HB 7 by Solomons/Staples – Relating to the continuation and operation of the workers' compensation system of this state and to the abolition of the Texas Workers' Compensation Commission, the establishment of the office of injured employee counsel, and the transfer of the powers and duties of the Texas Workers' Compensation Commission to the division of workers' compensation of the Texas Department of Insurance and the office of injured employee counsel, and to the provision of workers' compensation benefits to injured employees and the regulation of workers' compensation insurers; providing administrative and criminal penalties. HB 7 was a major rewrite of workers compensation law. The following are just highlights of the changes that were incorporated in HB 7:
Effective September 1, 2005, The Texas workers' Compensation Commission (TWCC) is abolished and its functions transferred to the Division of workers' Compensation (Division) within the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI). The Division will be administered by a single Commissioner of Workers' Compensation, appointed by the Governor for a two-year term. HB 7 gives the Commissioner of Workers' Compensation all executive authority over the functions of the Division, including rulemaking authority.
HB 7 abolishes the Medical Advisory Committee (MAC) effective September 1, 2005.
Also effective September 1, 2005, State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) may not accept a medical dispute that remains unresolved for a hearing. A medical dispute that is not pending for a hearing by SOAH on or before August 31, 2005, is not subject to a SOAH hearing but may be appealed to court for judicial review.
HB 7 creates a new state agency, the Office of Injured Employee Counsel (OIEC), whose primary mission is to represent the interests of injured employees in the workers' compensation system.
HB 7 keeps the research function at TDI under the direction of the Commissioner of Insurance and renames it the "Workers' Compensation Research and Evaluation Group."
Workers' compensation insurance carriers, certified self-insurers, groups of self-insurers and governmental entities that self-insure may elect to contract with or establish health care networks certified by TDI in accordance with Chapter 1305, Insurance Code. The Commissioner of Insurance shall adopt rules regarding the certification of workers' compensation health care networks by December 1, 2005. TDI will accept applications from networks seeking certification beginning January 1, 2006. An insurance carrier may begin to offer medical benefits through a network upon certification of the network by the Commissioner of Insurance.
HB 7 aligns the sick and annual leave provisions for A&M System and UT System employees with similar provisions for other state employees by clarifying that a employee in each of these programs may use their accrued sick or annual leave in lieu of receiving Temporary Income Benefits (TIBs). If an employee chooses to use sick leave, that employee must first exhaust this leave before receiving TIBs. Once an employee's sick leave has been exhausted, that employee may then choose to use one or more weeks of annual leave in lieu of receiving TIBs.
The A&M System Office of Risk Management will be closely following the creation/implementation of the new rules that will be forthcoming. Additional details regarding the implementation of HB 7 are available from the Office of Risk Management.
HB 22 by F. Brown/Shapiro – Relating to an electronic database of major contracts and related documents. HB 22 amends Subchapter E, Chapter 2175, Government Code, to allow the donation of property to nonprofit organizations as an alternative to destruction in instances where an agency cannot otherwise sell or dispose of the property, or has determined that the property does not have a resale value. HB 22 also amends the definition of "assistance organization" to include a nonprofit organization that provides affordable housing; allows the comptroller to remove property from the accounting records upon donation of that property; and allows a university system or an institution of higher education to donate any surplus or salvage property to an assistance organization.
HB 423 by Delisi/Eltife – Relating to the online availability of certain state publications. HB 423 requires state agencies that distribute free publications to make those publications accessible on the agency's website. HB 423 also requires agencies to include, with mailed publications, a notification that a publication is available online and to inform the subscriber that they may access the publication via the agency's website, if preferred. An agency is then required, if a subscriber chooses to access a publication on the Internet, rather than receive a hard copy in the mail, to remove the subscriber from the agency's mailing list and notify the subscriber via e-mail when an issue becomes available online.
HB 2048 by Uresti/Ellis – Relating to certain services and transactions involving state agencies. Omnibus clarification bill relating to Texas Online. Most of the legislation does not impact higher education; however, Section 4 of the bill will. Section 4 adds language that requires each state agency to advertise the options for completing transactions with that agency online. Higher education currently is not required to use Texas Online; institutions may elect to participate in services offered by Texas Online. Further impact of this section will is not available at the time of this writing. The Department of Information Resources (DIR) will promulgate rules related to this section through the Information Technology Council for Higher Education.
HB 2473 by Delisi – Relating to certain state publications maintained by the State Library and Archives Commission. As technology used for data storage and public access of materials has changed, the need to modernize current law regarding state publications has become increasingly important. HB 2473 updates obsolete language and codifies current procedures regarding access to and preservation of state documents. Major revisions in statute require a state agency to designate one or more staff persons as agency publications liaisons, rather than contact persons; also requires the state agency, if an electronic state publication is not printed or available from the state agency's website, to furnish the Texas State Library copies in a manner prescribed by Commission rules. Prohibits the Commission from requiring more than 75 copies of the publication.
