COMMITTEES CONSIDER INTERIM CHARGES
(AUSTIN)—Though the next session doesn't begin until January of 2011, Senators are still busy considering issues that will face the state during the 81st Legislature. The Lt. Governor assigns each standing committee a series of charges to work on over the interim, in order to determine the direction and goals of legislation for next session, as well as consider the impact of new laws enacted in previous sessions. This week, the Senate Education, State Affairs, Intergovernmental Relations and Health and Human Services Committees began hearings on their interim charges.
Senate Education began Monday, February 22, by looking at the impact of two bills passed last session, HB 3, which changes school accountability standards, and HB 4294, which seeks to study the use of electronic textbooks in public schools. The committee was also directed to study how changing demographics and economic environments affect the cost of public education.
Insurance was the order of the day for the State Affairs Committee on Tuesday, February 23, as they considered the state of private health insurance in Texas and heard testimony on the sale of annuities to senior citizens. The Intergovernmental Relations Committee held a hearing on several charges, gathering information on municipal utility districts, federal programs to help property owners, and ways the state can assist county governments with consolidation.
The Senate Health and Human Services Committee held two hearings this week. Tuesday, Senators heard testimony relating to Medicaid waivers from the federal government and listened to ideas for ways to increase the number of doctors and nurses in Texas. Wednesday, the committee considered a report from state officials on the response to the H1N1 flu virus outbreak in Texas last year, with witnesses testifying that the state's actions with respect to vaccines was swift and robust.
Senate committees will continue to meet throughout the year before submitting final findings to the Lt. Governor before January 2011. Meetings won't be confined to Austin; committees hold meetings around the state in order to get a broad geographic view and permit citizens to testify on issues wherever they live.