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Fall 2001 Table of Contents
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Legislative Update

By Cyral Miller, Director of Outreach, Texas School for the Blind & Visually Impaired

Every two years, the Texas Legislature creates new laws and modifies old ones. Although several bills generate public comment and publicity, the majority are passed without fanfare. Below is a sampling of a few legislative initiatives you may not have heard about, with implications for persons with disabilities. If you would like more information, a great source is the Texas Legislature Online, on the web at http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/.  You'll find information there on legislators, legislative action in general, the entire text of each bill, an analysis of its meaning and many related resources and links. Much of the information for this article came from this source, as well as the Texas Governor's Committee on People with Disabilities website at http://www.governor.state.tx.us/the_office/gcopd_div/main.htm.

SB1196 addresses school discipline and has new language about enforcement of behavior plans and special education students. This bill amends the Education Code, to prohibit placing students alone for any period of time in a confined area without the ability to leave.

SB 1735 also amends the Education Code, to ensure that disciplinary actions for students with disabilities involving change of placement receive review by the ARD committee, and are in line with federal law and regulations for students in special education. Sec. 29.017 of this bill addresses the transfer of parental rights to students with disabilities who are 18 years old or older. These students have the same right to make educational decisions as a student without a disability, except that the school district is required to provide notices to both the student and the parents.

HB 1144 establish new rules regarding the state educational accountability system, and establishes a new master mathematics teacher certification program, to be created not later than January 1, 2003. The bill requires the Commissioner of Education to develop and make available professional development resources to assist mathematics teachers. The bill also addresses end of course assessment instruments for Algebra 1. The Admission, Review, and Dismissal committee of a student in a special education program must determine whether allowable modifications are necessary for the student to take the assessment, or whether the student should be exempted.

HB 477 establishes a pilot program for coordinating case management services. There is a concern that recent changes, requiring time-limited benefits along with work requirements, have helped those with minimal barriers into work, but left those with more significant needs behind. The bill requires the Texas Department of Human Services and the Texas Workforce Commission to develop a plan for clients with higher levels of barriers to employment and provide them with coordinated services.

HB 2510 and SB 1456 both address the growing incidence of diabetes in our nation. They create a new Diabetes Research Center at the Texas Tech University campus in El Paso, and a Pediatric Diabetes Research Working Group in the Department of Health.

HB 2345 modifies provisions regarding the program run by the Texas Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing that provides vouchers for specialized telecommunications equipment, and removes the $35 fee that is required for an individual to receive a voucher.

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Last Revision: July 30, 2002