SENATE COMMITTEE ON NOMINATIONS
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
1:00 p.m. or thirty minutes upon adjournment
Pursuant to a notice posted in accordance with Senate Rule 11.18, a public hearing of the Senate Committee on Nominations was held on Wednesday, April 22, 2009, in the Senate Chamber.
Senator Mike Jackson
Senator Kevin Eltife
Senator Glenn Hegar
Senator Jane Nelson
Senator Eliot Shapleigh
Senator Kirk Watson
Senator Robert Nichols
The chair called the meeting to order at 3:35 p.m. There being a quorum present, the following business was transacted:
The following Senators arrived after the roll was called: Senator Eltife and Senator Watson.
Chairman Jackson called to the table Charles Baucom, Dr. Patrick Crocker, John Ellis, Dr. Manuel Guajardo, Dr. Scott Holliday, Dr. Allan Shulkin, Dr. Wynne Snoots, Timothy Turner, and Dr. George Willeford, nominated to the Texas Medical Board.
The chair recognized Senator Lucio to introduce Dr. Guajardo. Senator Lucio briefly detailed the career and accomplishments of Guajardo and highly recommended him to the committee.
The chair recognized Senator Watson to introduce Dr. Crocker and Dr. Willeford. Senator Watson detailed the careers and accomplishments of both, and recommended them to the committee without reservation.
The chair recognized Senator Deuell to introduce Baucom. The chair recognized Senator Deuell to introduce Ellis on behalf of Senator Ellis. Senator Deuell briefly detailed the careers and accomplishments of both and recommended them to the committee.
The chair recognized Senator Shapiro to introduce Dr. Shulkin on behalf of Senator Carona. Senator Shapiro briefly detailed the career and accomplishments of Shulkin and recommended him to the committee.
The chair recognized Senator Nelson to introduce Dr. Holliday on behalf of Senator Carona. Senator Nelson briefly detailed the career and accomplishments of Holliday and recommended him to the committee.
Senator Nelson moved adoption of the minutes from the previous hearings held on April 14, 2009, and April 15, 2009; without objection, it was so ordered.
Chairman Jackson introduced Turner to the committee. Chairman Jackson briefly detailed the career and accomplishments of Turner and recommended him to the committee.
Chairman Jackson confirmed with the nominees that its disciplinary system is complaint-based.
Chairman Jackson asked the nominees to detail the steps of the process related to the registration of a complaint with the board.
Shulkin described the complaint process in general.
Chairman Jackson asked what the length of time is for a determination to be made on a complaint.
Shulkin responded that the timeframe is around six months or longer for a substantive complaint to be fully dealt with. Shulkin mentioned that the agency is working towards quicker turnaround time on complaints.
Chairman Jackson commented on communications he has had with doctors who have described difficulties with the complaint process, specifically concerning minor infractions.
Shulkin answered that minor violations have now been fast-tracked to remove them from the full investigative process.
Turner detailed some of the proposed legislative changes that would help streamline the process.
Chairman Jackson confirmed that the board does not have a quota regarding a number of complaints per month.
Chairman Jackson inquired about the frequency and subject matter of board meetings.
Shulkin responded that the board meets five or six times a year. Shulkin mentioned that there are also daily hearings to deal with complaints. Shulkin broadly detailed the agenda of the board's meetings.
Chairman Jackson confirmed with the nominees that there is still a consistent increase in the number of doctors coming into the state.
The chair recognized Senator Nelson for questions. Senator Nelson asked if there is an explanation for the increase in doctors in the state.
Baucom responded that Texas is now a friendly place to practice medicine.
Senator Nelson asked the nominees to describe the challenges associated with licensing foreign doctors who are looking to practice in the state.
Turner responded that the board first determines if the doctor has an education that is substantially equivalent to medical schools in the United States. Turner briefly detailed some of the problems the board has had when licensing foreign doctors.
Senator Nelson commented on the difficulty of ensuring that competent doctors are not denied licenses while also keeping the public protected from unqualified doctors.
Turner stressed that each application is reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
Senator Nelson asked the nominees for their thoughts on areas of medicine that could use more development in the state.
