State Rep. Brooks Landgraf files bill requiring agencies to obtain approval for emergency rules including hospital visitation restrictions

Published: Dec. 7, 2020 at 9:57 AM CST
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AUSTIN, Texas (KOSA) - State Representative Brooks Landgraf has filed House Bill 665 to require state agencies to obtain approval from the legislature to renew emergency rules during a state of disaster, including hospital visitation restrictions.

“I heard far too many tragic and sad stories from Texans who were prevented from being with their loved ones in a hospital during their final moments,” Landgraf said. “I advocated for our local physicians and hospital administrators to be able to have the flexibility to be able to implement their own visitation rules based on the prevalence of the coronavirus in their area. However, there was little I could do because the current law allowed a state bureaucracy to adopt a one-size-fits-all approach for the entire state without any legislative oversight or public input whatsoever. HB 665 will change that.”

Back in March, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission implemented a rule that required hospitals to prohibit visitors that were not providing critical assistance for a patient.

As the law stands now, state agencies are allowed to adopt emergency rules without notice or hearing if the agency finds that there is imminent peril to public health or safety. The rules can last for 120 days and be renewed for another 60 days.

Rep. Landgraf believes this is untenable for Texans who could not visit their family members during the pandemic.

“The policy that locked them out was not a law adopted by an elected body or even an executive order issued by the governor, it was a decision made behind closed doors by an unelected bureaucracy,” Landgraf continued. “House Bill 665, if passed, will ensure there is sufficient public oversight over state agencies during times of disaster in Texas so that this sort of thing never happens again.”

Under HB 665, state agencies’ emergency rules would only be effective for 30 days and could only be renewed if approved by a majority vote of a joint hearing of the standing committees of each house of the legislature with primary jurisdiction over the agency seeking to renew the emergency rule.

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