Email Updates

District Update: Fighting COVID-19 Together

March 19, 2020

Dear Friends,

Without a doubt, the fight against COVID-19 is one of the toughest we’ve experienced in the remarkable history of our great state. Infectious disease containment poses immense challenges to our health care system, our economy, and every Texas family.

Yesterday, Governor Abbott came to Arlington to conduct a news conference with the very latest information and instruction regarding the COVID-19 response in Texas [VIDEO LINK]. I was in attendance and wanted to share a few key points with you:

  • We know that senior citizens are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19. Please be exceptionally cautious if you are in this age group. The Texas Health and Human Services Department has banned non-essential visitors to nursing homes, and it is critical to protect senior citizens by avoiding unnecessary visits to other senior living facilities. For more information regarding CDC recommendations for senior citizens, as well as other ways to help the older friends, family members, and neighbors in our lives, please visit: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/specific-groups/high-risk-complications.html
  • As of yesterday afternoon, there are 83 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Texas, with 3 deaths, and approximately 1,900 people being monitored. Testing capabilities have increased dramatically, and by the end of this week we will be able to administer 15,000-20,000 tests per week, so the number of cases is also expected to rise as testing broadens. We share this data with you not to instill fear, but as a reminder of how important it is to follow CDC guidelines at this time and do your part to help “flatten the curve.”
  • Stay Tuned: In light of various restrictions instituted at the local level, the Governor intends to make a significant announcement today regarding unified, statewide guidance for public gathering places such as restaurants, etc.

We realize that information is changing rapidly and can be difficult to sort through. Please know that our office, while working remotely and following CDC procedures, is fully functional and here as a resource for you. I am on regular conference calls with the Governor and Lieutenant Governor, and our staff receives daily updates from numerous state agencies.

If we can ever help you find the time-sensitive answers you need to make well-informed decisions on behalf of your business, church, civic group, or your family, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

We are on standby to assist with everything from easing regulatory burdens to helping individuals work through complications they may be experiencing with a State of Texas program or service, or connecting them with local churches and nonprofits who can help in additional ways.

We continue to refer anyone with health-related questions directly to their physicians and the following reliable resources:

Above all, thank you for doing what you can to prevent this virus’ spread and save lives. Together, looking out for one another, we will fight this thing – and Texas will thrive again.

Sincerely,

Kelly Hancock
State Senator, District 9
Chairman, Business & Commerce
Vice Chair, Transportation

Capitol Update: You Decide

September 17, 2019

Dear Friends,

During this year’s legislative session, ten measures passed that will only take effect if Texas voters agree at the ballot box. You decide.

November 5, 2019 is Texas’ Constitutional Amendment election date, so please mark your calendars! Here are the Propositions under consideration:

  • Proposition 1 (HJR 72) – “The constitutional amendment permitting a person to hold more than one office as a municipal judge at the same time.”
  • Proposition 2 (SJR 79) – “The constitutional amendment providing for the issuance of additional general obligation bonds by the Texas Water Development Board in an amount not to exceed $200 million to provide financial assistance for the development of certain projects in economically distressed areas.”
  • Proposition 3 (HJR 34) – “The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to provide for a temporary exemption from ad valorem taxation of a portion of the appraised value of certain property damaged by a disaster.”
  • Proposition 4 (HJR 38) – “The constitutional amendment prohibiting the imposition of an individual income tax, including a tax on an individual’s share of partnership and unincorporated association income.”
  • Proposition 5 (SJR 24) – “The constitutional amendment dedicating the revenue received from the existing state sales and use taxes that are imposed on sporting goods to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Historical Commission to protect Texas’ natural areas, water quality, and history by acquiring, managing, and improving state and local parks and historic sites while not increasing the rate of the state sales and use taxes.”
  • Proposition 6 (HJR 12) – “The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to increase by $3 billion the maximum bond amount authorized for the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.”
  • Proposition 7 (HJR 151) – “The constitutional amendment allowing increased distributions to the available school fund.”
  • Proposition 8 (HJR 4) – “The constitutional amendment providing for the creation of the flood infrastructure fund to assist in the financing of drainage, flood mitigation, and flood control projects.”
  • Proposition 9 (HJR 95) – “The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to exempt from ad valorem taxation precious metal held in a precious metal depository located in this state.”
  • Proposition 10 (SJR 32) – “The constitutional amendment to allow the transfer of a law enforcement animal to a qualified caretaker in certain circumstances.”

