A prominent lobby organization appears to be moving to attack Gov. Greg Abbott’s agenda by threatening to oppose one of his twenty reforms – after signing a letter agreeing to remain neutral on the issue just months ago.
When Abbott called lawmakers back to Austin for a special session, one of the items he added to their agenda was “legislation enhancing patient protections contained in the procedures and requirements for do-not-resuscitate orders.”
Texas Right to Life has fought against Texas’ current end-of-life laws, which have allowed hospitals to place do-not-resuscitate orders in patients’ medical files against their will.
Abbott partnered with State Rep. Greg Bonnen (R–Galveston) and State Sen. Charles Perry (R–Lubbock) to address the issue, and the language of the bills that were drafted for the special session – SB 11 and HB 12, which are identical to one another – largely mirrors a bill Bonnen authored during the regular session, HB 2063, to which all interested groups agreed, yet failed to pass before a crucial bill deadline.
SB 11 sailed through the Texas Senate, passing 21-10 with bipartisan support in the first week of the special session. Meanwhile, its companion has been languishing in the Texas House in the State Affairs Committee chaired by Straus’ hatchet-man, State Rep. Byron Cook (R–Corsicana). On Tuesday, Cook canceled a planned hearing on the bill without rescheduling it.
According to sources inside the Capitol, Cook is holding up the bill after one organization withdrew their support and decided to oppose it instead. The problem? Almost every interested organization gave their approval over the bill language during the regular session.
In a letter dated April 25, a number of organizations including Texas Right to Life, the Texas Medical Association, and other groups agreed to the language of HB 2063 and agreed to “maintain the positions stated” in the letter. The letter was created and signed at the insistence of TMA, which committed to be neutral on the bill.
“Such a commitment shall be adhered to any amendments offered to the bill, parliamentary procedure or maneuvers with respect to the bill and said amendments, and vote scoring, action alerts, or messaging (public or private) issued by these organizations with respect to all of the above,” the letter states.
Though HB 2063 and SB 11 are virtually identical, the Texas Medical Association appears to be reneging on its commitment to be neutral on the bill.
According to a source close to the negotiations on the bill, TMA lobbyist Troy Alexander purportedly said in a meeting this week that his organization would “vocally oppose the bill” unless it is amended to include additional language in the guise of “conscience protections” that pro-life groups say would allow a doctor to ignore the law.
“If TMA’s so-called ‘conscience protections’ were added to the bill, doctors could violate the will of Texans, ignore the law, and place hospitalized, disabled patients at risk,” said Melissa Conway, Communications Director for Texas Right to Life “The consensus on the bill is fragile, but we at Texas Right to Life are keeping our word. Texas Right to Life can always be expected to aggressively and forcefully advocate for the lives of all Texans.”
When reached for comment by Texas Scorecard, a TMA spokesman did not confirm or deny the allegation that the organization was reneging on its commitment in the letter in private, but pointed to the organization’s testimony in the Texas Senate as evidence of their past neutrality on the bill.