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House Interim Committee on State Affairs

Charge

Review the structure and governance of hospital districts in light of changes in funding, federal legislation, and changes in methods of delivering health care services.

Background

Hospital districts are special districts constitutionally created to address public health care, especially for the indigent. Prior to the creation, the burden of furnishing medical services or hospital care fell generally on cities and counties. Some large metropolitan areas such as Houston, Dallas, Ft. Worth, and San Antonio operated public hospital systems jointly supported by both the city and the county. Jointly supported hospital systems served to lessen the budgetary strain of medical and hospital costs on cities and counties, but did not adequately address the stringent constitutional limitations on city and county taxation. The creation of county-wide hospital districts with a separate limitation on the power of taxation addressed these concerns. There are currently 132 hospital districts in Texas.

Findings and Recommendations

  • The committee report recognized the importance and complexity of the issues surrounding the structure and governance of hospital districts. However, the committee did not see any reason to take any legislative action to further serve and protect the missions of hospital districts and, therefore, declined to put forward any recommendations.
    Charge

    Study the feasibility of establishing an entity with specific responsibilities for preventing the downsizing or closure of Texas military bases.

    Background

    The Base Realignment and Closure Act in 1995 hit Texas hard. The state lost a total of 12 military installations and numerous others were downsized. A significant segment of the Texas economy is dependent on federal defense dollars in the form of contracting, military employment of civilian personnel and active duty military, and retiree military payroll. Since 1986, however, overall defense expenditures in Texas have declined by over 25 percent. Governor George W. Bush responded to these trends by establishing the Texas Defense Economic Adjustment Council. It is important to note that the council does not have a formal structure or system in place to prevent future downsizing or closures of Texas military bases.

    Findings and Recommendations

  • Make every attempt to safeguard Texas installations from future closures and downsizing.

    Charge

    Conduct active oversight of programs and agencies under the committee's jurisdiction, including H.B. 2128, S.B. 373, the Telecommunications Infrastructure Fund Board, and the implementation of assessments on the state's cellular and wireless telecommunications industries.

    Background

    The 74th Texas Legislature passed extensive telecommunications deregulation, H.B. 2128, which took effect September 1, 1995. The reforms of H.B. 2128 were aimed at encouraging the development of a truly competitive telecommunications marketplace by "promoting diversity of providers and interconnectivity while protecting and maintaining the wide availability of high quality telecommunications services." H.B. 2128 also established the Telecommunications Infrastructure Fund to generate additional funding needed by schools, nonprofit hospitals, and libraries to obtain fiber-optic equipment and training.

    The 74th Legislature also amended the Public Utility Regulatory Act to bring Texas utility regulation into line with the industry changes that were occurring in the rest of the country. Accordingly, S.B. 373 instructed the PUC to monitor the continuing changes in the industry.

    Findings and Recommendations

  • Impose an assessment rate of 1.25 percent on each telecommunications utility and commercial mobile service providers.

  • Assess all parties at an identical rate but reserve the distinction between public education and other grant recipients by channeling the monies into two separate accounts to be used in accordance with the purposes originally set forth by the legislature.

  • Monitor federal legislation, regarding regulation of the electric industry, evaluate the implications for Texas, and be prepared to take adequate measures to protect the state's interests.