The Texas House of Representatives sent a message to the Governor Greg Abbott Thursday by voting on and passing bills not included in his Special Session Call.
Most notably, the members unanimously voted to initially pass House Bill 25 (HB25) by Representative Sarah Davis (R-West University Place).
HB25 completely restores Medicaid funding to pay for vital services for children with disabilities The funding was cut by the legislature back in 2015 based on data that was later found to be flawed.
Davis wanted to take $70 million from the Economic Stabilization Fund, also known as the Rainy Day Fund, to pay for the therapies but her bill was amended.
HB25 co-author Representative Matt Krause (R-Fort Worth) successfully amended the bill to instead take the money from an existing line item in the budget that was approved during the regular session. The money would now come out of the $110 Million given to the Governor's Office that's used for natural disasters. Krause pointed out that would leave $40 million in the fund and if there were an emergency that requires more money, the Governor could call lawmakers back to vote on using money from the Rainy Day Fund to address an emergency.
Davis said she was please with the unanimous support and it shows the children need help now.
"We have thousands of children that require these types of therapies. In some instances to be able to swallow, to learn to walk, to learn to communicate," said Davis.
"We really need to go back and undo that mistake that we made because we are losing providers. Just as it was predicted, the rates are too low for therapist to stay in business," she added.
Because the issue isn't on the Special Session Call, it is unlikely the legislation would make it out of the Senate and to the Governor. Davis said she is hopeful the large show of support will encourage Governor Abbot to add the issue to the Call.
Speaker of the House Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) released the following statement on the initial passage of HB25:
“The House voted today to provide $70 million in funding for speech, occupational, and physical therapy services for children. With a unanimous vote, the House showed that we believe further restoring services for these children should be part of what we accomplish in this special session. I am proud of the House for coming together to support House Bill 25 and I hope the Texas Senate will join us in trying to help these families.”
The House set is to take a final vote on HB25 Friday.