Published Apr 16, 2021 by Steven Will
Week In Review
There are just six weeks left in the Texas legislative session and some important procedural deadlines are rapidly approaching. The House passed important health care legislation and set the biennial budget debate for next week. The Partnership testified in support of two workforce development bills.
Important Week for Major Health Care Legislation
Speaker Dade Phelan’s Healthy Families, Healthy Texas bipartisan health care package passed the House this week. The bills are expected to heard in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee soon.
The health care package includes House Bill 4 by Representative Four Price (R-Amarillo), which would codify the waivers used for telemedicine and telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic. This bill provides greater access to health care for many underserved communities by authorizing the state to reimburse providers for telemedicine and telehealth services. Two other bills in the package provide improved access to health care for new mothers and children - House Bill 133 by Representative Toni Rose (D-Dallas) and House Bill 290 by Representative Philip Cortez (D-San Antonio).
House Bill 133 allows new mothers to keep Medicaid insurance for up to one year after delivery. Texas women with low incomes are currently only eligible for Medicaid coverage while they are pregnant, and the coverage expires 60 days after delivery. However, one-third of maternal deaths in Texas occur between 43 days and one year after delivery. House Bill 133 follows the top recommendation of the Texas Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Review Committee by providing uninterrupted coverage to new mothers.
House Bill 290 is designed to prevent children who receive health care coverage through Children's Medicaid from experiencing a lapse in coverage. Texas already has an effective and accurate system for determining a child's eligibility at the time of application and during an annual renewal process. However, the current system adds four mid-year eligibility reviews at 5, 6, 7 and 8 months, which often leads to eligible children losing their coverage. House Bill 290 replaces the four mid-year reviews with a single mid-year review, and therefore works to improve health outcomes for young children by providing them with two separate six-month periods of health care coverage.
Partnership Pushes Workforce Improvements
Peter Beard, Senior Vice President of Regional Workforce Development at the Partnership testified before the House International Relations & Economic Development committee in support of House Bill 3767 authored by Representative Jim Murphy (R - Houston). The bill supports workforce development in the state by establishing the Tri-Agency Workforce Initiative and additional employer workforce data reporting. During his testimony, Beard highlighted the key provisions of HB 3767 that strengthen and enhance the current work of the three agencies - Texas Education Agency, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and Texas Workforce Commission - as they focus on developing the highest quality skilled workforce Texas needs to grow and compete globally. These key provisions include:
The Partnership also provided written testimony for House Bill 3003 by Representative Tan Parker (R - Flower Mound), which establishes the Texas Reskilling and Upskilling through Education (TRUE) Initiative to support workforce education at public junior colleges. Today, Houston has more than 200,000 individuals who have been displaced in their employment by the COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn. The TRUE program will help Houston address the reality that almost all of these displaced workers will need additional skills that align with the current and emerging needs of the employers in the Houston regional economy. Community colleges will play an essential role in upskilling displaced and incumbent workers with the education and skills that are needed in the post-pandemic Houston economy.
House Appropriations Committee Advances Budget
The House Appropriations Committee passed the budget this week, setting the stage for a House floor debate next week. Changes made by the Appropriations Committee amount to a $4 billion lower all-funds budget of $246.7 billion versus $250.7 billion as passed by the Senate last week. General revenue spending is essentially the same, at $117.9 billion, with the differences in the House and Senate plans deriving from changes in Federal funds for health care and higher local school property tax revenues offsetting some state education funding.
Coastal Barrier System Heard in Committee
Senate Natural Resources Committee heard Senate Bill 1266 by Senator Larry Taylor (R - Friendswood), which continues the Joint Interim Committee to Study a Coastal Barrier System through the following interim. The Texas Gulf Coast is a vital part of Texas' economy, and is home to the largest and most important concentration of petroleum refining and petrochemical processing plants in the United States. Its location, however, leaves the region and its residents vulnerable to hurricanes, storm surge, and other severe weather events. The committee, first established in 2013, was created to study the logistics of constructing a coastal barrier protection system, and passage of this bill will allow stakeholders to continue the discussion as the projects move toward implementation.