Essential workers hoping for more attention from lawmakers this special session

Texas Politics

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — State lawmakers will be returning to the Capitol July 8 for a special session.

Governor Greg Abbott has not yet specifically outlined his legislative priorities for the summer session, but he’s mentioned voting regulations bills will be a key focus.

Several advocacy groups are hoping some of their own priorities that failed during the regular session could see new life this summer.

“There was only one of our legislative agenda items that was passed, and that was allowing advanced practice registered nurses such as nurse practitioners to sign death certificates,” Texas Nurses Association CEO Cindy Zolnierek said, explaining she thinks nurses deserved more of lawmakers’ attention, especially in the midst of a pandemic.

“There is not a COVID patient who had symptoms and needed to seek out healthcare that did not encounter a nurse,” Zolnierek said. She added that the nursing shortage is another reason nurses need lawmakers’ help.

“In a study that was done in 2018 predicted we would be 57,000 registered nurses short in 2032,” she said. Additionally, the program established to address that shortage is facing cuts.

“Our nursing shortage reduction program, faced a 5% cut in funding,” Zolnierek said.

She’s hoping lawmakers will consider breaking down barriers for advanced practice nurse practitioners, which she said would help.

“The requirement that a nurse have an advanced practice nurse have a collaborative agreement with a physician that that agreement costs money, it ties a nurse to a particular physician, and it limits the nurses ability to go out into rural communities,” she explained.

Nurses aren’t the only essential workers vying for lawmakers’ attention.

“Texas is the deadliest construction industry in the nation, a construction worker dies every three days,” Juan Benitez with the Workers Defense Fund said, explaining the group will be fighting for better workers’ compensation for construction workers this session.

“It’s taking a look at the workers that we deemed essential and actually passing legislation that honors them as essential workers,” Benitez explained.

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