Shulkin responded that the board is very willing to work with the Legislature to address any weaknesses in the state; Shulkin mentioned medically underserved areas as an example.
Senator Nelson asked the board how they make determinations on the acceptability of alternative procedures.
Shulkin responded that the first criterion would be to determine if conventional diagnosis and medical practice has been applied unsuccessfully. He continued to say that if there is consent, full-disclosure and appropriate discussion, alternative treatments are allowable.
Chairman Jackson recognized Senator Shapleigh for questions. Senator Shapleigh commented on the need for doctors in severely underserved areas such as the border. Senator Shapleigh asked the nominees what the Legislature needs to do to help bring more doctors to those underserved areas.
Shulkin responded that the board will follow the lead of the Legislature in determining any solutions to doctor shortages. Shulkin continued to say that the distribution of care has never been a charge of the board, but should it become one the board would respond accordingly.
Senator Shapleigh asked how the board can better facilitate the timely licensing of doctors looking to practice in the state.
Shulkin answered that the process is down to thirty days and can be facilitated even more if a doctor is willing to work in a Medicare/Medicaid, underserved community.
Chairman Jackson invited the other nominees who did not answer questions to address the committee. The nominees offered brief comments to the committee.
Chairman Jackson expressed his desire to have an open dialogue with members of the board to determine the best legislative solutions to medical issues in Texas.
The chair recognized Senator Nelson for a comment. Senator Nelson expressed confidence in the quality of the bills currently before the legislature that deal with health issues.
Senator Nelson commented on the passage of tort reform and the corresponding strengthening of the powers of the Texas Medical Board. Senator Nelson asked that the board make the legislature aware of any areas of improvement in the law that would facilitate the board in guaranteeing the public health.
Senator Eltife moved that the committee vote to approve the nominations of Charles Baucom, Dr. Patrick Crocker, John Ellis, Dr. Manuel Guajardo, Dr. Scott Holliday, Dr. Allan Shulkin, Dr. Wynne Snoots, Timothy Turner, and Dr. George Willeford to the Texas Medical Board. At 4:25 p.m., by a vote of 5 ayes and 0 nays, the nominees were recommended to the full Senate for confirmation.
Chairman Jackson called to the table the nominees to the Lower Colorado River Authority.
The chair recognized Senator Hegar to introduce Steve Balas, Lori Berger, John Dickerson, and Kathleen White. Senator Hegar briefly commented on and recommended each to the committee.
Chairman Jackson invited the nominees not introduced by Senator Hegar to address the committee.
Chairman Jackson asked the nominees to describe the frequency and substance of the LCRA board meetings.
Chairman Jackson confirmed that the LCRA does not go through the Sunset Review Process.
The chair recognized Senator Hegar for comments.
Senator Hegar stressed the importance of the LCRA board. Senator Hegar mentioned flood and electric generation as two important issues that the board must deal with responsibly. Senator Hegar asked that the nominees work to eliminate the perception that there has been a disconnect between the LCRA board and the citizens its decisions affect. Senator Hegar communicated his expectation that the board act in the best interests of the state.
The nominees to the Lower Colorado River Authority were left pending awaiting the arrival of a quorum.
Vice-Chairman Eltife called to the table Bart Bevers nominated to the Office of Inspector General for Health and Human Services.
Vice-Chairman Eltife introduced Bevers to the committee on behalf of Senator Ogden. Vice-Chairman Eltife briefly detailed the career and accomplishments of Bevers and recommended him to the committee.
The nomination of Bart Bevers to the Office of Inspector General for Health and Human Services was left pending awaiting the arrival of quorum.
Vice-Chairman Eltife called to the table Dr. Don McLeroy nominated as the Chair of the Texas State Board of Education. Vice-Chairman Eltife invited McLeroy to address the committee.
McLeroy thanked the committee and briefly mentioned his goals in working to make state policy on education.
Chairman Jackson asked McLeroy to describe his philosophy in making sure that all voices in the state are heard in the education process.
McLeroy answered that his first priority is to abide by the rules of the board and to ensure that the meetings run smoothly and effectively.
