Guardianship Bill Removes Due Process of Disabled Texans

The Arc of Texas Public Policy & Advocacy Coordinator Nate Lyon provided written testimony the Senate Committee on Jurisprudence on May 13, 2021, in opposition of HB 1675. Listen to his testimony and read the transcript below. You can also watch a video recording of the hearing for Nate’s testimony (1 hour 7 minute mark) and the testimony of others.

Good morning. Thank you Vice-Chair Hinojosa, Chair Huffman. Senator Kolkhorst, this morning, we thank your office for working to address the concerns of all stakeholders and ensuring Texans with disabilities and their families are involved in the legislation that impacts them.

I am Nate Lyon, Public Policy and Advocacy Coordinator for The Arc of Texas. We are a statewide membership organization that promotes, protects, and advocates for the human rights and self-determination of Texans with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Our knowledge and experience over the past 70 years with our members shows that the vast majority of people with IDD can manage their own affairs with informal assistance and guidance, or utilize alternatives to guardianship. It is critical that any substantive change in the guardianship process garners adequate time, thought, and input from a variety of stakeholders. Unfortunately, HB 1675 as it stands has numerous unintended consequences.

House Bill 1675 removes due process as well as hard-fought guardianship protections for Texans with disabilities. As it’s been said before, removing an individual’s rights and freedoms should not be an easy process. These current processes are in place to protect individuals with IDDs rights as well as their interests are represented.

One of our members, who I’ve shared her story with you today, is a guardian of her 18-year-old son. She has said it best. I’d like to share her quote: “Current law did not stop me from being a parent to my son. Instead, current law ensures my son’s civil rights are protected by an unbiased party and are not removed unnecessarily. Every situation is unique. There is no debate about a family’s right to pursue guardianship. The real mistake is codifying the removal of a disabled Texan’s civil right to due process.”

We recognize that guardianship reform can go further. Texas should study ways to reduce or eliminate costs, assist families in navigating the complex system of options, establish consistent procedures regardless of where an individual lives, and address other barriers families face. However, we do not support weakening the due process Texans with IDD deserve before having their rights removed.

Thank you for your time and consideration, and we look forward to working with all of you.