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Legislative Update

by Kate Moss, Family Support Specialist, TSBVI Deafblind Outreach
and Edgenie Lindquist, BVIC Caseworker Consultant, Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (formerly known as Texas Commision for the Blind)

Contents of this page:

This has been a busy legislative year both in Austin and in Washington, D.C. We thought we would make an effort to highlight some of the bills that most affect children with visual impairments and deafblindness and their families. The following information on state legislative action was excerpted from Actionline, Volume IV, June 1997 which is published by ARC of Texas and from Dr. Karen Wolffe of AVIT.


School District Accountability

HB 1800, related to state administered assessment instruments for students in special education, has been signed. It makes major changes to the assessment and accountability systems for students who receive special education services. Students are assessed in reading, math, writing, social studies and science on an established schedule. This bill directs TEA to develop/adopt an appropriate criterion-referenced assessment instrument(s) for reading, writing, and math to be administered as an alternative for special education students who receive instruction in the essential elements but whose ARD committees determine that the TAAS, even with modifications, is not appropriate. These alternative assessments will be given in grades 3-8 on the same schedule as TAAS. The ARD team will still determine if the student will participate in the end-of-course and exit level exams. The ARD team will also determine the level of performance considered to be satisfactory on the student's alternative assessment and what, if any, modifications are necessary for the student to take the alternative assessment.

If the student is not receiving instruction in the essential elements at any grade level, they will be exempt from the assessment system. The Commissioner will review the exemption process used by any of the school districts if more than 5% of its special education students are exempt from either the TAAS or the alternative assessments.

The scores of special education students taking the TAAS will be reported with those of all other students beginning in 1997-1998 school year. By 2000-2001 students taking an alternative assessment will be reported. By the 2002-2003 the results of the alternative assessments will become a performance indicator in the statewide accountability system.

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SB 586 directs the Health and Human Services Commission to establish a guardianship advisory board that would assist in establishing standards for local guardianship programs. It also calls for the development of a plan to ensure that every person in the state in need of a guardian is provided with one.

Related to this bill is SB 85 which reauthorizes the Surrogate Decision-making program. This program allows actively involved family members of persons living in ICF/MR group homes to be able to make certain major medical or dental treatment decisions without having to establish formal guardianship. It also provides for a Surrogate Consent Committee at the state-level to make certain decisions for these individuals when a surrogate decision-maker is not available at a local level.

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Long Term Care

HB 460 requires the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) to study the feasibility of collapsing all or some of the federal Medicaid waiver programs into a single waiver. Additionally HB 663 directs the HHSC to develop a pilot program which would test the feasibility of using a consistent "functional needs assessment" to assess eligibility for long-term health care services. Future services would be based on "functional need" rather than on a specific disability label. Money in the amount of $250,000 is earmarked to pay for the development of this assessment tool.

SCR 14 directs the HHSC to develop a plan to coordinate long-term service delivery and administration as well as a plan for training for long-term caseworkers and case managers. Additionally HB 2084 directs HHCS and the Rehabilitation Commission to develop a pilot program to test the effectiveness of using vouchers for payment for various long-term care services.

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Managed Care and Medicaid

Most of the group of bills designed to increase consumer protections in managed care have been signed by the governor. SB 386 will hold HMOs responsible for negligent decisions when the denial of medically necessary treatments results in injury to the patient. SB 385 allows for a specialist to be a Primary Care Physician under certain circumstances; defines emergency care as care that a prudent lay person would believe necessary to prevent further harm; and prohibits HMOs from using financial incentives to limit medically necessary services.

HB 3 creates a nonprofit corporation (the Texas Healthy Kids Corporation) to administer a statewide children's health insurance program for families unable to afford their own insurance but currently ineligible for Medicaid. No child receiving services from a Medicaid waiver or other services targeted to children with disabilities would lose those services. A related bill SB 1165 prohibits HHSC from requiring a child with special health care needs who is eligible for Medicaid to be enrolled in a managed care plan to receive health care services, unless that action will improve the availability of appropriate and comprehensive health care services to the child. A procedure is in place whereby a child may be exempted from managed care for good cause.

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On the budget side of the fence the good news is:

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Commissioner Moses of TEA has indicated a willingness to support recommendations made by the committee working on HB 436 regarding access to electronic textbooks for students with visual impairments.

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Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Reauthorized

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act was reauthorized and signed into law by President Clinton on June 4th, several days before the National Deafblind Conference in Washington, D.C. There are several things of note related to this piece of legislation:

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Upcoming Rehabilitation Act Reauthorization

HR 1385, the Employment, Training, and Literacy Enchancement Act of 1997, was passed by the House on May 16 and includes a 3-year extenstion of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act. Congressman William Goodling, Chair of the House Education and Workforce Committee said that the changes to the Rehabilitation Act were an interim step to allow the 106th Congress to do a more comprehensive review of Rehabilitation programs. The Senate Subcommittee on Employment and Training will be conducting hearings throughout July and will likely introduce a bill after Labor Day.

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Last Revision: July 30, 2002

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