Messenger e-Newsletter

December 16, 2021

The uncertainty, unease, and conflict that marked 2020 continued steadily in 2021. A case in point: the 87th Legislature grew from a 5-month session into almost the entire year. In response, we are combining our Annual and Legislative reports for 2021. Our quick-read summary is below, or you can dive into the entire document on our website.


Legislative Summary

We knew going into 2021 that the 87th Texas Legislature was going to be unusual. Uncertainty about Capitol protocols due the pandemic and the wild card of the winter storm set the stage, to say nothing of the issues facing our lawmakers and advocacy communities. An unprecedented three special sessions into the fall continued the trend of pitched and prolonged battles in this legislative year.

In such an environment, our team had reservations about what positive changes we’d be in a position to support for Texans with disabilities. However, we responded to quickly shifting circumstances and surprising developments and we are pleased to report that our wins were significant.

2021 By the Numbers

  • 103 Bills worked on
  • 4,864 emails and tweets sent by CTD members
  • $945,885,821 moved in state budget
  • 42 Advocacy partners
  • 23 Workgroups/ advisory boards
  • 1,120 Participants in advocacy education
  • 27 Partner sign-on letters
  • 33 Media Hits

State Budget

At the beginning of the year, it appeared that COVID-19 and the economic downturn would put a big squeeze on available funding in the State Budget. Then the state produced less restrictive budget figures, and the promise of federal rescue funds gave us reason for optimism.

In the end, the Legislature made no increase over the base hourly wage of $8.11 for most community care programs. However, determined advocacy by CTD and other disability advocates resulted in a significant appropriations of federal funds for community attendants: mostly through a series of bonuses, between $400 and $500 million will land in attendants' pockets in through 2022.

More on the State Budget ►


HB 6 (Cain) / SB 7 (Hughes), so-called election integrity bills, would have created significant barriers to voters with disabilities (as well as other low-income voters and voters of color). Our team took every opportunity to work with HB 6 and SB 7’s authors and supporters to mitigate its effects on people with disabilities, as well as coordinated with our partners and the voting rights community to push back against voter suppression efforts in general. These efforts paid off. SB 1 (Hughes), the final voting bill that passed during the second special session, does not include:

  • A requirement to prove one’s disability,
  • A requirement that an individual assisting a voter with a disability show ID,
  • Allowing untrained volunteer poll watchers to record video in polling locations.

Other wins include the creation of a secure online system to allow voters to track the status of their mail-in ballot applications and mail-in ballots, as well as a Mail-in Ballot Cure provision in SB 1.

More on Voting ►

Access to Care & Medications

After several sessions of CTD-led advocacy on dental care for adults with disabilities, the state will prepare for the provision for a preventative visit to the dentist each year for adults in STAR+PLUS non-HCBS.

During the pandemic, telehealth solutions made care and service delivery possible for Medicaid families. HB 4 (Price) makes telehealth available on a permanent basis, and HB 2056 (Klick) does the same for teledentistry.

The development of a robust Texas Compassionate Use Program (TCUP) has been incremental. 2021's HB 1535 (Klick) adds PTSD and non-terminal cancer to the list of qualifying diagnoses for participation in TCUP, as well as doubles the legal amount of THC in medical cannabis products.

More on Access to Care & Medications ►

Children with Disabilities & Their Families

When the pandemic hit and schools were forced to shutter their doors, many students with disabilities lost services or saw those services put on hold as districts pivoted to virtual learning. For some students, access to technology and learning on a virtual platform were significant barriers. The Legislature responded by passing the COVID Special Education Recovery Act, SB 89 (Menéndez), which will require a school district to prepare a supplement to include in a student’s IEP regarding whether special services were affected by the pandemic.

HB 159 (M. González) will update the requirements of educator preparation programs to integrate instruction on topics relating to special education.

HB 1252 (Moody) extends the statute of limitations on a special education due process hearing from one year to two years.

More on Children with Disabilities & Their Families ►

Criminal Justice

It is well documented that people with disabilities are over represented in the criminal justice system, as well as more likely to be victimized while in the system and receive less access to supportive services. CTD’s work this session revolved around kids and adults with mental health concerns and/or IDD getting the support they need in both county and state facilities:

  • HB 2107 (Wu) will ensure that children who need competency restoration as a result of an intellectual disability in order to participate in juvenile court proceedings will receive appropriate services or treatment.
  • HB 30 (Talarico) mandates that minors in the adult system receive a full education, including requirements to comply with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
  • SB 49 (Zaffirini) ensures that officials who are responsible for the incarcerated persons have access to information regarding a mental health condition or intellectual or developmental disability defendants might have.

More on Criminal Justice ►

Outside the Legislature

While this marathon Legislative session took up enormous resources for CTD (indeed, for many advocacy organizations), it was not the only site of our accomplishments. Our staff also made strides in advocacy work outside of the Capitol, community engagement, arts programming, and promotion of consumer direction. Just a few highlights:

  • CTD organized with National Association of Social Workers - Texas Chapter to successfully prevent a change in the Social Work Code of Conduct that would have removed protection from discrimination for LGBTQ+ Texans and Texans with disabilities.
  • The New York Times profiled a handful of Texans with disabilities, including our Susie Angel and board president Kenneth Semien, on their own needs at the polls and how proposed legislation would inhibit them. Read G.O.P. Bills Rattle Disabled Voters: “We Don’t Have a Voice Anymore.”
  • For our Raise Your Voice! Advocate Connection Program, we hosted 20 organizing calls, sparking hours of meaningful conversation among Texans with disabilities across the state and generating thousands of messages to legislators.
  • We held the 18th annual Cinema Touching Disability Film Festival and Lost Reel Short Film Showcase, featuring 16 short films, 2 feature documentaries, and appearances by local, national, and international artists and activists with disabilities.

Double Your Donation to CTD!

As the roller coaster of 2021 is almost at an end, we're grateful for the things that offer a sense of normalcy: falling leaves, holiday lights, and year-end giving!

Why give now?

Long-time sponsors GSD&M and the Texas Society of Architects are each MATCHING year-end donations up to $2,500, for a total of $5,000 in matching funds!

As a Texas Senate staffer, I sought out CTD for input on multiple issues. Now at the Texas Society of Architects, we value key CTD perspectives to develop policy for an accessible built environment.
Becky Walker
Director Government Affairs and Advocacy, Texas Society of Architects

Thank you to CTD general sponsors

Holly & Michael Turner


Thank you to 2021 Cinema Touching Disability sponsors

Superior HealthPlan
Amerigroup, an Anthem Company
CDS in Texas
Genentech, a member of the Roche Group
BlueCross BlueShield of Texas
Molina Healthcare
Hart Intercivic
PhRMA research, progress, hope
Secure Democracy
Touch of CLASS

Upstream Technology

Mr. Michael Portman

HillCo Partners

American Construction Investigations


Billy Millwee & Associates


The Company of Rock House

Lynda Frost & Dennis Borel

Tom Suehs

Texas Film Commission

Texas Medical Association


The DentaQuest Partnership

Easterseals of Texas


Texas Original Compassionate Cultivation

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