Texas Medical Freedom Legislative Status Report
March 19, 2023
One of the four areas covered by Texas Constitutional Enforcement this session is medical freedom and stopping future executive overreach in Texas. This is a status report on filed bills, and a preview of what is up in hearings in this area during the week of March 20.
First, there is no one sweeping bill this session that addresses these issues in either the House or the Senate this session. There exist a large number of filed bills in the space, and getting a big picture view of what is being proposed in light of our goals is challenging.
To begin, let’s talk about the strategic vision of our goals this session. I summarize our approach with an adaptation of the line delivered by Clint Eastwood playing Dirty Harry in Magnum Force: “A government’s GOT to know its limitations!”
Our ultimate goal is to limit government action in the following ways:
- Never again will a governor, county judge, or mayor think it has delegated authority to define new acts to which the police power of the state can be deployed against citizens during an emergency. Only the legislature can create law, and even the legislature cannot constitutionally create laws that violate the natural rights of Texans.
- Never again will any private or governmental actor be allowed to violate the unalienable right of a Texan to bodily autonomy when it comes to refusing vaccination.
- Never again will any level of government think it has the authority to lock us down in our homes or to shut down businesses.
- Never again will any level of government think it has the authority to mandate the wearing of masks.
- Never again will the Big Pharma/Health Care Industrial Complex suppress life-saving treatments so that they can sell more expensive "solutions" that actually do more harm than good.
We only crafted one piece of legislation in this space this time – the addition to the Texas Bill of Rights to recognize the unalienable right to decline vaccination. On everything else, we are looking at the bills filed through the lens of the principles outlined above and prioritizing them against those standards.
Note, a number of the filed bills will be heard in committee in the House and Senate this week. See section below for the bills that have been set for hearing and which are likely to be heard this week.
So, let’s analyze the bills that have been filed in that framework. Note that the bills are being assigned to two committees in each chamber – Public Health and State Affairs in the House and Health & Human Services and State Affairs in the Senate:
Bills Limiting Executive Overreach and Honoring Separation of Powers
- HB 107 Schaefer (St Affairs) – Removes separation of powers violation by eliminating the Texas Disaster Act open-ended criminal penalties to which any act can be applied by a emergency plan or by the governor, county judges, or mayors. I want to also add removal from the Texas Disaster Act of the phony “force and effect of law” designation for emergency orders or plans by the executive branch. Saying a regulation has the “force and effect of law” makes it a trans-law. It lies to say that the regulation identifies as a law enacted by the legislature when it is really a regulation.
- HB 154 Schaefer (St Affairs) – Amends the Texas Disaster Act to prohibit the governor, county judges, and mayors from mandating masks.
- HB 777 Vasut (Pub Ed) – Stops K-12 schools from mandating masks and COVID-19 vaccinations for attendance.
- SB 307 Hall (St Affairs) – Requires state departments and subdivisions to refuse to assist officers of the Union when they try to implement aspects of a declared federal public health emergency that are not authorized under Texas law.
- SB 1104 / SJR 58 Birdwell (St Affairs) / HB 2654 / HJR 121 Slawson (St Affairs) -- A constitutional amendment to require that only the legislature can extend wide-scale declared emergencies or disasters, coupled with implementing modifications to the Texas Disaster Act and Texas Emergency Act A decision not to extend a disaster by the governor becomes veto-proof and giving a legislator standing to judicially enforce the requirement to call the legislature into session for extensions of declared disasters or emergencies. The statute prohibits executive order lockdowns and subdivision orders that go beyond gubernatorial orders. It narrows exceptions for suspension of laws.
Bills Regarding Vaccination and Vaccine Mandates
Our moon-shot legislation this session is the push to add to the Texas Bill of Rights the recognition of the unalienable right to refuse vaccination. This bill partially implements what is called for in the first sentence of the very long Medical Freedom Plank 137:
We call for an addition to the Texas Bill of Rights that explicitly states that Texans have the natural, inalienable right to refuse vaccination or other medical treatment.
We have the proposed add to the Texas Bill of Rights filed in both chambers. SJR 84 by Senator Bob Hall and HJR 114 filed by Representative Steve Toth (assigned to St Affairs). The language to be added to the Texas Bill of Rights is:
An individual has the unalienable and natural right to refuse vaccination. The vaccination status of an individual may not be made a condition of employment, travel, school or other educational institution attendance, conducting business, receiving medical treatment, receiving governmental services, or any other action in this state.
