As the Legislature gets underway and committees begin considering proposed legislation, taking a look at the financial backings of legislators can often explain why a certain legislator sits on a particular committee, or why certain bills are moving or stalling in committee.
Recently, Transparency Texas detailed the lobbying activities of the Texas Medical Association PAC (TMA) in the Capitol. A closer look at TMA’s campaign donations helps paint a picture of the current Texas House Public Health Committee, whose members are appointed by Texas House Speaker Joe Straus.
Eleven State Representatives serve on the House Public Health Committee – six Republicans and five Democrats. Vice-Chair J.D. Sheffield, a doctor of osteopathy, received $25,000 from TMA in February of 2016 for his primary race against auctioneer Brent Graves. During the 84th Session of the Texas Legislature, State Rep. Sheffield was the second lowest scoring Republican on Mark Jones’ 2015 ranking of the Texas House.
Newcomer to the Texas House, State Representative Tom Oliverson, an anesthesiologist, easily won his primary in an open seat near the Katy/Cypress area. In June of 2015, TMA contributed $25,000 to then-candidate Dr. Oliverson. State Rep. Oliverson was tapped to serve on the Public Health Committee during the current legislative session.
Similarly, Chairman of the Public Health Committee, State Representative Four Price, received roughly $10,000 from TMA since the adjournment of the last legislative session in 2015 — not as much money as State Reps. Sheffield and Oliverson, but substantial, nonetheless.
Many bills championed by the Texas Medical Association are referred to the House Public Health Committee. One of TMA’s biggest fights during the current legislative session is against the Texas Nurse Practitioners (TNP), a state advocacy organization dedicated to advancing, supporting, and promoting the role of nurse practitioners. In short, nurse practitioners seek greater practice autonomy from physicians, while the latter seek to keep nurse practitioners under the direction of licensed physicians.
The Texas Nurse Practitioners will likely see their legislative agenda head to the House Public Health Committee. Two main priorities for TNP include House Bill 1415 (Full Practice Authority for Nurse Practitioners) and House Bill 1846 (Full Prescriptive Authority for Nurse Practitioners). Both measures have been rejected by the Texas Medical Association.
Interestingly, House Bill 1415 has already gained bi-partisan support and been referred to the Public Health Committee. It is authored by Republican State Representative Stephanie Klick, a licensed nurse and member of the committee. Public Health Committee colleague State Representative Bill Zedler has joined State Rep. Klick as a co-sponsor to House Bill 1415. Both State Reps. Klick and Zedler received donations, $1,500 and $1,000 respectively, from TNP.
The showdown between TMA and TPN in the House Public Health Committee is definitely one to keep an eye on for the remainder of the 85th Session of the Texas Legislature. Only time will tell how loudly money speaks.
Our Capitol Crowd series outlines and highlights the politicians, advocacy groups, and donors that have the biggest impact during the 140-day legislative session. Check back throughout session for updates.