From the newsletter sent May 14, 2021
This week felt a lot like cramming for finals in college due to the midnight on Thursday deadline for House Bills to be passed to the Senate (or be unceremoniously killed until the next legislative session). To help get as many HBs passed to the Senate as possible, we were on the floor until 1:30 a.m., 7:30 p.m., and 12:00 midnight this week. The bad news is that I could handle sleep deprivation much better in college than now.
Fortunately, we were able to get three more of our bills across the finish line just in the nick of time. First, it’s been a long time coming, but we finally passed HB 547 — our bill giving school districts the option to allow interested homeschooled students to participate in UIL activities. There’s been some spirited discussion around this bill, so we’ve provided a more in-depth explanation below, in the body of the newsletter. I really believe this bill will greatly benefit any school district that wants to impact more kids, and it will obviously tremendously help any homeschooler who chooses to participate in band, sports, or academic competition.
The House also approved two of our other bills, HB 3720 and HB 3691. We’ve talked about each of these bills before, but as a reminder:
- HB 3720 seeks to improve the interest list process for Medicaid waiver programs. These waivers allow the state to use Medicaid funds for services like long-term care outside of an institution setting. Unfortunately, there’s a long wait list to receive these services. This bill would require HHSC to collect additional information from applicants in order to increase efficiency in the waitlist process, with the goal of taking another important step towards eliminating the wait lists altogether.
- HB 3691 makes several changes recommended by a Texas Tech study to improve implementation of the community-based foster care model that the legislature created in 2017. In particular, this bill makes it clear that the goal of community-based care is to strengthen and preserve families, thus preventing children from being unnecessarily placed into foster care. HB 3691 also calls for a clear focus on child welfare outcomes when evaluating how our community-based care providers are doing, rather than measuring inputs to the system.
This week also saw passage of a few high profile bills that we wanted to make you aware of.
- HB 3 is the omnibus pandemic response bill, which focuses on clarifying which powers are afforded to the state in the event of a pandemic. This bill creates a unified, cohesive response system to pandemics, while also ensuring that the rights and liberties of individuals are not taken away.
- SJR 27 is an amendment to the Texas Constitution prohibiting the state from placing restrictions or limitations on religious services. The Legislature wanted to ensure that the fundamental right to worship is protected from government overreach in the future.
Finally, I am overjoyed to announce that Alisha and I are now grandparents. Jerod and Kiersten had their first daughter, Sienna Catherine Frank, on Thursday, and we could not be more excited. In the midst of this busy and, at times, overwhelming legislative session, this is the perfect reminder that what is happening outside the Capitol walls is often far more important than any bill or hearing could ever be. While I’m grateful for the chance to be your Representative, I’m even more grateful to be a husband, father, and now grandfather (aka Pops).
May God bless you and your family,
James B. Frank