Bill

SB 968

87(R) - 2021
Senate Health and Human Services
House State Affairs
Senate Health and Human Services
House State Affairs
Health & Human Services
State Purchasing
Diseases
Health
Medical conditions

Contact the Author

Lois Kolkhorst

Phone:

512-463-0118

Capitol Office:

GE.4

Email:

Vote Recommendation

Yes
  • Neutral
  • Neutral
  • Neutral
  • Positive
  • Positive

Author(s)

Lois Kolkhorst

Co-Author(s)

C├ęsar J Blanco

Bill Caption

Relating to public health disaster and public health emergency preparedness and response; providing a civil penalty. 

Fiscal Notes

No significant fiscal implication to the State is anticipated.

The Department of State Health Services and the Preparedness Coordinating Council advisory committee are required to implement this Act only if the legislature appropriates money specifically for that purpose. If the legislature does not appropriate money specifically for that purpose, the commission may, but is not required to, implement the Act using other appropriations available for the purpose. 

Bill Analysis

SB 968 represents a reorganization of the way Texas responds to statewide and regional public health disasters and emergencies. The provisions of this bill would provide a more targeted approach relative to the status quo. Major provisions of the bill include:

SB 968 would require the Department of State Health Services to serve as the preemptive authority and coordinate statewide or regional efforts to protect public health. SB 968 would require the emergency management division to enter into a contract to manufacture personal protective equipment (PPE) that guarantees the division a set amount and stocked supply of the equipment for use during a public health emergency. 

SB 968 would require the establishment of a public health disaster and emergency plan for facilities, minimum standards for such plans, and the minimum requirements for PPE. Each facility would be required to develop and annually update its public health disaster and emergency plans. 

SB 968 would place time limitations on a statewide or regional public health disaster or emergency order made by the Commissioner of State Health Services. This declaration would expire on the 30th day after the date it is declared or ordered. The commissioner would be able to renew this disaster one time, but after the 60th day, the disaster could only be renewed by the legislature or a designated legislative board. Immediately after declaring a public health disaster, SB 968 would require the commissioner to appoint an expert panel of physicians to provide recommendations and dissolve the panel after the disaster ends. 

SB 968 would also require the commissioner, during a public health disaster, to plan and implement a standardized and efficient method for submitting information to the department; and determine the information in the reports and related records which may be released to local health authorities or public health regions, law enforcement personnel/first responders, county judges or the mayor, or a local emergency management coordinator of a political subdivision. A person who fails to submit a required report to the commissioner is liable for a civil penalty of not more than $1,000 for each failure. 

SB 968 would prohibit governmental entities from issuing vaccine passports, passes, or other standardized documentation to certify an individual's vaccine status. Businesses would be prevented from requiring customers to provide documentation certifying a customer's COVID-19 vaccination. State agencies would further ensure that the businesses they work with are in compliance. 

SB 968 would establish an Office of Chief State Epidemiologist within the department to provide expertise in public health activities and policy in this state by evaluating epidemiologic, medical, and health care information, and identify pertinent research and evidence-based practices. The commissioner would further be required to appoint a licensed physician to serve as chief state epidemiologist to administer this office. This chief would be required to be board certified, and have significant experience in public health and an advanced degree in a related field. 

SB 968 would require the chief epidemiologist to serve as the department's expert, and the department's senior science representative and primary contact for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other federal agencies. 

SB 968 would prohibit the Texas Medical Board during a declared state of disaster from issuing an order or adopting a regulation that limits or prohibits a non-elective medical procedure. The bill would place limitations on TMB's ability to restrict or prohibit elective procedures. 

Vote Recommendation Notes

While far from perfect, this bill is generally an improvement over the status quo. We are particularly supportive of the provisions of the bill related to prohibiting vaccine passports and limiting the duration of a public health disaster declaration or public health emergency order made by the Commissioner of State Health Services. These provisions support limited government and individual liberty. Texas Action supports SB 968. We would welcome an amendment to rescind or reduce the $1,000 civil penalty for failure to submit a report required by this bill.

Contact the Author

Lois Kolkhorst

Phone:

512-463-0118

Capitol Office:

GE.4

Email: