The Texas Legislature is an important place for Texans to engage and advocate for legislative changes. Texas Doctors for Social Responsibility (TDSR) advocates for legislative bills that if passed, would help build a safer and healthier Texas. On February 28 and March 2, we visited with lawmakers and staffers and participated in policy advocacy events. During visits to legislative offices, we offered our support to bills that introduce changes to state’s gun laws and bills to expand Medicaid. We also expressed our readiness to provide verbal and written testimony and asked questions about concerning aspects of few bills
February 28. Our day at the Capitol began at the pre-rally gathering at First Austin Baptist Church for the Day of the Texas Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence. At noon, together with hundreds of activists from the Texas Majority to End Gun Violence coalition and others, we participated in the rally at the Capitol’s South Steps. In the afternoon we started our round of visits to the offices of Rep. Vikki Goodwin, Sen. Roland Gutierrez, Rep. Evelina “Lina” Ortega, Rep. Diego Bernal, Rep. Thresa “Terry” Meza and Rep. Claudia Ordaz Perez.
GUN SAFETY POLICY ADVOCATES GATHERED AT FIRST AUSTIN BAPTIST CHURCH
DR. JAIME ESTRADA, DR. LUZ PEREZ PRADO AND DR. PATRICK HERDON AT THE PRE-RALLY GATHERING AT FIRST AUSTIN BAPTIST CHURCH
WITH DR. ROBERT LEUDECKE (HOLDING THE SIGN) GETTING READY FOR THE GUN SAFETY POLICY ADVOCACY RALLY
SENATOR ROLAND GUTIERREZ SPEAKING AT THE GUN SAFETY POLICY ADVOCACY RALLY
WITH TDSR BOARD MEMBER LAUREN GERAGHTY, READY TO START THE AFTERNOON LEGISLATIVE VISITS
Making our legislative visits count-February 28, Firearm-related filed bills. The legislative visits were also an opportunity to briefly describe and share the recording link to the Fifth Annual Public Health Policy Forum, “Gun Violence: A Preventable Public Health Epidemic,” held on January 26 and hosted by TDSR and the Texas Chapter of the National Hispanic Medical Association (NHMA). We initiated the afternoon with a visit to Rep. Vikki Goodwin’s (District 47) office. We met at some length with staffer Tabitha Aditi and briefly met Rep. Goodwin. Rep. Goodwin has authored 17 firearm-related House bills. HB 88 was referred to the Ways & Means Committee. The other firearm-related bills were referred to the Community Safety Committee ( HB 179, HB 203, HB 220, HB 253, HB 269, HB 284, HB 298, HB 312, HB 324, HB 565, HB 781, HB 856, HB 1995, HB 2075, HB 2076, HB 2077).
TDSR MEMBERS WITH REP. GOODWIN (second on the left)
Next, we visited with Sen. Sen. Roland Gutierrez’s (District 19) and Legislative Director, Martin Golando. Sen. Gutierrez is outspoken in his criticism of present gun safety laws in Texas. The eight firearm-related Senate bills that Sen. Gutierrez filed are in the State Affairs Committee (SB 145, SB 146, SB 911, SB 912, SB 913, SB 914, SB 1274).
TDSR MEMBERS WITH SEN. GUTIERREZ (second on the left)
The third legislative visit was to Rep. Evelina “Lina” Ortega (District 77) and members of her staff. We spoke with Legislative Aide, Marla Guerra and other staffers. All four of Rep. Ortega-introduced firearm-related bills were referred to the Community Safety Committee (HB 129, HB 155, HB 197, HB 216, HB 1623). We also addressed with staffers three Medicaid-related House bills introduced by Rep. Ortega (HB 56, HB 113, HB 1378 ). At the time of this writing, HB 113 was voted out the House Human Services Committee and is moving to the next step of the legislative process. Our next visit was to Rep. Diego Bernal (District 123). We met with Chief of Staff, Zachary Cochran and staffer Titelyn Morris. Rep. Bernal introduced three firearm-related House bills (HB 106, HB 244, HB 308). None has been voted out of the Community Safety Committee. We visited Rep. Bernal’s office again on March 2 to talk about our support for his Medicaid expansion bills.
