P.O. Box 12068, State Capitol
Austin, Texas 78711
Tel. (512) 463-0112
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 13, 2006
AUSTIN -- The legislative season is officially under way as lawmakers converged on the State Capitol today for the first day of pre-filing bills. State Senator Jane Nelson, R-Lewisville, filed 28 bills today, including legislation designed to improve access to health care, protect children from predators, curb domestic violence and prevent identity theft.
"In our community, there is a strong desire to address transportation, education, fiscal responsibility and access to health care next session, and those are my goals," Senator Nelson said. "The buzz around Austin is that this will be a budget session. We have got to prioritize fully funding our transportation needs, rewarding teachers, streamlining health and human services and ensuring that property owners experience the tax relief we intended."
Following are some of the highlights of legislation filed by Senator Nelson today:
DAY CARE PROTECTION: SB 21 will require that anyone who works at a day care in Texas submit to fingerprinting, along with criminal background checks that are already required. It also strengthens procedures for unannounced inspections. "This bill is designed to root out pedophiles who may have been able to deceive their way into positions working with children. They can fake their identity but not their fingerprint, which is why we need to take this step to protect children," Senator Nelson said.
LONG TERM CARE PARTNERSHIP: SB 22 rewards seniors who obtain long-term care insurance by protecting some of their assets in determining eligibility for Medicaid. "This legislation will encourage more Texans to arrange for their long-term care and provide a way for seniors to protect their assets," Senator Nelson said.
TEXLINK: The national discussion on the uninsured inspired SB 23, which is Senator Nelson's plan to better connect small businesses and uninsured Texans with health insurance options. It establishes TexLink, a division at the Texas Department of Insurance that will serve as a clearinghouse of information for Texans looking for health coverage. "We all want to reduce the number of Texans without health insurance, and one of the ways we can do that is to help small businesses and individuals decipher the complicated health coverage options that are available. I envision this office as an education center where Texans can access information about health insurance providers and community collaboratives. Many communities in our state are creating innovative benefit plans targeted to small businesses and the uninsured, and this office can help other areas of the state work together and learn from each other," Senator Nelson said.
TELEMEDICINE: SB 24 would allow health care providers to receive payment under Medicaid for office visits conducted via remote location. "Technology continues to assist in our efforts to improve access to medical care. Telemedicine has proven especially useful for patients in rural areas that may not have access to certain medical specialists in their community. This legislation will encourage more providers to participate," Senator Nelson said.
SAFE COMPETITION: Senator Nelson filed SB 25, requiring that an automated external defibrillator (AED) be available at all public high school sporting events and practices in Texas starting next school year. She announced the legislation in conjunction with the Texas Sports Medicine Foundation's announcement that low income school districts may apply to their foundation to have an AED donated to their campus. "The cost of an AED is about $1,000, but safe competition for our high school athletes is priceless. These devices can mean the difference between life and death, and we need this legislation to protect our student athletes," Senator Nelson said.
ADVANCED DIRECTIVES: Senator Nelson filed three bills today with the goal of encouraging more Texans to create living wills and to make that information more readily available to health care providers. SB 26 creates a statewide advanced directives database. SB 27 directs the Department of State Health Services to provide education about advanced directives in nursing homes. SB 28 creates a standardized advanced directives form for health care providers. "This is extremely difficult subject matter, but we all need to plan for end-of-life care so that loved ones and health care providers are not left making these difficult decisions without guidance," Senator Nelson said.
HEALTH CARE WORKFORCE: Senator Nelson filed a series bills (SB 29, SB 30, SB 31, SB 32, SB 33) to ensure that Texas maintains comprehensive health care work force to meet the state's diverse set of health care needs. "In order to ensure that all regions of our state have access to care, it is vital that Texas have a robust work force of health care professionals that cover every region and meet every health care need," Senator Nelson said.
NUTRITION IN SCHOOLS: SB 34 codifies regulations created by the Texas Department of Agriculture to ensure that nutritious foods are available in our school cafeterias and vending machines. "We do not expect schools to play the role of parent, but I think we can all agree that students should have access to nutritious food during the school day," Senator Nelson said.
WORKPLACE WELLNESS: SB 35 allows our state agencies to use nutrition quality as a determining factor in awarding bids to food vendors. " If your definition of lunch is to grab whatever is available in the cafeteria, there ought to be a nutritious option. That is the goal of this legislation," Senator Nelson said.
HIV COUNCIL: SB 38 directs the Higher Education Coordinating Board to join the list of state agencies that participate in the Texas HIV Council. "Considering how important it is to protect college students from Hepatitis and HIV, it is important that we bring our universities into the dialogue on preventing the spread of these diseases," Senator Nelson said.
CANCER DRUG DONATION: SB 39 allows uninsured or under-insured cancer patients to enroll in a program to access cancer medication. "There is a significant amount of medication out there that, for one reason or another, is leftover or unused. This bill will allow that medication to not go to waste but instead to go to qualifying cancer patients," Senator Nelson said.
DISASTER PREPAREDNESS: SB 41 directs our state health services to track information from recent natural disasters and emergencies in order to develop evacuation protocols for use in future emergencies. "We continue to learn from our experience with last year's hurricanes, and this legislation will ensure that we use those lessons to continually adapt our emergency preparedness," Senator Nelson.
TRUTH IN TEXAS LOTTERY: In response to previous instances of inflated lottery jackpots, SB 42 places advertising campaigns initiated by the Texas Lottery Commission under restrictions based on truth-in-advertising laws. "In a nutshell, this bill says that the Lottery Commission has to tell the truth when it advertises jackpots. How sad that we need legislation for this to happen," Senator Nelson said.
MILITARY FAMILIES: SB 43 prevents the courts from considering military service as a deciding factor in granting permanent custody. "We want all of our troops to come home safely to their families, and we hope every marriage survives this war. But for those that do not, it is wrong for the mothers and fathers who are serving our country overseas to have their military service used against them in a custody dispute," Senator Nelson said.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: Senator Nelson continues her efforts to curb domestic abuse in Texas with SB 44 and SB 45. SB 44 creates an accreditation process for battery intervention prevention programs (BIPPs) to ensure that when the courts determine a domestic violence offender needs intervention treatment, the treatment is a comprehensive program. SB 45 elevates the act of strangulation to an aggravated assault, which carries jail time on the first offense. "We hear the word terror a lot these days, but we sometimes forget that there are Texans living in fear in their own homes. These bills are designed to prevent domestic abuse and give our prosecutors another tool for the fight against domestic abuse," Senator Nelson said.
STOLEN CAR AUCTIONS: SB 46 indemnifies victims of car theft against daily impound fees if their vehicle is stolen. "This bill comes from an elderly woman in my community whose car was stolen, impounded and then sold at auction because she could not afford to pay the impound fees. She was violated not once but twice, and we should never let that happen to another car theft victim," Senator Nelson said.
IDENTITY THEFT PROTECTION: SB 48 outlaws the practice of using open records requests to obtain a citizen's social security number at the county clerk's office. "Our social security numbers unlocks the door to all of our most personal information, and there is no reason that information should be made available to anyone who asks," Senator Nelson said.