If you have questions regarding any of these ballot Propositions or their legislative history, please consider visiting Texas Legislature Online or giving our Capitol office a call at (512) 463-0109. We won’t ask you to vote a certain way, but we’re glad to help supply information… and I don’t mind letting you know that Proposition 4 to permanently ban a state income tax is a personal favorite of mine!

Sincerely,

Kelly Hancock
State Senator, District 9
Chairman, Business & Commerce

Capitol Update: No More Surprises

July 31, 2019

Dear Friends,

Have you ever been hit with a surprise medical bill?

Maybe you experienced an emergency and had to rush to the nearest hospital or urgent care center. Perhaps you scheduled a planned procedure with an in-network doctor at an in-network facility, but ended up getting “balance billed” by an on-call anesthesiologist or other medical provider you couldn’t choose or research beforehand. Or, like too many of us, maybe you left your doctor’s appointment having covered your co-pay and any other upfront charges only to receive a huge bill after the fact from a lab that ran a physician-ordered test. Did you get to pick what lab that test went to and verify that your insurance would cover it? No.

All of these situations are what we call surprise medical bills… circumstances where the patient has no choice. I’ve spent the past decade fighting to get rid of them.

HB 2256 signed into law by Gov. Rick Perry (2009)

In 2009, after a sizeable special interest battle, I was able to pass the first step, HB 2256. This legislation established a mediation process at the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) for patients with state-regulated health plans who received surprise bills of more than $1,000 from certain providers. Patients could contact TDI for help negotiating a surprise bill, either lowering it or eliminating it in most cases. In 2015, we expanded the program by adding in additional types of providers and lowering the eligibility threshold to $500. In 2017, we expanded the law again to loop in all emergency providers, including freestanding ERs, and all out-of-network providers working at in-network facilities.

The good news? Mediation works! According to TDI, surprise bill mediation has saved Texas patients nearly $45 million in out-of-pocket healthcare costs since 2015, when the agency began tracking this data.

But, despite the mediation program’s success, many patients were unaware that help was out there. And even those who did see savings due to mediation still had to deal with the stress and time investment it took to fight a surprise medical bill when they should be focused on their own health and recovery instead.

Let’s be clear: In these cases, there is no free market for consumers. The market exists only between health plans and physicians or facilities, and the average Texan was getting caught in the middle of an industry billing dispute… confused, frustrated, and holding a big bill. So it was time for the next step: completely eliminating surprise medical billing.

SB 1264 signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott (2019)

This year, we made that happen. SB 1264 prohibits surprise balance billing of consumers by out-of-network providers for emergency services, facility-based services at a network hospital, and lab and diagnostic imaging services that are related to a network service. In other words, in situations where the consumer has no choice over who provides their care, they cannot be surprise-billed for services rendered on or after January 1, 2020.

The legislation maintains the mediation process for health insurance companies and providers to work out disputes amongst themselves, also adding in a binding arbitration option, but the bottom line is this… the consumer can no longer be put in the middle. No more surprises!

Sincerely,

Kelly Hancock
State Senator, District 9
Chair, Business & Commerce
Vice Chair, Transportation

P.S. If you’ve received a surprise medical bill and need assistance fighting it, please contact the TDI consumer helpline at 1-800-252-3439 or visit https://www.tdi.texas.gov/consumer/cpmbalancebilling.html to learn more.

Capitol Update: Texas Border Surge

June 21, 2019

Dear Friends,

Today, our Capitol Update summer series accompanies some breaking news.

You may have heard Gov. Abbott, Lt. Gov. Patrick, and Speaker Bonnen’s joint announcement that Texas is deploying another 1,000 National Guard troops to our southern border. These men and women will help alleviate the strain on existing border personnel who are overworked and under-resourced due to Congressional inaction.

Why do we need a border surge now? In just the past few weeks, more than 45,000 people from 52 different countries have been apprehended in Texas illegally crossing the border.

This crisis is real.

Despite the public’s demand for action, Congress continues to abdicate its border security duties… so Texas continues to step up. This session, we dedicated more than $800 million of your state budget to border security operations. That number includes funding for another 270+ Texas Rangers, state troopers, and support personnel at the border, as well as enhanced camera technology, tactical training, and transnational intelligence sharing.

Texas will not relent. We will do what it takes to patrol and secure our border.

Sincerely,

Kelly Hancock
State Senator, District 9
Chair, Business & Commerce
Vice Chair, Transportation

Capitol Update: 2.6 Billion

June 7, 2019

Dear Friends,

The 86th Legislative Session wrapped up last week after 140 jam-packed days tackling a wide range of issues. Since a few key topics grabbed most of the headlines, we’d like to give you a more in-depth look at the results of the session.

