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Relating to the waiver of state park, museum, and other state-operated facility entrance fees for persons with certain disabilities.
No significant fiscal implication to the State is anticipated.
HB 659 would require the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and the Texas Historical Commission (THC) to waive any entrance fees to any parks or museums for people with a physical, mental, intellectual, or developmental disability. This legislation would also waive the fee for that disabled person’s caretaker.
This bill would require TPWD and THC to consult with the Health and Human Services Commission (HHS) on developing eligibility requirements and procedures to implement this new legislation.
While this legislation raises our sympathies, it is important to remember that if one group receives preferential treatment then it is at the expense of all others.
The author’s statement of intent argues the purpose of this legislation is “to encourage educational and recreational outings for Texans with disabilities while lessening the financial burden on personal care attendants accompanying clients.” The author’s statement of intent alleges that some caretakers are forced to cover entry fees to events and venues out of their own pockets. However, we do not agree that this justifies creating a special exemption from fees that everyone else is required to pay.
A basic tenant of our liberty principles is that everyone is treated equally. Allowing a fee waiver for one group will inevitably raise calls to incorporate other “disadvantaged” groups. Economically, this means that patrons to a park or museum would have to pay higher entrance fees since TPWD and THC would have to find ways to recoup the lost revenue due to these waivers.
Moreover, if “interested parties” contend that retaining quality personal care attendants is vital then the employers of these caretakers should not require them to cover these expenses. In this case, the employers of these caretakers is the state.
This legislation would absolve the responsibility of the employers or the state to provide or reimburse their caretakers for taking disabled clients out to a state park or museum. Ultimately, the caretakers do not have to work for that employer or the state if they believe they are not being fair by not covering such expenses. In other words, caretakers are not being forced to pay these fees.
We oppose HB 659 because it undermines our principles for personal responsibility and limited government. There are better ways of assisting certain disabled people, such as donating money to cover their entrance fee or requiring the state to cover such expenses, but creating a law that exempts this group will inevitably open the door for more people seeking similar exemptions. Liberty has no prejudices towards certain groups, it requires everyone to be treated the same, no matter the hardships or circumstances.