There are a lot of statutes to implement the vision of stopping vaccine mandates. They vary between very targeted and limited to more comprehensive. First I will say that as a matter of principle, any legislation that narrowly focuses on COVID-19 is nice in terms of a political state and precedent, but has very little long term value. Narrowly focusing on the last war, instead of principles that can be applied immediately to the next is very short sighted. If you are going to devote energy to legislate, why not make it apply in the future instead of to the past.
Here are bills that are broad prohibitions on mandating vaccinations:
- HB 44 Swanson (Pub Health) / SB 303 Hall (HHS) – Health care providers who participate in Medicaid and the child health plan program “may not refuse to provide health care service” to enrollees based on “refusal or failure to obtain a vaccine or immunization for a particular infectious or communicable disease.” Penalty to a violating provider is disenrollment from the program.
- HB 319 Oliverson (Pub Health) – Prohibits “adverse action” against individuals receiving or engaged in education or training of physicians or health care providers due to declining a health care service “for reasons of conscience.” Conscience is broadly defined in the statute.
- HB 807 Harrison (Pub Health) – Repeals delegation of authority to Texas Department of Health and Human Services to determine the list of required vaccinations for attendance in K-12 schools, leaving only traditional statutorily required vaccinations and requiring future additions to the list to be made legislatively. Also repeals exclusion during emergencies or epidemics from school for students whose parents refuse due to conscience or religious beliefs.
- HB 3151 Schatzline (Pub Health) – Prohibits health care providers from denying or refusing to provide health care treatment based on an individual’s vaccination status. Enforced via civil action by AG with $50K penalty per violation.
- SB 298 Hall (HHS) – Requires informed consent of parent or guardian before immunization of a child. Violation if the child suffers an adverse event without parental informed consent is civil penalty via private action of not less then $5K.
- SB 302 Hall (St Affairs) – Employers liable for damages from adverse health events that result from employer vaccine requirements. Loophole for employers if have policy that allows conscience, religious, or opinion of physician exceptions to mandate.
- SB 304 Hall (St Affairs) – Comprehensive prohibition of discrimination against the unvaccinated by public accommodations, long-term care facilities, health care providers or facilities, health insurance, employers (including health care employers), labor unions, occupational licensing authorities, issuance of driver’s licenses or other IDs, K-12 schools, higher education, or governmental entities.
- SB 305 Hall (HHS) – Person administering a vaccine must provide patient written information on benefit and risks.
- SB 1025 Kolkhorst (HHS) – Hodgepodge bill that tweaks various vaccination matters. Keeps Texas Department of State Health Services involved in all childhood and K-12 immunization lists. Sets up a Texas vaccine adverse event reporting system. Updates prohibition on COVID-19 vaccine passports to prohibit passports for any vaccine.
- SB 265 Perry (HHS) – Requires reporting by physicians about experimental, investigational, and emergency use vaccine or drug-related injuries and adverse events to the federal Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). Noncompliance subject to disciplinary action by Texas Medical Board.
Here are the bills I know of that are introduced as narrowly focused on COVID-19 vaccination:
- HB 81 Harrison (Pub Health) / SB 177 (HHS) Middleton – The good part of this bill is that it casts the unalienable right to refuse using the language of informed consent, which has good legal precedent to back it up. The legislative finding section of the bill is very good. The bill stops anyone from taking an adverse action or imposing a penalty of any kind for refusing a COVID-19 vaccination and imposes $5,000 or more damages against health care providers who administer such. The only problem is the sole application to COVID-19.
- HB 1015 Vasut (St Affairs) – prohibition on receipt of state COVID-19 money by businesses that require employees, customers, vendors, or contractors to get COVID-19 vaccinations.
- HB 1032 Noble (St Affairs) – prohibits discrimination against those refusing COVID-19 vaccinations by employers, schools, and a wide range of service providers.
- SB 29 Birdwell (St Affairs) – Prohibits governmental vaccine mandates, lockdowns, or mask mandates for COVID-19.
- SB 308 Hall (St Affairs) – a comprehensive prohibition of discrimination by employers, schools, and other service providers from discriminating against those who refuse COVID-19 vaccination.
- SB 426 (HHS) Paxton – Prohibits Texas bureaucracies from interfering with doctors prescribing off-label medicines to address COVID-19.
