P.O. Box 12068, State Capitol
Austin, Texas 78711
Tel. (512) 463-0112
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STATUS REPORT: COUNTING DOWN TO SINE DIE
AUSTIN -- Legislators filed a record 6,190 bills this session but passed only 1,480 in a session marked by tension over privatized toll roads, controversial vaccines, what to do with the surplus and who should lead the Texas House.
"This was definitely a rough-and-tumble session," said Texas State Senator Jane Nelson, R-Lewisville. "However, despite playing so much defense, we accomplished most of the things I set out to do at the beginning of this session -- protecting the property tax cuts, reforming Medicaid, improving student health, ensuring safety of our foster children and providing resources to find a cure for cancer."
This session the Texas Senate approved 53 of the 77 bills filed by Senator Nelson. Her priority bills have passed both chambers of the Legislature. Others stalled in the House, and some survived in the form of amendments to other bills. Following is a status report on her priority bills, most of which are pending in conference committees that will work out differences between the House and Senate versions. The Legislature will adjourn on Monday, May 28, 2007.
SB 10 (Medicaid Reform): Pending in conference committee. SB 10 encourage healthy lifestyles and increase access to private health care for the uninsured. "This legislation increases access to health insurance, reduces our Medicaid costs and, most importantly, encourages Texans to live longer, healthier lives," Senator Nelson said.
SB 530 (Student Health): Pending in conference committee. SB 530 requires daily exercise for students in grades K-8 and annual health assessments for students K-12. "More than a third of our student population is overweight, putting them at higher risk of developing chronic illnesses. We can reverse this trend, but only if we restore in our public schools a strong focus on basic health and exercise," Senator Nelson said.
SB 758 (Foster Care Reform): Pending in conference committee. SB 758 adds resources to the Department of Family & Protective Services to better protect children in foster care. It also expands the drug-endangered child initiative, scales back privatization and adds a layer of oversight. "When a child is removed from a dangerous home, we have a responsibility to ensure that their new environment is safe and supportive. That is our goal with this legislation," Senator Nelson said.
HB 14/HJR 90 (Cancer Institute): HB 14, establishing the Cancer Research & Prevention Institute of Texas, was sent to the Governor. HJR 90, allowing voters to decide whether to invest up to $300 million per year over the next 10 years in cancer research and prevention, has finally passed and will be placed on the November ballot. "We are making a wise investment that will establish Texas as the nation's premiere cancer research center, bring jobs and economic development, and, most importantly, reduce both the fiscal and human costs of cancer."
SB 288 (Hospital Infections): Sent to the Governor. SB 288 requires hospitals to report rates of what is known as "acquired infections," which occur when a patient seeking treatment in a hospital or clinic "acquires" a new infection. "The goal of this bill is to ensure that we are taking precautions to minimize a patient's exposure to other illnesses," Senator Nelson said. "Consumers will be able to see for themselves which hospitals are doing the best job in this regard."
SB 23 (TexLINK): Pending in conference committee. SB 23 establishes TexLINK, a division within the Texas Department of Insurance that will work to connect uninsured Texans with private health insurance. "There are many factors involved in our rate of uninsured. This bill will ensure that lack of awareness is not one of them," Senator Nelson said.
SB 21 (Day Care Safety): Added to SB 758 as an amendment. SB 21 requires that all employees of Texas day care centers submit to fingerprint background checks. "Our day care centers are entrusted with our most precious commodity, our children. We need to be absolutely certain that they are in good hands," Senator Nelson said.
SB 199 (Protecting Seniors): Pending in conference committee. SB 199 adds to the list of crimes that would disqualify individuals from working with the elderly. "We discovered a long list of serious crimes that do not currently prevent someone from caring for frail and elderly citizens. These are crimes that demonstrate a propensity toward violence or misconduct, and they needed to be added to the list," Senator Nelson said.
SB 43 (Military Parents): Passed the Senate. Stalled in the House. SB 43 protects military parents from having their custody revoked based on their service overseas. "When military parents come home from Iraq or Afghanistan, they should not be denied access to their children. I am very disappointed that this bill did not pass," Senator Nelson said.
SB 136 (Internet Safety): Sent to Governor. SB 136 establishes a curriculum within the Texas School Safety Center to educate students about the dangers associated with social networking sites such as MySpace.Com. "This will arm students with the information they need to protect themselves against online predators," Senator Nelson said.
SB 995 (Truth in Tolling): Amended to HB 792, the omnibus transportation bill pending in a conference committee. SB 995 requires that when an operator is selected for any toll project, the contract terms must be published in a local newspaper for public inspection. "If we are to award a 50-year contract in exchange for the right to toll on our highways, the public deserves to know what is in the fine print," Senator Nelson said.
SB 22 (Long Term Care Partnership): Sent to Governor. SB 22 establishes the Texas Long Term Care Partnerships, which allows individuals who purchase long-term care insurance to protect a portion of their assets under Medicaid eligibility guidelines. "This is a win-win situation that will help seniors retain assets in their golden years, while at the same time reducing the state's Medicaid long-term care costs," Senator Nelson said.
SB 46 (Protecting Car Theft Victims): Amended to HB 2094. Removed by conference committee. SB 46 would indemnify car theft victims from daily storage fees at impound lots. "I filed this bill on behalf of a senior in my district whose car was stolen, recovered, impounded and then sold at auction because she could not afford the storage fees. We should not further victimize those who have been victims of car theft," Senator Nelson said. "The conference committee did agree to require impound lots to notify vehicle owners that their car has been recovered."
SB 44 (Battery Intervention Prevention Program): Signed by the Governor. SB 44 raises standards for court-ordered services designed to reduce the prevalence of family violence. "When we talk about domestic violence, we often refer to breaking the cycle of abuse because so often it is passed down from generation to generation," Senator Nelson said. "To truly break that cycle, we need more than anger management. We need a comprehensive program that will prevent recidivism."
SB 992, SB 993, SB 141, SB 138, SB 139 (Addressing the nursing shortage in Texas): Texas has a shortage of qualified nurses, and this package of bills is designed to attract and retain quality nurses in Texas. "Nurses play an indispensable role in the delivery of health care throughout our state -- whether at clinics, hospitals, nursing homes or home health care. Making this profession more welcoming was a major priority this session, and I think these bills are going to make a real difference," Senator Nelson said.
- SB 992 continues to dedication of a portion of the tobacco lawsuit funds to nursing education and has been signed in both the House and Senate.
- SB 993 reforms the Nursing Practice Act to help address systemic issues leading to medical errors and to ensure adequate protection for nurses who report patient safety concerns. The CCR has been filed in both chambers but not yet adopted.
- SB 141 creates a study at the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board on having health professional students take basic science classes together to build teamwork and help address faculty shortages. It has been reported enrolled.
- SB 138 creates a program to acknowledge hospitals with strong nurse staffing programs and for hospitals to report on their nurse staffing and have that information made public to increase consumer knowledge. It is also intended to incentivize hospitals to improve their nursing programs. It has been sent to the Governor.
- SB 139 creates a program for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, Board of Nurse Examiners, and representatives of private institutions of higher learning to study our nursing curriculum and ensure it is the most efficient and effective way of teaching and training nursing students. It has been sent to the Governor.
Senator Jane Nelson, R-Lewisville, represents District 12, encompassing parts of Tarrant and Denton counties.