Chairman Jackson asked McLeroy to comment on pending legislation before the Senate that would strip the State Board of Education (SBOE) of the authority to adopt textbook standards.
McLeroy responded that he believes that the SBOE is best positioned to adopt the textbook standards for the state. McLeroy continued to describe the basic philosophical debate between the traditional and progressive methods of education that the board is charged with working through. McLeroy expressed confidence in the process as it is under the SBOE.
Chairman Jackson asked McLeroy his opinion of changing the law to make SBOE members appointed rather than elected.
McLeroy responded that he is a proponent of continuing to elect the SBOE members.
Chairman Jackson asked if the state board has considered substituting laptops for textbooks.
McLeroy responded that he, along with most of the board, supports using textbooks instead of laptops. McLeroy also stated that he would be supportive of continued pilot testing of laptops in classrooms.
The chair recognized Senator Nelson for questions. Senator Nelson commented on the ramifications of Texas' selection of textbooks for its students.
Senator Nelson asked how McLeroy tries to protect the process from the textbook publishing lobby.
McLeroy responded that the key element is the adoption of state standards for textbooks. McLeroy mentioned the second grade English standards that were recently adopted.
Senator Nelson asked if there are ethics standards for the board.
McLeroy responded that there are limitations on gifts that board members can receive. McLeroy also mentioned that campaign contributions from the industry are prohibited.
Senator Nelson asked if the board has discussed the issue of schools adopting grade floors that prevent teachers from giving grades below a certain number.
McLeroy responded that he was only recently made aware of the problem.
Senator Nelson asked if McLeroy thinks that the education in the state has become too prescriptive.
McLeroy answered that he believes the system has become too prescriptive, and he faulted the accountability system as the root of the problem.
Senator Nelson asked McLeroy to identify the most important task of the SBOE.
McLeroy responded that setting the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills standards (TEKS) is the most important role of the board.
The chair recognized Senator Shapleigh for questions.
Senator Shapleigh asked McLeroy if it is his intention to take all students in Texas down the path of his religious beliefs. Senator Shapleigh cited quotes made by McLeroy.
McLeroy responded that his focus in leading the science TEKS was never to push his religious views.
Senator Shapleigh asked if McLeroy has sought to insert his personal view on evolution into the state's science standards.
McLeroy denied that he has sought to push his point of view regarding evolution in the science standards.
McLeroy continued to say that he has done everything possible to make people aware of some of the scientific doubts concerning evolution.
Senator Shapleigh asked McLeroy to comment on a statement he made about the earth being only six-thousand years old.
McLeroy responded that he is a "young earth creationist" and explained the reasoning behind his belief.
Senator Shapleigh confirmed with McLeroy that there is no member of the American Academy of Science from Texas that holds the same view as McLeroy on that issue.
Senator Shapleigh asked McLeroy if he has sought to deny the inclusion of scientific consensus on global warming in student textbooks.
McLeroy responded that he is skeptical of scientific consensus. McLeroy continued to say that as a board member he has not pushed the global warming issue in the TEKS science standards meetings.
Senator Shapleigh asked McLeroy if he undertook to undermine the teaching of scientific consensus regarding evolution in the new science standards.
McLeroy explained the standards changes he proposed and his reasoning behind them. McLeroy mentioned that his amendments were stricken by the board.
Senator Shapleigh asked McLeroy how he responds to accusations by scientists that he has attempted to introduce religious elements into the science standards.
McLeroy responded that he does not believe he was introducing religion into the standards.
Senator Shapleigh asked McLeroy to explain comments he made to the media regarding certain literature containing foreign languages.
McLeroy apologized for the way the quote came across and expressed embarrassment in the quote.
Senator Shapleigh asked McLeroy to comment on the large number of bills currently before the Senate that would strip the SBOE of much of its authority. Senator Shapleigh commented that the bills are a result of the "hornet's nest" of controversy that he believes McLeroy has caused.
McLeroy responded that controversy is unavoidable when the board engages in the debates over educational philosophy that it has recently.
Senator Shapleigh asked McLeroy to share with the committee the amendments he offered to the SBOE on the science TEKS.
