SB 538

84(R) - 2015
Senate Health & Human Services
Senate Health & Human Services
Health & Human Services

Vote Recommendation

  • Neutral
  • Neutral
  • Positive
  • Neutral
  • Positive


Charles Schwertner

Bill Caption

Relating to the control of infectious disease.

Fiscal Notes

No significant fiscal implication to the State is anticipated.

It is anticipated that the provisions of the bill could be absorbed by the affected agencies within current resources. 

According to Travis County, fiscal impact is anticipated to be insignificant to moderate, depending on the scale of an event. Fiscal impact would be based on the duration, number of affected individuals and monitored locations.  

According to Dallas County, the cost associated with the 2014 Ebola cases totaled $271,866.53 for operating expenses, including decontamination services, and $120,509 for payroll expenses.

Bill Analysis

The bill would authorize the governor to declare a state of infectious disease emergency not to exceed 30 days, if the governor, in consultation with the commissioner of the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) and the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM), determine an infectious disease poses a serious and imminent risk to the health and safety of the public. In a declared state of infectious disease emergency, the commissioner of DSHS would be responsible for making all policy, procedural, and disease control measure decisions necessary to contain the emergency. He or she would also be required to communicate with and consider input from local health authorities. TDEM would be required to issue specific statewide preparedness guidelines and procedures for local health and emergency management authorities. The executive commissioner of the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) or the director of the Department of Public Safety (DPS) may adopt rules necessary for carrying out the provisions in Subchapter B-1 of the Government Code.

The bill would expand control orders for the detention of persons in a state of infectious disease emergency. The emergency detention of an individual subject to a control order may not be detained in custody longer than 48 hours unless a written court order for further custody or detention is obtained under Subchapter G of the Health and Safety Code. The HHSC executive commissioner must specify the manner in which a detained individual is informed of their individual rights.

The latter portion of the bill would establish the Task Force on Infectious Disease Preparedness Response as an advisory panel to the governor and require it to include a representative from one urban and one rural local health authority. DSHS would be required to create a stockpile of protective equipment to support responses to infectious diseases.

The bill would also exempt crematory establishments from civil and criminal liability for cremating human remains, that present a threat to public health, without DSHS authorization.

Vote Recommendation Notes

The 2014 Ebola outbreak wreaked havoc at health care facilities and the state and local levels of government. This legislation is designed to address state and local health agency deficiencies by equipping HHSC and TDEM with the necessary protocols to effectively respond to future infectious disease outbreaks.

The authority that would be granted to HHSC and TDEM fits within our view of a legitimate role of government. State intervention would safeguard individual liberty by ensuring unaffected citizens can carry out their daily lives without an undue fear of carriers of an incurable infectious disease from irresponsibly endangering the public. 

The bill would also ensure that carriers of rapidly spreading infectious diseases with high mortality rates exercise their responsibility to not wantonly endanger members of the public. We support SB 538.