There are just under 50 days left in the 85th Legislative Session, and the House is hard at work. Last week, we passed a conservative budget and began sending legislation to the Senate. Our committees continue to hear a variety of bills covering every subject of state governance, and our daily schedule continues to grow busier at each passing day. Below you'll find just a few of the items I have been working on over the past two weeks.
House Passes Biennial Budget
The House passed the 2018/2019 General Appropriations Act after a 15 hour debate early Friday morning. The Budget, crafted during a time of lower than expected state revenue, fully funds public education enrollment growth, transportation infrastructure projects, and major state services - without raising taxes or fees. Furthermore, the House adopted two major pro-life amendments that will be sent to the Senate for approval.
1.The House increased funding to the Alternatives to Abortion program twofold, appropriating an additional $20 Million to the state's Pregnancy Care Network. This increases the program's budget to $38 Million total, allowing us to further expand outreach to expecting mothers.
2.The House completely prohibited Planned Parenthood and any other abortion provider from received state or federal funds allocated through the state budget. Despite the prior federal administration's attempts to block these measures in the past, the Texas House has always stood firm - and we did so again in approving this amendment.
Last Tuesday, the House passed a Sunset bill reauthorizing the Railroad Commission - our state's oil and gas regulatory agency. As part of that effort, my amendment requiring businesses contracting with or performing duties for the Commission to utilize the federal E-Verify system was approved by the full House. This is an important advancement in our ongoing effort to ensure that businesses comply with federal immigration law.
Eliminating "Rolling Polling"
The current practice of moving voting locations around during an ongoing election deprives voters of predictability and reliability in their polling places, often skewing the results of an election. HB 1462 puts an end to this practice, ensuring that all Texas voters know when and where to cast their ballots.
Tax Ratification Elections
House Bill 1496 moves all school tax rate elections to the November uniform election date, providing predictability and greater accountability to Texas taxpayers.
These two bills were approved by the Elections Committee and are currently awaiting placement on the House calendar for consideration.
The House of Representatives is delivering on its promise to provide for effective and reliable mental health services to vulnerable Texans. Two years of work on the Select Committee on Mental Health has been transformed into policy changes, legislative action, and funding prioritization that will benefit all Texans. Passing HB 10, which requires insurance policies to treat mental healthcare the same as physical health, takes a huge step toward accomplishing our mission. More legislation is working through the legislative process, and the newly-passed state budget accommodates these improvements.
Patient Protection: Step Therapy
Currently a patient may be required to try, and fail on, a lower-cost drug selected by their health plan before coverage is granted for the drug originally prescribed by the patient’s healthcare provider. Patients who are successfully being treated on a drug regiment will no longer be forced off of their medications by an insurance company looking to save money on a cheaper alternative. Instead, patients who are prescribed a drug that works will stay on those working drugs under protection of law. HB 1464 also streamlines the step therapy exception process and ensures that widely accepted clinical guidelines are considered when health insurers develop step therapy protocols - so that medicine- not costs dictate requirements.
Patient Protection: Clawback Prohibition
HB 2360 protects a patient's consumer rights by preventing the practice of "clawbacks." A “clawback” is when a Pharmacy Benefit Manager or a health benefit plan requires a pharmacy to charge a patient an elevated copayment amount for a prescription drug that would otherwise cost less under the normal terms of the health plan. Many times the insured patient pays more than an uninsured individual would pay out of pocket for the same prescription. HB 2360 bans the practice of clawbacks and ensures that individuals not pay more than they should for pharmaceuticals.