The Sunset Shuffle

Legislature moves the massive Health and Human Services review back two years

Sunset Advisory Commission:
Sunset Advisory Commission: "So, guys, who's busy in 2011? Not any more!"

With only a few hours left of the 81st Legislature, lawmakers are already filling their calendars for 2011 and beyond, as the big Health and Human Services Sunset Review, scheduled for next session, will be pushed back to 2013, and other agencies move up the stack.

Blame a slow session: With a whole bunch of agencies, including some big guns like Texas Department of Insurance and the Texas Department of Public Safety, not getting their current Sunset review bill passed, they get a two-year extension under House Bill 1959 - the Sunset safety net bill.

The problem there is that the next review cycle, which starts in September for delivery to the legislature in 2011, is already massive because that's when the entirety of Health and Human Services is under the microscope. Add on that limited compliance reviews for Texas Youth Commission and the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission, and the job becomes gargantuan.

So now the plan in the conference committee substitute for HB 1959 is to push HHS back to 2013. In turn, it brings several agencies scheduled for 2013 (including the Railroad Commission, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas and the Public Utility Commission) forward, turning the 2011 cycle into a regulatory agency review. On top of that, the Texas Education Agency is moved forward from a partial review, due in 2012, to a full review in 2011.

In part, the decision is motivated by the recently-announced retirement of Commissioner Albert Hawkins. As Sunset Advisory Commission Member Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, explained, ""How do you say to a commissioner, 'This September is when we start to go into those agencies,' and the commissioner doesn't even have his feet underneath him," she said.

This, Commission Chair Carl Isett explained, will turn 2011 into a regulatory agency review cycle, and give the new HHS commissioner a little time to start rebuilding the agency in their own image. But the question is stark: For how many agencies and for how many years can the lege keep kicking the can down the road?

Got something to say on the subject? Send a letter to the editor.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More 81st Legislature
The Senate Shuffle
The Senate Shuffle
Lt. Gov. Dewhurst makes surprise committee switches

Richard Whittaker, July 14, 2010

The Four Horsemen of the Deficit
The Four Horsemen of the Deficit
Examining the new House committees on state spending

Richard Whittaker, Jan. 13, 2010

More Texas House of Representatives
Dawnna Dukes' Charges Dropped
Dawnna Dukes' Charges Dropped
13 felonies gone, two misdemeanors resolved

Richard Whittaker, Oct. 24, 2017

Houston Voters Say No to
Houston Voters Say No to "Robin Hood"
HISD rejects making school finance payments

Richard Whittaker, Nov. 15, 2016

More by Richard Whittaker
Memorial Announced for Film Giant Tom Copeland
Memorial Announced for Film Giant Tom Copeland
Former Texas Film Commission head oversaw massive growth in industry

June 13, 2024

Spiders, Slams, and Other Shows Worth Seeing This Week
Spiders, Slams, and Other Shows Worth Seeing This Week
Dare to go out on a school night!

June 14, 2024


81st Legislature, Texas House of Representatives, Sunset Advisory Commission, Texas Youth Commission, Health and Human Services, ERCOT, PUC, Albert Hawkins

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle