First Hearing, Governor’s Order, New Bills
From the newsletter dated March 5, 2021
This has been the been the busiest week of the session thus far, as most committees met for the first time, including Human Services. We heard testimony from officials with the Health and Human Services Commission, the Department of Family and Protective Services, and the Behavioral Health Executive Council. This was a great opportunity to get an update from each agency before we begin to consider new legislation that will impact their operations.
As most of you probably know, Governor Abbott announced on Tuesday that Texas will remove all capacity restrictions on businesses and lift the state-wide mask mandate. This order is effective as of Wednesday, March 10th. A few notes on this executive order: First, businesses reserve the right to set their own safety protocols and may continue to limit capacity and require masks if they so choose. Second, county judges may impose capacity limits back down to 50% in the event of high local hospitalization rates. Third, this executive order does not affect visitation rules at long-term care facilities.
That last point is unfortunate, as it perpetuates the confusion and isolation that many residents of long-term care facilities and their loved ones have faced for almost an entire year. To that end, I am more determined than ever to pass HB 892, The Essential Caregivers Act. As I’ve previously mentioned, this bill would ensure that those in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and other long-term care facilities have in-person access to a designated essential caregiver. If the companion bill, HJR 46, passes then it will be placed on the ballot for possible inclusion in the Texas Constitution. I’ve included more details on Essential Caregivers below, along with information on my other bill that will receive a hearing next week.
We filed two new bills this week, one relating to Medicaid and the other relating to the Employees Retirement System of Texas. While neither of these bills are likely to grab headlines or tons of attention, they both make important changes that will allow the programs to serve their respective clients better. You can read more about the bills below.
May God bless you and your family,
James B. Frank