen of Beaumont, J.E. 'Buster' Brown of Lake Jackson, David Cain of Dallas, Tom Haywood of Wichita Falls, Eddie B. Lucio, Jr. of Brownsville, Drew Nixon of Carthage, and Jeff Wentworth of San Antonio.
Today the committee discussed charges six and seven, two of the nine charges issued by Lieutenant Governor Rick Perry.
Charge number six calls for a study of whether Texas governmental bodies should be able to purchase specialty vehicles, such as busses, ambulances and fire fighting equipment, directly from the manufacturer. Currently the law says they should purchase only from licensed dealers, but some cities and transit authorities have been buying directly from the manufacturer, saying it saves money. Invited testimony was provided by Brett Bray from the Texas Department of Transportation, and John McBeth from the Texas Transit association. The participants discussed issues related to consumer protection, why the actual law has not been enforced for the last 25 years, and the risk of a dealer network raising the prices on mass transit vehicles.
Charge seven calls for an evaluation of the cost effectiveness of the purchase of insurance and surety bonds by state agencies and institutions. This includes an evaluation of premiums paid and claims recovered. Invited testimony was provided by Douglas Brown and John Swinton from the Office of the State Auditor; Gerald Lavey, James E. Green, Jonathan Bow, and Linda Adams from the State Office of Risk Management; Marilyn Hamilton from the Texas Department of Insurance; and Denise Pittard, Ed Sims, Ron Schroeder, and Phil Pellegrino from the Texas Department of Transportation. The participants debated whether the state should buy insurance for all agencies under a unified plan, or whether each agency should continue purchasing its own. Some of the witnesses testifying say the present system is expensive and confusing and that a unified plan would save tax dollars.
The committee plans a series of public hearings during the interim. The next hearing will be held in El Paso on November 19. The committee will submit their findings in the form of a report to be presented to the 77th Legislature which will convene in January of 2001.