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Nelson's HJR 3 clears Senate, but not without debate

By J. Lyn Carl, GalleryWatch.com

Austin, TX – It was same song, second verse for HJR 3 in the Senate Monday, with Sen. Jane Nelson passing the legislation to third reading only to be blindsided by a ferocious number of complaints about the election date set in the resolution.

HJR 3 proposes a constitutional amendment concerning civil lawsuits against doctors and health care providers, and other actions, and authorizes the legislature to determine limitations on non-economic damages.

The HJR would allow voters to decide if the legislature has the authority to determine the limit of liability for all damages and losses, other than economic damages, of a provider of medical or health care with in relation to treatment, lack of treatment, or departure from an accepted standard of medical or health care or safety, that contributes to disease, injury, or death of a person.

The beef today was over the election date being set for September instead of November.

Sen. Jeff Wentworth pointed out that in the last 10 years, 79 of 80 constitutional amendments voted on by Texas voters were held in November. He said the September election date will be "more expensive for the taxpayers, and ensures fewer voters."

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte called it "vulgar" that the date of the election was set for September so there would be a smaller voter turnout.

"That's wrong," said Nelson. "That's the first uniform election day following when this bill becomes effective." Nelson said she is so concerned about the issue that she feels it should be voted on at the earliest date possible.

"If this is good public policy, then we should really try to get the maximum number of votes," said Van de Putte. "It is extremely offensive to say we have a maximum chance of winning if we have it in September because we will have fewer people vote."

"It is my hope the citizens of this state will turn out and vote on Sept. 15," said Nelson.

The issue is if Texas voters will pass a constitutional amendment verifying that the legislature has that authority to set caps for damages, said Nelson.

Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas) asked what the impact would be if the Texas voters turned down the amendment. Nelson declined to answer.

"You don't know what the implications are?" he said.

"I don't have a crystal ball with me, and quite frankly, I think the voters are going to overwhelmingly approve this amendment," said Nelson. "I have confidence that the voters are going to approve this amendment."

"But if they don't, we don't know what is going to happen?" questioned West again.

"I have confidence in the voters of Texas. That's my story and I'm sticking with it," said Nelson.

The bill was passed out of the Senate.