In legislation news, a collection of bills resulting from recommendation from the Sunset Advisory Commission that would change and further consolidate health and human service agencies were filed earlier this month. Senator Jane Nelson, R- Flower Mound, who also is the Senate Finance chairwoman, filed Senate Bill (SB) 200 that transforms the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) into a mega agency. It would do this by abolishing the current agencies, DFPS, DADS, DARS, and DSHS, and bring their functions under the HHSC. A companion bill for SB 200 was filed in the House by Representative Four Price, R- Amarillo, House Bill 2304. SB 200 was already referred to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee headed by Senator Charles Schwertner, R- Georgetown.
Senate Bill 206 is the DFPS Sunset bill. It was filed by Senator Schwertner and on the House side, Representative Cindy Burkett, R-Garland, filed its companion, House Bill 2433.
Two committees, the House Committee on Appropriations and the Senate Finance Committee, are responsible for reviewing the state budget bill. However, decisions about individual agency budgets are made in smaller groups of members from each committee. On the House side, they are called subcommittees and on the Senate side, they are called workgroups. Each member on the Appropriation / Finance committee are assigned to a subcommittee/workgroup to discuss an agency’s budget in greater depth. These are public meetings but no testimony is allowed except for Legislative Budget Board staff.
House subcommittee members for Article II have been working for a few weeks on budget recommendations for the health and human service agencies and have wrapped up their work. They have presented their recommendations to the entire Appropriations committee. The Appropriations committee heard and approved their recommendations late last week. The Appropriations committee voted the House version of the state budget, House Bill 1, out of committee on Friday, March 13. HB 1 is now on its way to the House floor.
The House subcommittee members who worked on the health and human service agencies’ budgets are: Four Price – (HHSC); Representative Dawnna Dukes, D-Austin; (DFPS); Cindy Burkett, R-Garland, (DARS); Sarah Davis – R-Houston; (DSHS); Oscar Longoria, D- Peñitas, (HHSC); JD Sheffield, R-Gatesville (DADS); and Representative Armando Walle, D- Houston. (DARS). The state agency budget that each subcommittee member was assigned is identified in parentheses.
Senate Finance Committee Workgroup members for Article II, Health and Human Service agencies, were named. They include: Senator Schwertner; Senator Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston; Senator Lois Kolkhorst, R- Brenham; Senator Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood; and Senator Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio. The workgroup met on Friday, March 13.
Multiple truancy bills were heard in the House Committee for Juvenile Justice and Family Issues. TNOYS supported the following bills for:
Rep. James White
- HB 93 Relating to the repeal of the offenses of failure to attend school and parent contributing to nonattendance.
- HB 697 Relating to the waiver of fines, fees, and court costs imposed on a student convicted of truancy.
- HB 378 Relating to the establishment of progressive sanctions for students who fail to attend school and to the repeal of the offenses of failure to attend school and parent contributing to nonattendance.
- HB 107 Relating to the fine imposed on a student convicted of truancy.
- HB 110 Relating to the punishment by confinement for contempt of court for failure to obey a court order related to truancy.
Rep. Gene Wu
- HB 297 Relating to the establishment of progressive sanctions for students who fail to attend school and to the repeal of the offenses of failure to attend school and parent contributing to nonattendance.
Rep. Joe Moody
- HB 516 Relating to venue for the offense of failure to attend school.
- HB 519 Relating to venue for the offense of a parent contributing to a child’s failure to attend school.
Rep. Dan Huberty
- HB 1490 Relating to public school interventions and procedures for truancy.
Rep. Harold Dutton
- HB 2632 Relating to removing a criminal penalty and authorizing a civil penalty for truancy.