HB 2701 by Crownover/Janek – Relating to higher education authorities. HB 2701 amends the Education Code to break Chapter 53 into three subchapters and inserts clarifying terms regarding the name of a Higher Education Authority. New language makes these “higher education facility authorities for public schools.” Deletes provisions regarding Higher Education Authorities’ issuing bonds to fund student loans. Amends section to allow them to finance charter schools and removes authority regarding “accredited primary or secondary schools.” Creates new Ch. 53A regarding higher education authorities for private schools. This legislation will not likely impact the A&M System since we do not participate directly in these Authorities, and have no established relationships with any of them at this time.
HB 2702 by Krusee/Staples - Relating to the construction, acquisition, financing, maintenance, management, operation, ownership, and control of transportation facilities and the progress, improvement, policing, and safety of transportation in this state; providing a penalty. Omnibus transportation bill of the session; of particular interest to the A&M System is non-statutory language at the end of the conference committee report (Sec. 8.02) that abolishes the State Aircraft Pooling Board and transfers all powers, duties, obligations, rights, contracts, bonds, appropriations, records, and real or personal property of the State to the Texas Department of Transportation. A rule, policy, procedure, or decision of the State Aircraft Pooling Board continues in effect as a rule, policy, procedure, or decision of the Texas Department of Transportation until superseded by an act of the Texas Department of Transportation. A&M System statutory language dealing with aircraft found in the Pooling Board statute (Chapter 2205.033, Govt. Code) was not amended.
HB 2753 by Pitts/Ogden - Relating to the powers, duties, and functions of the Legislative Budget Board. HB 2753 contains language that repeals certain reporting requirements currently established by state law regarding reports that must be made to the Legislative Budget Board. Reports related to claims against state agencies (Section 109.0015, Civil Practice and Remedies Code), membership dues (Section 656.105 Government Code), training costs (Section 668.002, Government Code) and nonresident bidders (Section 2152.064, Government Code) no longer have to be completed (institutions of higher education were previously exempted from the non-resident bidder report).
HB 1516 by Isett/Duncan - Relating to the Department of Information Resources' management of state electronic services. HB 1516 incorporates significant changes in how state agencies manage information technology, with the Department of Information Resources' (DIR) role in state government being greatly expanded in regard to IT projects. However, for institutions of higher education, the bill has limited impact upon operations; the bill will impact the following:
Higher education will be impacted by the Texas Project Delivery Framework. This was developed to apply to all IT-based contracts over $1 million. It will be used to manage all phases, budgets and schedules, and will align to agency goals. The framework includes "five stage gates" which are: business justification, a state impact analysis; project planning; solicitation and contracting; implementation; and assessment of project success. Higher education will have to report the information to DIR for these major projects.
Data Centers: A major part of HB 1516 deals with statewide technology centers. Language was agreed to provides that DIR may not establish or expand a statewide technology center that includes participation by an institution of higher education unless the Information Technology Council of Higher Education agrees to the establishment or expansion of the center.
HB 2932 by Delisi/Zaffirini - Relating to requiring state agency purchasing personnel to disclose certain family relationships with business entities receiving certain state agency contracts. HB 2932 requires state employees to disclose family relationships involving vendors. The legislation defines "major stockholder" and "purchasing personnel”; requires each of the state agency's purchasing personnel working on a contract to disclose certain information in writing, before a state agency can award a major contract for the purchase of goods or services to a business entity; and requires the State Auditor to develop a form for use in reporting a relationship.
HB 3112 by Corte/Wentworth - Relating to the security of computer networks in state government. HB 3112 provides for a system of shared computer security throughout the state agencies that are consolidated; this will provide for a shared security architecture that can be used by all agencies to provide expert cyber security services. The Department of Information Resources (DIR) is required to provide network security services to state agencies, and may provide these services to other entities by agreement. As DIR consolidates the computer networks, they shall provide the security as part of the consolidation. HB 3112 creates a Network Security Center (Center) into which the state can eventually consolidate all state network security. This centralized center would employ computer security experts that will monitor all participating agency networks 24-7. HB 3112 sets out specific services that are to be provided by the center. HB 3112 also requires the department to set up a payment for services billing system to each State agency, or other entity using the services.
HB 3112 addresses a concern raised by institutions of higher education. Language was inserted into the bill that states the Department of Information may provide network security services to an institution of higher education, and may include an institution of higher education in a center, only if and to the extent approved by the Information Technology Council for Higher Education. This will allow for a thorough review of the created network by higher education technology experts.
HB 3227 by Swinford/Lucio - Relating to the management of state agency vehicle fleets. HB 3125, passed during the 76th Legislature, directed the Office of Vehicle Fleet Management, under the guidance of the State Council on Competitive Government, to adopt a statewide fleet management plan to improve the administration and operation of the state's vehicle fleet. However, many of the plan components that address the size and use of the state's fleet, agency reporting requirements, and approved fleet management procedures are burdensome to institutions of higher education due to the nature of campus-based vehicles.