Today’s email is the first in a summer series highlighting legislation we were honored to work on. I hope you’ll find there’s a common thread… putting the interests of the people of Texas above any level of government’s interest. Between property appraisal reforms, electric grid security, landmark drug price transparency, eliminating surprise medical billing – and a few fun bills like the Fido-friendly Outdoor Dining Act – our office managed to pass more than 60 pieces of legislation this session designed to do just that.

As the saying goes, “Keep the first things first.” So we’ll start by covering the clear No. 1 priority of Texas taxpayers: property tax reform.

SB 2 – Texas Property Tax Reform and Transparency Act of 2019

As a joint author of SB 2 and member of the newly-formed Senate Property Tax Committee, I had the privilege of chairing the conference committee on this bill to work out differences between the House and Senate versions near the end of the session. For the first time in 40 years, the Texas Legislature delivered an extremely strong property tax reform measure that will fundamentally transform the rate-setting and appraisal processes in the Lone Star State.

KEY PROVISIONS

If a general taxing unit increases its revenue (i.e. your community’s taxes) more than 3.5% year-to-year, voters now have the protection of an automatic referendum election on the November uniform election date, when voter turnout is at its highest.

The Legislative Budget Board projects that as long as voters don’t allow their taxing units to bust the 3.5% cap, Texas taxpayers will save more than $2.6 billion over the next five years!

With pages and pages of appraisal reforms, just some of the highlights include:

Prohibiting appraisal review boards (ARBs) from raising a property owner’s appraised value during protest proceedings;

Requiring Chief Appraisers to maintain a list of qualified individuals offering free property tax assistance;

Requiring appraisal districts to notify a property owner if they’re not taking advantage of a homestead exemption to which they may be entitled;

Giving property owners aged 65 and over, military service members, veterans, and their spouses priority scheduling for protest hearings;

Allowing property owners to submit a survey related to their experience after completing a tax protest or motion (those should be interesting reads!);

Prohibiting anyone who is related to an ARB member by blood or marriage from serving as a fellow ARB member, and prohibiting elected officers or employees of a taxing unit from being simultaneously employed by an appraisal district;

Preventing taxing units from filing suit to collect delinquent taxes if the disputed tax is the subject of an appeal; and

Creating a “real-time tax notice” on appraisal district websites. This online portal will allow property owners to type in their address and see a customized notice of appraised value, including the amount of taxes that would be due under each taxing unit’s no-new-revenue rate, voter-approval rate, and proposed tax rate. Contact information for each taxing unit will be prominently featured for property owners to express their support or opposition to the proposed tax rate, adding yet another layer of transparency and accountability to the system.

Thank you for taking the time to read through this update! Please don’t hesitate to share it with any friends, family, and neighbors who may be interested.

Sincerely,

Kelly Hancock
State Senator, District 9
Chair, Business & Commerce
Vice Chair, Transportation

Capitol Update: Texas Business Minute

March 14, 2019

Dear Friends,

It’s a privilege to serve as Chairman of the Texas Senate Business & Commerce Committee again this legislative session.

Our strong economy continues to lead the nation – ranking in the Top 10 globally – so we wanted to share some great news with you in our first edition of the Texas Business Minute

Please take a look!

Sincerely,

Kelly Hancock
State Senator, District 9
Chair, Business & Commerce
Vice Chair, Transportation

Capitol Update: 86th Session Kicks Off

January 9, 2019

Dear Friends,

The 86th Texas Legislature is now in session.

I was honored to take the Oath of Office yesterday with Robin and a number of other family members by my side… including the newest, our first grandchild, Oliver Kelly Cox!

It was a special day for our family, and I fully expect this session will be an effective one for our state.

With the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and new Speaker of the House all voicing their determination to accomplish much-needed reforms of our property tax and school finance systems, I’m confident we’ll take significant steps forward on those important issues in 2019.

I had a chance to discuss those priority items on Channel 8’s Inside Texas Politics this past weekend. The video from that program is below if you’d like to take a look.

We look forward to hearing from you and keeping you informed of what’s going on in your State Capitol in the weeks ahead.

Sincerely,

Kelly Hancock
State Senator, District 9

Capitol Update: School Safety

May 31, 2018

Dear Friends,

All of our hearts ached as we saw the terrible attack unfold in Santa Fe earlier this month.

These acts of evil present a challenge we must tackle together — from school districts, churches, community organizations, and local governments to the Texas Legislature.

You’ve likely heard that the Governor held a series of roundtable discussions on this issue and released a number of school safety policy recommendations. One of these is to expand the voluntary school marshal program, which was created by HB 1009, a bill I carried in the Senate during the 83rd Legislative Session.