- SB 1026 Kolkhorst (St Affairs) – a comprehensive prohibition of discrimination by employers, schools, and other service providers from discriminating against those who refuse COVID-19 vaccination. Includes the Texas judiciary in its prohibitions.
Bills Relating to Practice of Medicine and Patient Rights
- HB 189 Toth (Pub Health) – Tweaks law about hospital visitation.
- SB 297 Hall (HHS) – Hospital Patients’ Rights – stops hospitals from never again prohibiting doctors from prescribing the drugs of choice to patients, restricted visitation of one person at a time, interfere with the care a doctor prescribes or with informed consent, bullying or shaming patients, or refusing requests within the capacity of the hospital of the patient or their surrogate.
- SB 299 Hall (HHS) – Hospitals must allow care by physician of choice even if physician is not a member of the hospital’s staff, but hospital not liable for damages resulting from treatment provided by the visiting physician.
- SB 301 Hall (HHS) – Texas Medical Board prohibited from disciplinary action against physicians who prescribe ivermectin or hydroxychloroquine and pharmacists are prohibited from disputing or otherwise providing medical advise on the safety of those drugs. Pharmacists are shielded from liability for dispensing the drugs.
- SB 306 Hall (HHS) – Beefs up due process for those being ordered to isolation or quarantine.
- SB 666 Hall (HHS) – Requires standing and prohibits anonymous complaints in the Texas Medical Board disciplinary process and beefs up due process in the disciplinary process.
- SB 514 Hall (HHS) – Voids/dismisses disciplinary actions by the Texas Medical Board against doctors who used their own judgment to prescribe off label drugs, refusing to wear masks, or speaking out against mask mandates. This is a COVID-19 specific bill that is needed to address the wrongs perpetrated by the establishment against heroic front-line health-care providers.
- HB 1313 Burrows (Pub Health) / SB 403 Springer (HHS) – Requires the Texas Department of Health and Human Services to conduct a study “to assess the full and complete adverse reactions, including death, and effectiveness of each type of vaccine used in Texas to defend the human body against “COVID-19”” due by January 1, 2024.
Bills Set for Hearing on Monday, March 20
See details of listed bills below in the comments above.
House Public Health (Starts at 8:00 am in JHR 120):
I will testify in favor of all three, but they have different degrees of priority.
- Rep Shelby Slawson’s HB 44 is a solid prohibition of discrimination against children served by Medicaid and CHIP from being denied service due to lack of immunization.
- Brian Harrison’s HB 81 has excellent argumentation using “informed consent” language to protect the unalienable right to decline vaccination, but it fights the last war by only focusing on COVID-19.
- Dustin Burrows’ HB 1313 requires Texas to study vax injuries because we don’t trust the feds. The study is needed, but it is not nearly enough, and not a justification for not proceeding on protecting our unalienable right to refuse vaccination.
Senate State Affairs (Starts at 10:00 am in Senate Chamber)
Senator Birdwell has all three bills to be heard in this space:
- SJR 58 is the constitutional amendment to require that only the legislature can extend wide-scale declared emergencies or disasters and to make refusal of the legislature to extend a disaster veto-proof.
- SB 1104 implements SJR 58 and prohibits lockdowns and subdivision orders that go beyond gubernatorial orders. It narrows suspension of law exceptions. It does not address the open-ended criminal penalties or “force and effect of law” provisions of the Disaster Act. I also think the suspension of laws delegation on Code of Criminal Procedure is too broad.
- SB 29 prohibits governmental vaccine mandates, lockdowns, or mask mandates, but only for COVID-19.
Bills that could be heard in Senate Health and Human Services, as early as this Wednesday, March 22
The Senate HHS agenda is not yet released, but it could very well include the following on Wednesday:
Broader Vax Bills:
Senator Kolkhorst’s SB 1025, Senator Hall’s SB 303, SB 298, SB 305, SB 514, Senator Perry’s SB 265.
Addressing Flaws in the Health Care System:
Senator Hall’s SB 297, SB 299, SB 301, SB 306, SB 514, SB 666, Senator Springer’s SB 403.
Narrow COVID-19 Bills:
Senator Middleton’s SB 177, Senator Paxton’s SB 426.
Albert Einstein said that time is what keeps everything from happening at once. We are in the stage of the legislature when a whole lot of things happen at once, and we have very little time.
Texas Constitutional Enforcement