McLeroy recited the language of the amendments. McLeroy mentioned that both amendments were voted down by the board.
The chair recognized Senator Watson for questions.
Senator Watson asked if the controversy surrounding the SBOE could be attributed to the perception that the board is adopting science standards contrary to the advice of scientific experts.
McLeroy responded that the board took the recommendations of scientists in the standards hearings. McLeroy commented on the common perception that evolution is one foundation for understanding biology. McLeroy continued to say that he believes genetics is the foundation for understanding biology.
Senator Watson asked if McLeroy is aware that his actions as chair of the SBOE have caused controversy.
McLeroy responded that he is aware that he is a controversial figure.
Senator Watson asked McLeroy if the decisions made by the SBOE have sent a message to the country and world about how Texas approaches science.
McLeroy answered that he believes the standards allow for students to be scientifically critical, which will lead to growth in the science industry in the state.
Senator Watson commented on his desire to see that information included in student textbooks is developed by experts rather than individuals who have worked to develop a certain point of view.
Senator Watson asked why certain experts were not allowed to testify at the science standards hearings.
McLeroy responded that the board rules prohibited expert testimony on the day in question.
Senator Watson asked McLeroy to comment on a ruling he made to not allow dissenting opinion of the board to be written into the record. Senator Watson specifically mentioned the rejection of a math textbook as the incident in question.
McLeroy responded that he did not believe that that was an accurate characterization of what took place.
Senator Watson asked if McLeroy was aware of the complaint by some board members that he violated state law in rejecting the book.
McLeroy responded that he was advised by the Texas Education Agency's attorney that the board was not violating state law. McLeroy continued to discuss his reasoning for rejecting the book.
Senator Watson asked if McLeroy, when he became chair, abandoned the educator work groups that were commissioned to study curriculum changes to the English and language arts TEKS.
McLeroy explained the timeline of the educator work groups and his decision to dissolve them, and subsequently hire a facilitator to come up with recommendations.
Senator Watson discussed with McLeroy the timeline and the events surrounding the adoption of the facilitator's recommendations on the English TEKS.
McLeroy denied that he and a few other members of the board presented the other board members with changed standards the night before the board was to vote on them. McLeroy explained the events surrounding the adoption of the writing standards.
Senator Watson asked if McLeroy, in retrospect, would change some of his actions to avoid becoming such a controversial figure on the board.
McLeroy responded that he probably would change a few things if he could. McLeroy continued to say that much of the controversy is unavoidable.
Senator Watson asked McLeroy to name a specific decision that he would change.
McLeroy answered that he would have the board give more guidance to the writing teams as they are drafting standards. McLeroy specifically mentioned the upcoming consideration of social studies standards.
Senator Watson commented on his expectation that the SBOE set standards in accordance with the best interests of all students in the state.
The chair recognized Senator Shapleigh for questions. Senator Shapleigh asked McLeroy to comment on the introduction of political factors into state education issues.
McLeroy responded that political discourse is important in sorting through the conflict between progressive and traditional philosophies in the area of education.
Chairman Jackson called to the table Ron Wetherington, John Kingman, and Michael McCants. All three witnesses submitted forms registering their opposition to the nomination of McLeroy. Wetherington, Kingman, and McCants all provided written testimony to the committee.
Chairman Jackson called to the table Kathy Miller representing the Texas Freedom Network, Dr. Arturo De Lozanne, and Laura Ewing. All three witnesses submitted forms registering their opposition to the nomination of McLeroy. Miller, De Lozanne, and Ewing also provided written testimony to the committee.
Chairman Jackson called to the table The Honorable Ken Mercer. Mercer submitted a form registering his support for the nomination of McLeroy.
Chairman Jackson called to the table Jonathan Saenz representing the Free Market Foundation. Saenz submitted a form to testify on the nomination of McLeroy.
The nomination of Don McLeroy as the Chair of the State Board of Education was left pending before the committee.
There being no further business, at 7:10 p.m. Senator Jackson moved that the Committee stand recessed subject to the call of the chair. Without objection, it was so ordered.
Senator Mike Jackson, Chair
Brian Carey, Clerk