TVMA Legislative Update: Part 2

TVMA_Legislative_Updates

TVMA Legislative Update: Part 2

During the legislative session that ended last week, the Texas Veterinary Medical Association (TVMA) tracked approximately 120 bills relating to, or having the potential to relate to, the practice of veterinary medicine. The TVMA Board of Directors and Government Relations committee took an official position on at least 30 House and Senate bills. This session proved to be much less contentious than some previous sessions for veterinarians because the profession did not have to spend a lot of time fighting to stay out of bad bills. Instead, TVMA was able to quietly make sure that veterinarians were not included in laws that relate to human medicine while we worked to pass our own legislative agenda. Last week, we sent you a synopsis of the bills that TVMA worked to pass. You can access that information by clicking HERE.

 Here is a breakdown of the session by the numbers:

Total House and Senate Bills


Status

House Bills

Senate Bills

Filed

4671

2256

Passed

587

486

Vetoed

*

*

*Note: Veto period ends June 20th.

TVMA’s Position

Number of Bills

Outcome

Support

12

4 passed

Actively Support

8

4 passed

Oppose

1

0 passed

Actively Oppose

6

0 passed

Neutral

3

1 passed

The numbers above include the five bills TVMA specifically requested to be filed by legislators, of which three passed. None of the bills TVMA opposed or actively opposed passed to become law.

There will certainly be at least one special session called at some point in the future, probably at the beginning of August. TVMA’s involvement in this session will depend greatly on the issues the Governor adds to the call and whether these issues have the potential to touch the veterinary profession. However, it is unlikely we will need to be directly involved and will simply monitor.

The following is a summary of important legislation that DID NOT pass to become law this session. However, we think it is useful to show members some of the issues TVMA was proactively working for and against this session. Our next update will take a closer look at some of the bills that passed to become law.

Bills TVMA Supported That DID NOT Pass

HB 4181 by White, relating to the prosecution of the offense of practicing veterinary medicine without a license; increasing a criminal penalty. This bill would have increased the penalty for practicing veterinary medicine without a license from a Class A misdemeanor to a state jail felony if the person falsely represents themselves as a veterinary practice or as being affiliated with a veterinary practice. The intent of this bill was to help encourage local law enforcement to more aggressively peruse investigation of unlicensed practice cases.

HB 4327 By Guillen, relating to prohibiting interference with the practice of veterinary medicine. The bill provided that the practice of veterinary medicine is ONLY subject to federal law and state law, including rules adopted by the Texas Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners (TBVME), and would have prohibited municipalities from adopting or enforcing ordinances, rules or regulations that prohibit a veterinarian from performing a medical procedure on an animal. The intent of this bill was to stop municipalities from attempting to ban otherwise acceptable medical procedures that are performed under appropriate standards of veterinary care.

HB 4173 by Rep. Lynn Stucky, DVM, relating to the prohibited use of a Federal Drug Enforcement Administration number. This bill prohibits pharmacists and licensing authorities from using a veterinarian’s DEA registration number for a purpose other than a purpose described by federal law. The intent of this bill was to stop pharmacies from requiring or using a DEA number for tracking purposes for transactions that do not involve controlled drugs.

HB 685 by Gary VanDeaver, relating to the creation of a critical care protection program for veterinarian electric customers. Filed before Winter Storm Uri, this bill would have required the Public Utility Commission (PUC) to establish a utility protection program for veterinarians that notifies the customer of interruptions or suspensions in service and provides certain disconnection protections to prevent harm to animals and vaccines under the veterinarian's care.

Bills TVMA Opposed That DID NOT Pass
It is very important to maintain our good relationships with legislators at the Texas Capitol. As a result, we often approach with a lighter touch, which can sometimes be more effective than just declaring war each time our members don’t like something. Generally, before launching an all-out lobby effort to kill a bill, we speak to the bill author or staff to find out why they filed the bill in the first place. Then we attempt to work to find better solutions to the problem they are trying to solve that do not have negative or unintended consequences for the veterinary profession. This approach works because we are often able to make many constructive changes to bills so they are not as bad even if we still must oppose them later in the process. If we did not approach opposition in this manner, it is certain that this opposition list would be significantly longer.

