Highlights of the First Called Special Session of the 82nd Texas Legislature (2011)
State lawmakers convened a 30-day Special Session, called by Gov. Rick Perry, on May 31, because they failed to pass Senate Bill 1811, which contained the statutory changes necessary to create savings and balance the state's budget (House Bill 1). The new Senate Bill 1 extends the $1 million small business tax exemption and includes a temporary public school finance plan to allocate the more than $4 billion in cuts. he bill also defers the August 2013 payment to school districts into the next biennium, which saves an additional $2 billion.
In addition, lawmakers cut some $15.2 billion from current spending, including the $4 billion drop in payments to public schools and simply did not address a $4.8 billion hole in Medicaid attributed to anticipated growth in costs and caseload to serve mandatory populations over the next two years. It is unclear at this point if lawmakers intend to tap the rainy day fund in 2013 to fill this serious gap.
Only the governor may call the Legislature into special sessions, unlike other states where the legislature may call itself into session. In accordance with the state's constitution, lawmakers are only allowed to consider legislative items as directed by the governor. The following issues were considered in Gov. Perry's first called Special Session:
Although the Special Session adjourned sine die on June 29, lawmakers failed to finalize several issues of importance to Gov. Perry, including sanctuary cities legislation and a measure aimed at intrusive airport pat-down searches by Transportation Security Administration agents. Now that the Special Session has ended, attention turns to the 2012 election cycle with focus on the presidential race, and redrawn congressional and state legislative district lines, which could make for an interesting next 16 months.
Highlights of the Regular Session of the 82nd Texas Legislature (2011)
When the 140-day Regular Session of the 82nd Texas Legislature concluded on May 30, state lawmakers approved a $172 billion (all funds) budget for the 2012-13 biennium, which is an 8.1 percent reduction from current spending. With a perceived mandate from voters in the November General Election, freshmen and conservative Republican legislators-supported by the leadership-prevailed in not raising taxes and using only $3.2 billion from the almost $9 billion rainy day fund to pay the state's current bills. During the regular session, approximately 6,236 bills and resolutions were filed, and approximately 1,532 were passed and sent to Gov.Rick Perry for his consideration.
Unfortunately, funding for Texas Health and Human Services (Article II) sustained the largest overall hit, with an $11.3 billion or 17.2 percent reduction in all funds. A significant loss was in federal funding, which will decrease 28 percent, or $11.8 million. This loss is attributed to the expiration of federal stimulus dollars and the 10-point decline in the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP). The dedicated trauma fund appropriation declined by 23 percent to $57.5 million for each year of the biennium. The final version of the budget did hold the line at 2010-11 funding levels for mental health services. While this does not allow for population growth or inflation, it is far better than the House budget, which proposed cuts of more than $239 million.
Overall, Texas hospitals face an 8 percent reduction in Medicaid inpatient and outpatient hospital funding, in addition to the 2 percent reduction implemented in 2010-2011 and codified in the supplemental appropriation process (House Bill 4 and Senate Bill 275). However, hospitals were successful in protecting rural and children's hospitals from the inpatient rate reduction. Some of the key session successes include, but are not limited to the following:
- Hospitals in counties with a population less than 50,000 or sole community or critical access providers now have the option to employee physicians
- Funding was secured to allow nursing schools to maintain the increased enrollment they have achieved with some schools possibility expanding their programs ($30 million for the biennium)
- Funding was reinstated to temper proposed cuts to health-related institutions' formula funding
- No harmful "treat-until-transfer" requirement for end of life care
- No undermining of medical liability reforms
- No union-friendly legislation passed (e.g., mandatory nurse staff ratios)
- No repeal of the Driver Responsibility Program, which is the major source of funding for trauma facilities and emergency medical service providers (Trauma payments to hospitals will be reduced by 23 percent in the 2012-2013 biennium, from $75 million per year to $57.5 million per year)
- No changes to Texas' charity care and community benefit statue
For a copy of Texas Health's public policy priorities that will advance our mission to improve the health of the people in the communities we serve, please follow this link.