HBA-BSM H.B. 7 77(R) BILL ANALYSIS Office of House Bill AnalysisH.B. 7 By: Chisum Land & Resource Management 8/7/2001 Enrolled BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE Promoting economic development and ensuring the general welfare of rural communities in Texas is a continuing challenge for Texas state government. Social and economic forces in rural Texas have led to post offices and hospitals being closed or consolidated; home-owned cafes, department stores, and banks being replaced by national chains; smaller and smaller graduating classes; downtowns being bypassed by highway loops; and empty storefronts on main street. It is clear that rural Texas is in a state of transition. The future of rural communities lies in how well rural Texas communities adjust to the changes. Recognizing that government is an economic pillar in rural areas, Speaker James E. "Pete" Laney appointed the House Select Committee on Rural Development whose mission it was to search for ways state, local, and federal governments can improve the quality of life in rural Texas. A major issue identified by the select committee is that there is no focus point at state or federal levels for rural policy formulation or implementation, which results in fragmented policies spread among a myriad of governmental agencies. All levels of government have a hand in developing and implementing rural policy and cooperation and coordination are essential to maximizing the effectiveness of policy programs. House Bill 7 creates the Office of Rural Community Affairs as a stand-alone executive branch agency to assure a continuing focus on rural issues, monitor governmental actions affecting rural Texas, research problems and recommended solutions, and to coordinate rural programs among state agencies. RULEMAKING AUTHORITY It is the opinion of the Office of House Bill Analysis that rulemaking authority is expressly delegated to the executive committee of the Office of Rural Community Affairs in SECTION 1 (Sections 487.052, 487.104, 487.109, 487.112, 487.159, 487.163, 487.204, 487.252, and 487.253, Government Code) and in SECTION 3 (Section 487.401, Government Code) and to the Office of Rural Community Affairs in SECTION 1 (Sections 487.302 and 487.304, Government Code) and in SECTION 9 (Section 204.104, Occupations Code) of this bill. ANALYSIS House Bill 7 amends the Government Code to create the Office of Rural Community Affairs (office) and sets forth provisions and procedures to establish the role of the office. The bill provides that the office is abolished on September 1, 2007, unless continued pursuant to the Texas Sunset Act (Sec. 487.002). The bill establishes the executive committee of the office (committee) as the governing body of the office and provides that the committee is composed of three members appointed by the governor, three members appointed by the lieutenant governor, and three members appointed by the speaker of the house of representatives. The bill sets forth provisions regarding the appointment of committee members, terms of the committee members, and the election of a presiding officer of the committee (Sec. 487.021). The bill sets forth standard provisions regarding conflicts of interest, committee member training, committee member removal, policy implementation by the committee, public testimony, the implementation of an equal employment opportunity policy, standards of conduct, and the maintaining of written complaints. The bill authorizes the committee to hire an executive director (director) to serve as the chief executive officer of the office and perform the administrative duties of the office (Secs. 487.022 - 487.030). The bill provides for the initial appointment of committee members, the employment of a director, and selection of a presiding officer (SECTION 12). The bill requires the office to develop a rural policy, work with other state agencies and officials, develop programs to improve the leadership of rural community leaders, monitor developments relating to rural Texas communities, administer the federal community development block grant nonentitlement program, administer programs supporting rural health care, perform research, ensure that the office qualifies as the state's office of rural health, and manage the state's Medicare rural hospital flexibility program (Sec. 487.051). The bill authorizes the committee to adopt rules as necessary to implement these provisions (Sec. 487.052). The bill authorizes the office to accept gifts, grants, and donations and sets forth standards by which these gifts and grants may be accepted (Sec. 487.053). The bill requires the committee to call an annual meeting to discuss rural issues and requires the following agency heads to meet: _the commissioner of agriculture; _the executive director of the Public Utility Commission of Texas; _the director of the Texas Agricultural Extension; _the presiding officer of the Telecommunications Infrastructure Fund Board; _the executive director of the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs; _the commissioner of health; _the executive administrator of the Texas Water Development Board; _the executive director of the Parks and Wildlife Department; _the commissioner of human services; _the commissioner of higher education; _the comptroller of public accounts; and _the executive director of the Texas Department of Transportation (Sec. 487.054). The bill authorizes the committee to appoint advisory committees to assist the committee in performing its duties and sets forth provisions regarding the advisory committees (Sec. 487.055). The bill requires the office to submit a report to the legislature not later than January 1 of each odd-numbered year that includes the activities of the office (Sec. 487.056). The bill requires the office to develop, implement, and update a rural health work plan and sets forth provisions relating to the plan (Sec. 487.057). The office is required to enter into an interagency contract with another state agency to provide routine administrative services for the office. The bill requires the Legislative Budget Board and the Department of Information Resources to evaluate and recommend the most efficient and appropriate ways to obtain the administrative services and to assist the office with contracting and any other matters relating to obtaining the administrative services in the most efficient manner (Sec. 487.058). H.B. 7 transfers the administration of the federal community development block grant nonentitlement program and the community affairs and community development program from the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs and the Texas Department of Economic Development to the office and provides that the community development block grant funds shall be allocated to eligible counties and municipalities under office rules (Secs. 487.351-487.353, and SECTION 14). The bill authorizes the office to enter an interagency agreement with, and monitor the activities of, the Department of Agriculture (department) to reimburse the department for providing services relating to federal community development block grant funds on behalf of the office. The bill requires the office to allocate not more than 20 percent of the federal funds received by the office to the department to be used for economic development activities. The office shall allocate not more than five percent of the funds allocated to the department to be used for county economic and management development (Sec. 487.352). The bill requires the committee to adopt rules that establish a procedure for designating a hospital as a rural hospital in order for the hospital to qualify for federal funds. At the hospital's request, the office is required to designate the hospital as a rural hospital if the hospital meets the requirements for a rural hospital under the committee's rules (Sec. 487.401). The bill also transfers from the Center for Rural Health Initiatives to the office for the following: _outstanding rural scholar recognition and loan program; _ health careers promotion and education program; _ medically underserved community-state matching incentive program; _ Texas health service corps program; and _ program for rural health facility capital improvement from the authority of the center to the authority of the office (Secs. 487.101-487.112, 487.151-487.163, 487.201-487.204, 487.251-487.256, and 487.301-487.304). H.B. 7 repeals provisions regarding the Center for Rural Health Initiatives (center) and certain duties of the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, abolishes the center, and transfers all powers and duties, including rulemaking authority, from the center to the office (Secs. 38.011, 51.918, 58.007, Education Code; Sec. 403.1065, Government Code; Sec. 86.011, Health and Safety Code; and 204.104, Occupations Code and SECTIONS 11 and 13). Not later than September 1, 2002, the office shall evaluate the cost-effectiveness and other benefits of moving at least one-half of its operations to a location outside Travis County (SECTION 15). Not later than December 1, 2002, the office is required to evaluate the rural health programs under its jurisdiction and propose changes, including statutory changes, to combine, streamline, or coordinate the programs to improve their flexibility and efficiency and to report to the presiding officer of each house of the legislature any proposed statutory changes (SECTION 18). EFFECTIVE DATE September 1, 2001. Provisions relating to training for members of the executive committee of the Office of Rural Community Affairs take effect September 1, 2002.