HB 3227 alleviates some of the burdens of these requirements, while still allowing the appropriate information required by law to be reported and available for evaluation. Section 1 of the bill amends Section 2171.101(a), Government Code, to require a state agency to be required to submit the reports required under this section on a quarterly, rather than monthly, basis, not earlier than the 45th day or later than the 60th day after the date on which the quarter ends. Section 2 of the bill provides that, for institutions of higher education, the plan applies only to vehicles purchased by an institution of higher education with appropriated funds. HB 3227 also provides that any minimum use criteria developed in the plan do not apply to an institution of higher education. HB 3227 authorizes the office of vehicle fleet management, on the request of a fleet manager appointed by an institution of higher education, to grant a waiver from any limit on the number of vehicles subject to the plan that the institution may own.
SB 121 by Duncan/Gattis – Relating to a requestor’s right of access to investment information. SB 121 requires governmental bodies to disclose information relating to investments of public monies, including the name of any fund which the governmental entity is invested in, the year the fund was created, the dollar amount invested in the fund, and the return on the investment. The bill also requires the disclosure of board members' possible conflicts of interest and the disclosure of the fee expenses assessed by the fund.
SB 213 by Shapleigh/Martinez-Fischer - Relating to requiring more Spanish language content for online information provided by state agencies. SB 213 requires each state agency to make a reasonable effort to develop and implement a system that ensures that Spanish-speaking persons of limited English proficiency can access state agency information.
SB 255 by Carona/Uresti – Relating to the removal of data from data processing equipment disposed of or transferred by state agencies. Previously, state agencies in Texas did not possess standardized rules pertaining to the sanitation process prior to the sale, transfer, or disposal of state computers, computer peripherals, software, or other information technology devices. SB 255 directs the Department of Information Resources to prescribe standardized rules and regulations regarding this type of sanitization.
SB 495 by Williams/Turner - Relating to the fee paid to the attorney general for examining the record of proceedings authorizing the issuance of a public security or related credit agreement. SB 495 increases the fees charged by the Office of the Attorney General for its legal review of public securities and credit agreements by changing the method by which these fees are calculated. Amends the current fee structure of Government Code Section 1202.002 by deleting the current fee schedule and replacing it with an examination fee of 1/10th of 1 percent of the principal amount of the security. A fee is charged for each series of public security, or in the case of a credit agreement submitted separately from a public security, the principal amount of the public security to which the credit agreement relates, with a maximum fee of $9,500 and a minimum fee of $750.
SB 1032 by Ellis/Swinford – Relating to the elimination of certain alternative fuels programs. The Texas Clean Fleet Program (TCFP),which stipulates emission standards for transit fleet vehicles, is codified in state statute; however the state statute has been superseded by federal standards. The federal standards require cleaner fleet vehicles than specified in current state statute. SB 1032 repeals TCFP from state statute.
SB 1226 by Shapiro/Morrison – Relating to a study of the reporting requirements imposed on public institutions of higher education. Currently there are over 400 reports institutions of higher education are required to prepare and submit to various state authorities. By consolidating the scope of reporting, university systems and their component institutions will be able to utilize the millions of dollars spent on these reports in a more efficient and effective manner.
SB 1226 provides that the Coordinating Board and the Legislative Budget Board shall jointly study each reporting requirement imposed on an institution of higher education by state law, including by board or other state agency rule, to determine if any of those requirements are duplicative, inefficient, or unnecessary. As part of the biennial report submitted by the Board to the 80th Legislature, the Coordinating Board and the LBB jointly shall report the results of the study to the legislature. The report must include any recommendations of the Coordinating Board and the LBB for legislation or administrative action, including changes to state agency rules, to consolidate or simplify reports, eliminate unnecessary reporting requirements, or make other changes to promote efficiency or reduce administrative burdens in reporting. A recommendation must include an explanation of the basis for the recommendation. Not later than December 1, 2006, the Coordinating Board and the LBB shall submit a copy of the report to the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
SB 1533 by Barrientos/Uresti – Relating to state employee parking in state-owned garages. SB 1533 provides that a person displaying a valid State of Texas employee identification card may not be charged to use any state parking lot or garage after hours or on weekends. SB 1533 states that leases entered into by an institution of higher education are not affected by this bill.
SB 1569 by Williams/T. Smith – Relating to audits of state agency expenditures to recover overpayments and lost discounts. SB 1569 requires the Comptroller to enter into contracts with private consultants to conduct recovery audits designed to detect and return overpayments to vendors. The bill requires recovery audits of agencies with expenditures in excess of $100 million during a biennium, but allows the Comptroller to exempt agencies with a low proportion of expenditures made to vendors. SB 1569 requires state agencies to pay the consultants from the amounts recovered as a result of their work and requires that copies of these reports go to the legislature, state auditor's office, Legislative Budget Board (LBB), and Governor. This bill also requires the Comptroller to provide a report summarizing the audit reports to the legislature.