86th Legislative Session
The 86th Legislative Session was an incredible experience for ATEMSP.
The Association authored legislation, testified at public hearings, lobbied legislative offices, and built numerous strategic relationships supporting strong organizational growth.
Texana Public Affairs tracked over 100 pieces of legislation for the association, monitored countless hours of hearings, and organized all Capitol events.
The 86th highlighted ATEMSP's growth from a grassroots effort in 2015 to a strong advocacy organization in just four short years. It was a testament to the hard work delivered by our committed EMS professionals.
Summary of Texas EMS Legislative Impact
Texas EMS experienced favorable legislation during the 86th Legislative Session.
Rep. John Turner changed the definition of post-traumatic stress to include "multiple events" as opposed to one single event. Similarly, Rep. Cecil Bell brought dispatchers under the banner of first responders to enjoy the same benefits & protections as all first responders. Both are significant victories for Texas EMS mental health.
Legislators were also concerned with first responder immunizations following Hurricane Harvey. Texas EMS professionals will now be notified of their registered immunizations with each certification renewal. They will also have access to their records via ImmTrac2 during declared disasters in order to prevent doubling immunizations.
Politically, GETAC received two new paramedic positions as a compromise for two new nursing positions. The paramedic positions increase representation for non-fire based EMS systems and increases GETAC to 19 members.
Finally, Rep. Eric Metcalf secured five days of paid leave for search and rescue volunteers employed by the state. This was the first bill signed by Governor Greg Abbott.
Summary of Texas EMS Funding Changes
Texas legislators delivered mixed results with Texas EMS funding.
The repeal of the Driver Responsibility Program lead to a 1% increase for both EMS and Regional Advisory Councils (RACs) from Account 5111 . The increase now gives EMS and the RACs 3% and 2% respectively.
HB 1477, however, a bill creating EMS scholarships and grants, died in the Senate without a committee hearing. It passed the House 122-8 and leaves EMS hanging without a true grant program for the second consecutive session.
EMS Related Bills Passed Into Law
HB 41 - Rep. Metcalf - Relating to paid leave for a state employee who is a search and rescue volunteer.
Analysis: HB 41 allows search & rescue volunteers, who work for the state, to participate in search and rescue related activities without receiving a reduction in salary. The law caps the absence at five working days in a fiscal year. The law supports our volunteer community, especially during national disasters. ATEMSP supported this bill. Effective Date: September 1, 2019.
HB 1090 - Rep. Bell - Relating to the definition of a first responder (AKA: Classifying emergency services dispatchers as first responders)
Analysis: HB 1090 recognizes that emergency services dispatchers can experience stressful and potentially traumatic events during the course of their duties. This law changes their classification to receive the same protections and benefits as other first responders. Effective Date: September 1, 2019.
HB 2143 - Rep. J. Turner - Relating to the eligibility of a first responder for workers' compensation benefits for post-traumatic stress disorder
Analysis: HB 2143 changes the definition of post-traumatic stress from a single event to include the effects of multiple events. This a major change acknowledging the effect of cumulative events on first responder mental health. Effective Date: September 1, 2019.
HB 1869 - Rep. Klick - Relating to the composition of the Governor's EMS and Trauma Advisory Council.
Analysis: HB 1869 originally intended to add two nurses to GETAC in support of its trauma mission. The Senate amended the bill to add four new members to GETAC: The two requested nurses and two specifically defined paramedics. The paramedic criteria includes:
1. A representative of a stand-alone emergency medical services agency in a municipality or taxing district, appointed from a list of names recommended by a statewide association representing emergency medical services agencies
2. A certified paramedic, appointed from a list of names recommended by a statewide association representing emergency medical services agencies or emergency medical services personnel.
GETAC now increases to 19 total members serving staggered six year terms. Effective Date: Immediately.
Notable EMS Related Bills Not Passed
SB 2231 - Sen. Watson - Paramedic Tuition Exemption
Analysis: ATEMSP initiated SB 2231 and successfully lobbied it through three legislative committees and the Senate chamber. Its progress halted when time expired on the House Floor. The bill received national support from NAEMT and the IAFCCP, garnered state support from the Austin EMS Association, TEMSA, TAA, and local support form several local fire associations. Final Stats: Passed Senate Higher Ed Committee 9-0, Passed Senate 30-1, Passed House Higher Ed Committee 9-1.
HB 1573 - Rep. Raney - Relating to the prosecution of the criminal offense of capital murder.
Analysis: HB 1573 had a simple purpose - make it a capital offense to murder an EMS provider. The punishment already exists for firefighters and law enforcement. Unfortunately, expanding the death penalty was a complex issue this legislative session. HB 1573 received its hearing on April 1st but did not receive a vote until May 6th. It passed the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee 5-4 but ultimately expired in the Calendars Committee. It will be difficult for any expansion of capital punishment to succeed in future legislatures.
HB 463 - Rep. Springer - Relating to reciprocity agreements between certain air ambulance companies operating a subscription program.
Analysis: HB 463 was authored in response to constituents receiving large air medical bills. It requested that air medical companies honor one another's subscriptions if a constituent, who pays for a subscription, is transported by a competing air medical provider. The bill passed through the House & Senate with little opposition before receiving a veto by Governor Abbott on June 15th. Governor Abbott stated that the bill violated the rights of private businesses. The growing concern with air medical billing is now a priority issue on the federal level.
HB 1123 - Rep. Bohac - Relating to the carrying of a handgun by certain first responders; authorizing a fee.
Analysis: HB 1123 attempted to arm paid firefighters and EMS personnel during emergency responses. The ability to carry a firearm during an emergency response already exists for volunteers. Although the bill created headlines, it received little legislative support and never received a committee hearing.
SB 129 - Sen. Hinojosa - Relating to eligibility for the exemption from ad valorem taxation of the residence homestead of the surviving spouse of certain first responders.
Analysis: SB 129 supports the surviving spouse of certain first responders by providing property tax exemption. This bill ensures that LODD families have an opportunity to financially recover following the loss of their loved one. The bill passed the Senate 29-2 but was never scheduled for the House Floor by the House Calendars Committee.
Legislative Lessons & Recommended Actions
The largest barrier for progressing Texas EMS is a lack of awareness about Texas EMS.
Many Texas Legislators are either under-informed or misinformed about their local EMS systems. The most common misconception is that all EMS professionals are firefighters.
It is recommended that more Texas EMS professionals engage their representatives and foster a strong working relationship with them.
Engage the Texas EMS Legislative process by joining ATEMSP for only $25/yr.
Membership access provides opportunity for legislative and non-legislative committee work.
Texas EMS progresses through the actions of its EMS professionals.