Texas Lobbyist News 2020

Coronavirus Updates

Governor Directs COVID-19 Testing in all Nursing Home Facilities. On May 11th, Governor Abbott directed the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC), the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM), and the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) to test all residents and staff in Texas nursing homes. The Governor instructed HHSC, TDEM, and DSHS to develop and implement a plan based on federal guidance.

“The State of Texas is working to rapidly expand our testing capacity—especially among vulnerable populations in Texas nursing homes,” said Governor Abbott. “This important collaboration among HHSC, TDEM, and DSHS will ensure that any potential clusters of COVID-19 cases in nursing homes are quickly detected and contained.”

Governor Abbott Extends COVID-19 Disaster Declaration For All Texas Counties. On May 12, Governor Abbott issued a proclamation extending the Disaster Declaration for all Texas counties in response to COVID-19. Originally issued on March 13 and extended on April 12, the Disaster Declaration provides the state a number of resources to effectively serve Texans as the Lone Star State continues to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

“As we continue to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, our top priority remains the health and safety of all Texans,” said Governor Abbott. “By extending the disaster declaration, we are ensuring that Texas has the resources and capabilities in place to safely and strategically open the state while containing the spread of this virus. As we move forward in our response, I urge all Texans to continue following the health and safety guidelines laid out by the CDC and Texas’ team of medical experts.”

Governor Waives License Renewal Fees. On May 13th, Governor Abbott waived license renewal late fees accrued between March 13 and June 15, 2020 for occupational licenses issued by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR). The waiver applies to a variety of occupations including barbers, cosmetologists, electricians, speech-language pathologists, and dyslexia therapists.

“This waiver removes financial barriers that could prevent Texans from getting back to work as we safely and strategically open the economy,” said Governor Abbott. “The COVID-19 pandemic has presented unique challenges for the Texas workforce, and we are committed to restoring these hardworking Texans’ livelihoods while protecting public health.”

Legislative Updates

Senate Finance Chair Nelson Says She Intends to Extend Zero-Base Budgeting. On May 8th, Senate Finance Chair Jane Nelson said she intends to take the Texas form of zero-based budgeting a step further. Chair Nelson said “As I meet with each agency to review their appropriation requests, I will begin at zero. “We will add restricted appropriations to that amount, and then examine each and every request before adding it to our base bill that I will file during session.” “When I was appointed chair of the Senate Finance Committee, I immediately put all agencies on notice that – when coming before our committee – they should not expect their budgets to start with current spending levels,” Nelson said. “The upcoming session will be the fourth consecutive time our agencies, on a rotating basis, will undergo a strategic fiscal review, Texas’ form of zero-based-budgeting. Because of the challenges we will be facing in the upcoming budget cycle, I plan to take that a step further.”

Six Candidates File for Austin-Area Senate Special Election. On May 13th, the filing deadline passed for candidates seeking to replace retired Democratic State Senator Kirk Watson in Senate District 14 on July 14th. Six candidates filed to run in total. State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, an Austin Democrat, and former Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt are widely considered the two most prominent candidates for the seat. Two Republicans are also running for the Senate seat: Don Zimmerman, a former Austin City Council member, and Waller Thomas Burns II, an Austin-area attorney. Former Lago Vista City Council member Pat Dixon is running as a Libertarian, while maternal care doctor and Dell Medical School lecturer Jeff Ridgeway is running as an independent. On May 11th, Governor Abbott extended the early voting period for the special election; early voting will now begin on June 29th instead of July 6th.

Contractor Requirement for DIR-Certified Cybersecurity Training Program Completion. The Texas Health and Human Services system requires contractors with direct access into a state computer system or database to complete a cybersecurity training program certified by the Department of Information Resources. HHSC, Long Term Care contractors must complete HHS Form 3834, Written Acknowledgement of Completion of Cybersecurity Training Program. They must submit the form to Access and Eligibility Services – Eligibility Operations Provider Contract Management. HHS has published Information Letter 2020-20, Requirement to complete DIR-Certified Cybersecurity Training Program (PDF) with more information.