Our series of afternoon visits concluded with brief meetings with Rep. Thresa “Terry” Meza (District 105) and Rep. Claudia Ordaz Perez’s (District 79) legislative staff. Rep. Meza filed four firearm-related bills (HB 482, HB 817, HB 885, HB 887). Rep. Ordaz Perez filed three (HB 1616, HB 1617, HB 165). Except Ordaz Perez’s co-authored HB 165 , all other bills are still in the Community Safety Committee. The last action of bill HB 165 is “left pending in committee.”
WITH DR. BYRON TUCKER (in the white coat) VISITING WITH REP. BERNAL’S STAFFERS ZACHARY COCHRAN AND TAITELYN MORRIS ON MARCH 2.
March 2. This was People’s Hearing for Medicaid Expansion Day! Our morning at the Capitol started looking for the Reagan Conference Room to connect with participants in the Cover Texas Now and SickOfItTX coalitions, and with others advocating for expanded healthcare access in the state. The morning concluded with a short rally at the Capitol’s South Steps. For the afternoon we scheduled visits to the offices of Sen. Judith Zaffirini, Rep. Ron Reynolds, Rep. Julie Johnson, Rep. Shawn Nicole Thierry, Sen. José Menéndez and Rep. Tom Oliverson.
GETTING READY FOR THE NOON RALLY
Making our legislative visits count-March 2, Expansion of health care access-related bills. We started the afternoon visits with a meeting with Legislative Aide, Mark Onorato at Sen. Judith Zaffirini’s (District 21) office. The Senator pre-filed two Medicaid expansion bills (SB 39, SJR 6). Both were referred to the Human & Health Services Committee. Next, we met with Rep. Ron Reynold’s (District 27) Legislative Aide, DeAndre Jackson. Rep. Reynold introduced two Medicaid expansion bills (HB 1144, HJR 117). Both bills were referred to the Health Care Reform, Select Committee. HB 1144 had been introduced in previous Texas Legislature sessions. This is a bill we will be watching. We voiced some concerns about the bill’s call for “the creation of an alternative program designed to ensure health benefit plan coverage to certain low-income individuals through the private marketplace.” The bill seems to imply that a “Texas Way” makes it necessary to create a private marketplace for low-income individuals ‘comparable’ to the federal health insurance marketplace exchange.
Our next two visits were to the legislative offices of Rep. Julie Johnson (District 115) Rep. Shawn Nicole Thierry (District 146). At Rep. Johnson’ s office we met with Senior Policy analyst, Deseray Matteson. We were particularly interested in information on the Medicaid expansion eligibility bill HB 652 (referred to the Health Care Reform, Select Committee). At Rep. Thierry’s office we met with Texas Legislative Internship Program (TLIP) intern, D’Angelo Colter. We are watching closely Rep. Thierry’s filed bills related to maternal mortality and morbidity and Medicaid eligibility and coverage services to pregnant women. These include HB 460 (in Public Health Committee); HB 465 (House Committee report sent to the House Calendars Committee to be scheduled for consideration on the House floor); HB 1824 (in the Health Care Reform, Select Committee); HB 1664 (in the Public Health Committee) and HB 1958 (in in the Health Care Reform, Select Committee).
In the visit to Sen. José Menéndez’s (District 26) office we offered our support to the health care-related bills the Senator has filed. Of particular interest to us are SB 203 (referred to the Health & Human Services Committee) and SB 630 (also referred to Health & Human Services). SB 203 makes pregnant woman’s health a priority when receiving health care treatment. If passed, SB 630 would approve resources for a public outreach and educational campaign about Medicaid eligibility and the child health plan program directed to mixed-status families. Our last meeting was with Rep. Tom Oliverson’s (District 130) Legislative Director, Brittany Keller. We offered our support for bill HB 2983, recently scheduled for a public hearing. The bill proposes a pilot project to offer medical nutrition assistance to some Medicaid recipients.
Notes taken by Dr. Luz Perez Prado