TVMA Advocacy and Government Relations
The TVMA Government Relations department works in conjunction with the Veterinary Political Action Committee (VPAC) to help protect the profession from negative state government actions and to pass positive legislation for veterinarians.
TVMA and the Texas Legislature
The Texas Legislature meets in January of each odd-numbered year for 140 days. During each session, the Texas Veterinary Medical Association (TVMA) serves as the voice of the veterinary profession at the Texas Capitol.
In advance of the legislative session, TVMA works with member veterinarians to build relationships with and help educate their own elected Senators and Representatives. This relationship-building activity opens doors and fosters trust between elected officials and their veterinary constituents during the busy legislative session. When a veterinary or animal-related issue comes up in the legislature, it is important for elected officials to know they can turn to TVMA or their local veterinarian for insight and information. These relationships allow veterinarians to voice their concerns and objectives on bills or policies before the legislative process begins. This proactive approach is more effective than simply reacting to policies already well on the way toward becoming law.
The need for veterinarians to educate elected officials never ends. Humans and animals are inextricably linked, and therefore it is imperative for officials to understand the connection and impact that veterinarians of all practice types have not only on animal health but also on human health. Veterinarians protect the public health by diagnosing, controlling and investigating zoonotic communicable diseases. These practitioners also guard the state’s food supply and economy by protecting animal agriculture from domestic, foreign and emerging diseases that could harm the marketability of Texas livestock at the state, national and international levels.
A few of the many legislative issues TVMA lobbyists monitor and respond to during the legislative session include but are not limited to:
- Protecting veterinarians from burdensome government mandates tailored to the human medical profession
- Protecting and maintaining a veterinarian’s scope of practice
- Small business and taxation
- Student loan repayment and cost of education
- Unfair/unlawful competition
- Status of animals and ownership (companion animals and livestock)
- Animal welfare
- Regulation of controlled substances
- Non-economic damages/attorney fees
- Veterinary employee issues and regulation
- Animal disease control and monitoring
- Racing issues
TVMA’s Legislative Agenda
The TVMA Government Relations Committee, with the approval of the member-elected Board of Directors, decides which proposals association lobbyists should seek to have passed into law each legislative session. The TVMA Government Relations Committee and other relevant committees also determine whether TVMA should take positions and lobby for or against other bills that have been proposed in the legislature.
Monitoring Regulatory Agencies
There are also many state and federal regulatory agencies that regulate veterinary medicine in one way or another through agency rulemaking. These administrative rules and agency interpretations of bills that are passed by the legislature can have big impacts on veterinary practice. The TVMA Government Relations Department keeps an eye on each of these agencies in order to ensure that any proposed or amended rules are workable and do not micromanage veterinary practice. TVMA works within our committee structure to comment on, seek amendments to or stop the passage of agency rules that are burdensome or not workable for veterinarians.
- United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
- Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)
- Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
- Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
TVMA’s Past and Present Legislative Advocacy Work
Below is a very short list of some of the issues and bills TVMA worked on during past legislative sessions. As you can see from the numbers, the number of bills TVMA monitors has increased from session to session. Some of this can be attributed to an increasing tendency to file more legislation related to human medicine, which intentionally or unintentionally includes veterinarians, and the filing of more animal-related legislation in general.
- In the 86th session (2019), TVMA tracked 160 bills. About 100 of these pieces of legislation related to veterinary or animal issues. The remainder related to human medicine and simply warranted close observation due to their potential for amendment or being interpreted to be applicable to veterinarians. TVMA took specific positions on a number of these bills and, based on these positions, actively worked to pass or stop them from passing. In many cases, we simply requested changes to bills.
Important issues TVMA worked on during this legislative session:
- Proposed workable solutions to address legislator concerns relating to the use of controlled substances by veterinary clinics as alternatives to mandatory participation in the Texas Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) (SB1947, HB3284)
- Stopping unlicensed veterinary practice (HB1099)
- Veterinary client/patient confidentiality, attacks in social media and the liability of volunteers (HB2787)
- Recovery of attorney fees against large animal practitioners (HB2891, SB 1589)
- Requiring copies of complaints be provided to licensees so they might adequately defend themselves (HB1851)
- Multiple animal welfare bills
- Protecting the privacy of adopters within animal shelters (HB2828)
- Veterinary sales tax issues
- Veterinary drug compounding
- Funding Rural Veterinary Education Loan Repayment
Members can CLICK HERE for a summary and explanation of TVMA’s work on legislation during the 86th legislative session.
- In the 85th session (2017), TVMA tracked more than 100 pieces of legislation. This was an extremely important legislative session that saw many changes to the Veterinary Licensing Act (VLA) due to the sunset review of the Texas Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners by the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission. This was also the first session in which TVMA fought to keep veterinarians out of the Texas Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP). CLICK HERE to read TVMA’s statement on mandatory participation in the PMP and why it is an ineffective solution to the opioid epidemic.
To understand what occurred this session and why it was so important to veterinary medicine, you have to understand what sunset review actually entails. The Texas Sunset Advisory Commission is a state agency that periodically reviews other state agencies and issues a report on each agency about whether it should continue in existence and how it might save money for the state. The Sunset Commission then holds public hearings on the contents of this report, and individual legislators on the commission add their own modifications. The final outcome of the review results in the need for changes to the law—in this case, the law that licenses veterinarians, the Veterinary Licensing Act (VLA). These changes are then turned into must-pass legislation—sunset bills—that must be approved by the full Texas Legislature in order for the agency and profession to continue in existence. This review also results in a number of directives to the state board called management actions that did not require statutory change but were required to be undertaken immediately.
Members can CLICK HERE to learn more about TVMA’s actions during the sunset review process and to read a summary of the bill that passed to become law.
Members can CLICK HERE to read a summary of important legislation from the 85th session, including TVMA’s positions and outcomes.
- In the 84th session (2015), TVMA tracked and monitored 80 bills and took a position on 29 bills:
- Repealed $200 occupations tax for veterinarians
- Eliminated DPS Controlled Substance registration
- Allowed TAHC to create and license EIA labs in veterinary clinics
- In the 83rd session (2013), TVMA tracked 90 bills and took positions on 36:
- SB1312/RVT Licensure Bill. Texas joined a majority of other states by licensing veterinary technicians
- HB2981/Animal Shelter Bill
- Peace Officer Status Bill
- HB1446/HB1695/Rabies Bills
- In the 82nd (2011) session, TVMA tracked 75 bills and took a position on 48:
- HB1451/Regulation of Large-Scale Companion Animal Breeders (Puppy Mill Bill)
- HB414/Equine Dentistry Bill. Created a class of Equine Dental Providers (EDPs) and placed them under veterinary supervision
- HB413/Confidentiality. A veterinarian does not violate law by proving a debt for services rendered.
- HB412/Peer Assistance and Clean-Up Bill