UPDATE — all bills below were given final approval by the House the following day.

TRS-Care

On a 143-0 vote, the House gave initial approval to HB 3976 by Rep. Trent Ashby, the bill that will prevent TRS-Care insolvency through cost increases and benefit changes. The state, school districts and retirees — particularly those under age 65 — will share the burden of the costs under this House proposal. The state increases TRS-Care funding by $500 million, school districts will kick in another $134 million through an increased contribution, and many retirees will see higher premiums and lower benefits.

Ashby noted that for 12 years Texas had not passed along the costs of skyrocketing health insurance to retirees through increased premiums. Retirees will no longer have a free health insurance option; retirees under age 65 will pay an estimated $370/month for a plan with a $3,000 deductible (though the premium costs will be phased in, with the first-year cost estimated at $200/month). Retirees 65 and over will have access only to a Medicare Advantage plan.

It is noteworthy that the estimated plan benefits and premium costs are entirely dependent on funding levels approved by the Legislature. If the House level of funding (or better) is not passed, premiums and/or deductibles will be negatively affected.

The House will take a final vote tomorrow and the bill will move to the Senate for consideration.

Accountability

House Public Education Committee Chair Dan Huberty laid out his HB 22, which makes significant changes to the school accountability system. Among the revisions are a reduction in the number of domains from five to three, a delay of full implementation of A-F ratings until the 2019-20 school year, and the introduction of more non-test-based indicators of student performance. The bill passed on its first vote and will face a final House vote tomorrow before moving to the Senate.

US History exam

The House passed HB 1776 by Ashby, which will replace the current US History end-of-course exam with the US civics exam administered to individuals seeking citizenship. The bill will be forwarded to the Senate after House final approval Thursday.

Others

The House also gave tentative approval to HB 23 by Huberty, a proposal regarding autism programs that was threatened by the introduction of a potential voucher amendment (limited to students with autism); that amendment was withdrawn by its author, Rep. Ron Simmons.

Rep. John Frullo passed SB 507 on its first House vote. The bill, filed in the Senate by Sen. Kelly Hancock, will add TRS-Care and ActiveCare enrollees to existing laws that provide a mediation process for resolving certain billing disputes relating to out-of-network claims. After a final House vote, the bill will return to the Senate for consideration of some minor House revisions.