Harvey Recovery Press Conference. On Monday, Governor Greg Abbott held a press conference call with the Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, announcing $652 million in additional federal funding for Hurricane Harvey recovery. The additional funds are allocated from the Community Development Block Grant for Disaster Recovery Program and add to the more than $5 billion that has already been allocated.
Surprise Medical Billing. On Thursday, Sen. Kelly Hancock (R-Fort Worth) and Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer (D-San Antonio) introduced SB 1264 to address the problem of surprise medical billing. The legislation builds upon the existing mediation process established by legislation Hancock authored a decade ago. SB 1264 would prohibit providers from balance billing patients in several circumstances, including when being treated by an out-of-network provider in an in-network hospital, or when patients receive care from a non-network provider in an emergency situation.
Reappointed Commissioner of Education. On Wednesday, Governor Abbott appointed Mike Morath to a second term as Commissioner of Education. Morath has served in the role since 2016 and previously served on the Dallas Independent School District Board of Trustees.
New TDLR Commissioners. On Thursday, Governor Abbott made two new appointments to the Texas Commission on Licensing and Regulation and reappointed a third commissioner. Governor Abbott named Rick Figueroa, vice president of UBS Financial Services and partner with the Caton Figueroa Group, as chair of the Commission. The Governor also appointed Joel Garza, Jr., a Pearland tax attorney, and reappointed Tom Butler, President of USI Federal Credit Union, to the Commission.
Key Open Meetings Act Provision Struck Down. On Wednesday, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the state’s highest criminal court, struck down a key section of the Texas Open Meetings Act. The provision bars public officials from privately deliberating in small groups to avoid a quorum, a practice sometimes known as a “walking quorum.” While the Court held that the law was “unconstitutionally vague” and “wholly lacking specificity,” Presiding Judge Sharon Keller nonetheless affirmed the legislature’s power to regulate government officials and public meetings through a more specific law. On Thursday, Gov. Abbott called on state agencies to continue operating transparently and within the spirit of the law.
Runoff Set for HD-125. Governor Abbott set the date of Tuesday, March 12 for the runoff in the special election for House District 125. Two candidates are running to replace former Rep. Justin Rodriguez (D-San Antonio), who was appointed to the Bexar County Commissioners Court: Republican Fred Rangel, managing partner of Adco Master builders, and Democrat Ray Lopez, former City Council member and local school board trustee. Early voting will be held from March 4th-8th.
Senate Higher Education Adds Members. On Wednesday, the Senate added two new members to the Higher Education Committee by adopting SR 300. Lt. Governor Dan Patrick named Senators Pete Flores (R-Pleasanton) and Jose Menendez (D-San Antonio) to the committee.
Bill Filing Deadline. The deadline for the unrestricted filing of bills and joint resolutions other than local bills, emergency appropriations, and emergency matters, is Friday, March 8, 2019.
For more information on the Texas Legislature, visit https://capitol.texas.gov/