87th Texas Legislative Session: What are our opportunities for next session?

Many good bills do not pass the first time they are filed. Bills can die for many reasons, including running out of time, misunderstanding by legislative offices, or competing priorities. When a good bill or key provision dies, it is important to study what may not have worked, develop relationships with and educate legislators during the interim, and build our grassroots network. Each session is different, and many bills take more than one session to move through the full process.

Statewide Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Coordinating Council (House Bill 4571)

This bill would have created a Statewide Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Coordinating Council to provide input and reports on the IDD Strategic Plan. The IDD strategic plan addresses gaps across the IDD system to support high-quality, cost-effective services to Texans with IDD, in the most integrated setting appropriate to the individual. Unfortunately, the bill was never called for a hearing in the Senate and died after running out time. We will work with agency partners and the legislature during the interim to ensure the bill is fully understood and supported next legislative session. Listen to or a read a transcript of our testimony in favor of this bill.

Modified bill leaves out important provisions to increase access to community services (House Bill 3720)

House Bill 3720 as sent to Gov. Greg Abbott is not the same bill that was filed by Chairman Frank. After going to conference committee where members from the House and Senate decide which parts of the bill to include in the final version, and the adoption of a resolution allowing the legislature to go out of bounds (which means it could accept new language that was not in the House or the Senate versions of the bill), the following language went to Gov. Abbott:

  • • The full text of House Bill 3240 was added. This language was not included in the House or Senate versions of House Bill 3720, which is why there was the resolution mentioned above. This new language addresses membership on the Long-Term Care Advisory Committee and addresses rules related to administrative penalties.
  • • The original section establishing a questionnaire about individuals on the interest list/wait list, in conjunction with the IDD System Redesign Advisory Committee, which, if done thoughtfully and correctly, could help obtain a clearer picture of immediate and long- term needs, as well as identify gaps in accessing existing services.

Unfortunately, two provisions we supported were removed:

  • • The provision that would have increased access to the Texas Home Living (TxHmL) Waiver by making the financial eligibility for the waiver program the same as all other waivers
  • • The provision to create an online portal for signing up and updating information about people on the waitlist.

We will continue to advocate for equality in financial eligibility within the TxHmL Waiver during the interim and the next legislative session.

Determining intellectual disability in capital punishment cases (House Bill 869)

This bill would have updated and improved the process for Texas courts to determine an intellectual disability in capital punishment cases prior to the sentencing phase. Although the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that it is unconstitutional to sentence an individual with an intellectual disability to death, individual states were left to create their own processes for determining intellectual disability. Texas has yet to create that process, which both harms the accused individual and the potential victim’s family, as well as costs the state millions in taxpayer dollars.

This bill did not receive unanimous support during its committee hearing and was not passed on the House floor. We will continue to facilitate conversations centered on the education of legislators and communities around the purpose and positive impact of this legislation. Listen to or read a transcript of our testimony in favor of this bill.

Incorporating supporters in the criminal justice process (Senate Bill 824)

A supporter identified within a Supported Decision Making Agreement can be used during criminal legal proceedings to provide more equity and clarity for individuals with IDD who may not understand their rights and/or the language used by legal professionals. This bill would have addressed any confusion around a supporter’s right to be present when individuals meet with their attorney and during court proceedings.

This bill originated from conversations with numerous legal professionals and criminal justice advocates over the years and culminated in the introduction of this legislation this session. However, due to the limited capacity of hearing bills this session, SB 824 did not get a committee hearing. Legislative action is a slow and deliberate process, and we will continue to support alternatives to guardianship and incorporate them in all aspects of society, as this legislation would do.