The next session of the Texas Legislature begins in 11 months, and preparations have already begun. During the period between legislative sessions, which occur every other year for 140 days, Senate and House committees hold public hearings on a series of interim charges. Studies on these topics serve as a blueprint for major legislation that will be considered in the 2013 session.
So far, Senate committees have been charged with a study of issues ranging from drought to economic development to border security. Many topics are of particular interest to our community, including studies on the state’s most pressing transportation needs, policies on payments for orthodontic treatments under Medicaid, and services available to returning veterans. And a joint panel of Senate and House members will scrutinize the finance system that supports public education — an issue dear to my heart as a former teacher and mother of two daughters who teach.
As chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, my focus over the next several months will be on major health topics. We must closely monitor ongoing legal challenges to federal health care reform, conduct a thorough review of our Child Protective Services system, and step up our efforts to reduce fraud, waste and inefficiency in health services. I have also been appointed to a select panel that is charged with guiding Texas’ effort to redesign Medicaid through a federal waiver.
Last month, I was named Senate chair of a new joint committee on the impact of Alzheimer’s disease in our state. As the caretaker of my mother, who suffered from this cruel disease for 8 years, I am personally invested in this panel’s mission.
As a member of the Senate’s Finance Committee, we will be closely tracking economic indicators over the months ahead. While a difficult budget session is anticipated, the state’s economy continues to outperform other states’, which will help ensure that we can meet our commitments within the confines of what we can afford.
I would encourage all Texans to visit the Texas Legislature Online at www.capitol.state.tx.us. Hearing agendas, interim charges, live video feeds, and e-mail alerts for committee notices help citizens to follow the progress of topics of interest to them. All hearings are public, and live or written testimony is crucial to our study. Of course, individual comments on any interim charge can also be sent to me directly at [email protected]e.tx.us.
The next 11 months are key to making sure we address the state’s most difficult challenges with thoughtful, well-researched ideas, developed in a setting that promotes public involvement. When the 140-day session begins, we will be ready to tackle Texas’ most pressing challenges. I welcome your input on the issues you would like to be addressed by your state government.
Senator Jane Nelson represents District 12, including portions of Tarrant and Denton Counties. She is Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health & Human Services.