Additionally, yesterday, the Lieutenant Governor announced the creation of a Senate Select Committee to address school violence and school security.

I’ve been named to this committee and will be requesting input from local officials regarding specific ways to strengthen the existing Texas School Safety and Security Audit process and partner with local districts to protect our kids, without encroaching on the 2nd Amendment rights of law-abiding Texans.

If you have recommendations for this committee, please don’t hesitate to send them our way at Kelly.Hancock@senate.texas.gov. You can also check back to monitor hearings as they are announced on the Senate’s hearings and events page.

Thank you for taking the time to read this update. Please join Robin and I in continued prayers of comfort for the families mourning such deep loss and for protection over our nation’s schools.

Sincerely,

Kelly Hancock
Texas Senate, District 9
Chairman, Business & Commerce

Legislative Update: Property Tax Overhaul

January 17, 2018

Dear Friends,

Skyrocketing property taxes are now a full-blown property rights problem.

As a member of the Senate’s Select Committee on Property Tax Reform and Relief, I’ve traveled the state hearing Texans of all walks of life share their personal stories of unreasonable tax hikes, incorrect appraisals, and impermeable layers of government red tape.

One couple, life-long Tarrant County residents who are approaching retirement, recently told me that they won’t be able to retire in their own, fully-bought-and-paid-for home unless something is done about their property tax bill — it’s gone up more than 70% in the past 8 years!

The statewide numbers tell a similar story. Over the past 20 years, property tax collections in Texas have increased by an astounding 195%.

It’s clear our property tax system doesn’t just need some tweaks here and there, it needs a full-blown overhaul.

That’s why I joint-authored the Property Tax Reform and Relief Act of 2017, which passed the Senate with strong support, but unfortunately didn’t make it through the House.

But we’re not done…

Today, Governor Abbott visited Tarrant County to announce his plan for sweeping changes to the property tax system in Texas. It was an honor to have him here in Senate District 9 as we discussed some of the critical steps that need to be taken next legislative session, including:

  • Establishing a property tax revenue growth cap of 2.5% per year. Any attempt to surpass this cap would be subject to a vote by the people.
  • Preventing the creation of any new taxing districts that duplicate the role of local governments. Special purpose taxing districts are duplicating government services and driving up property taxes.
  • Improving local debt transparency. Texas has the second highest per capita local debt burden in the nation! Local governments should publish their debt obligations, and any new local debt should be taken to a public vote.

You can click here to read the whole plan. And please don’t hesitate to contact our team to share your stories and your thoughts on these reform efforts.

Sincerely,

Kelly Hancock
State Senator, District 9
Chairman, Business & Commerce

Capitol Update: Learning from Hurricane Harvey

November 14, 2017

Dear Friends,

Hurricane Harvey made landfall nearly three months ago.

Texas is a remarkable state, and in the wake of this storm, Texans have shown the world their remarkable character.

Of course, it hasn’t been easy.

Responding to a disaster of this magnitude requires the ultimate team effort between relief groups, each level of government, and neighbors and private businesses willing to lend a helping hand.

Sen. Hancock visits with Dr. Ben Carson, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and Regional Director Beth Van Duyne during a relief trip to Beaumont.

While most aspects of the Harvey response have been managed extremely well, there are also ways we can learn from what happened and work to improve. In that spirit, the Texas Senate has already held six hearings to investigate and study where our disaster response and preparedness are strong and where we may need to make some changes during the next legislative session.

In the Business & Commerce committee, which I chair, we are looking particularly closely at the following interim charges:

  1. Study infrastructure security and energy restoration post weather events. Identify ways state government entities can help utilities more effectively stage pre-hurricane mobilization crews for managing resources before an event.
  2. Examine state mortgage requirements regarding the notification of homebuyers on their need for flood insurance in flood plains and flood pool areas and make recommendations on how to better inform consumers.
  3. Examine local government regulations, including occupational licenses, as related to Hurricane Harvey and determine if any are a detriment to rebuilding efforts.
  4. Examine and make recommendations on the need for changes to the Texas Constitution for home equity lenders to offer various forms of relief to Texas homeowners affected by natural disasters including, among others, the authority to enter into deferment agreements. This examination should include a study of home equity rules regarding negotiation, modification and refinancing and whether constitutionally established time periods can be waived in times of disasters.

We look forward to keeping you updated on the results of these studies. Also, if you have a story you’d like to share or a policy suggestion related to Harvey and its aftermath, please don’t hesitate to contact me at kelly.hancock@senate.texas.gov.

Sincerely,

Kelly Hancock
State Senator, District 9


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