SB 1711 by Springer, relating to state and local taxes and fees; imposing a tax; imposing fees. This bill sought to raise money to cut local school property taxes by eliminating certain sales tax exemptions. Veterinary services, tests and prescriptions were specifically listed in the list of sales tax exemptions to be eliminated. A property tax cut may sound appealing for many until they realize they will be the ones collecting the tax on behalf of the state, which will certainly increase prices of veterinary services and potentially price out some pet owners. Additionally, there is no guarantee that future legislatures will not raise taxes and keep the sales tax increases in place.

HB 4330 by Gonzalez, relating to a report of animal cruelty to certain law enforcement agencies and immunity from liability for the report. In part, this bill would have mandated that veterinarians who have “reasonable cause to believe that a person has committed an offense under Section 42.092, Penal Code” (animal cruelty statute) report the offense to the county sheriff or municipal police. This bill also sounds great in theory. After all, veterinarians generally do report suspected animal cruelty cases and should absolutely be encouraged to do so. However, the very broad language of this bill refers to the even broader animal cruelty statue (42.092), which creates a nightmare situation for veterinarians to attempt to navigate, especially when failing to do so correctly subjects them to disciplinary action. Texas Penal Code 42.092 is a criminal statute that is worded for maximum latitude to allow prosecutors the ability to apply the statute to the circumstances and allow prosecutorial discretion and plea agreements. It is not appropriate language for mandating reporting by veterinarians.

HB 121 by Minjarez, relating to the adoption of cats and dogs previously used for research. The bill is another that sounds great in theory, but it was brought by animal rights activists and may be an effort to obtain the medical records of research animals to further a political agenda. The TVMA Animal Welfare and Shelter committees agreed with the opposition of the Texas Society of Biomedical Research (TSBR) in part because most research institutions already have specifically tailored adoption programs in place for retired animals. This bill would have forced highly regulated research facilities to turn animals over to shelters and rescues that are hardly regulated and often do not provide nearly the same high levels of veterinary and husbandry care as research facilities. The bill contained no provisions requiring that the shelters agree to not euthanize the animals. While the bill did make considerations for some animals with medical conditions, it did not consider behavioral conditions and greatly limited the decision-making of attending veterinarians. TVMA and TSBR did bring a number of constructive requests for changes to the bill author, which were declined.

HB 652 by Paul, relating to notice of an epizootic infectious disease occurring in an animal shelter. This bill would have required shelters to provide written notice to people who adopt about an “epizootic disease” that has occurred 15 days prior to adoption. This bill, however well-intentioned, was an unfunded mandate. Most Texas shelters strive to communicate proper health information to potential adopters. However, there are many different types of shelters throughout the state, and they all have different capabilities. Some completely lack the administrative capacity to be able to carry out the requirements of this bill. Others don’t have a veterinarian to diagnose and treat disease or the DVM works only on a part-time or contract basis. Additionally, some of the terminology of this bill was not based in science, and the administrative requirements imposed extended beyond the incubation and contagious periods of many of the diseases that would trigger the requirement. SB 276 was similar to HB 652 and also did not pass.

HB 3921 by Bailes, relating to the use of certain drugs in bovine breeding stock by or on the prescription of a veterinarian. The compounding of food animal drugs is subject to federal law. It is currently illegal for veterinarians to use or prescribe compounded naturally occurring hormones or certain other drugs in food animals. HB 3921 would have changed state law to make this legal in certain animals that are classified as food animals under federal law. This state/federal law conflict would have placed veterinarians in a situation in which they would be pressured to violate federal law and face a liability risk.

 

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