What you missed: 2017 Texas State of Reform Highlights

State of Reform

Last week we held our first annual Texas State of Reform Health Policy Conference in Austin. The conference was a success, with 300 registered attendees and speakers. With the future of healthcare uncertain, attendees focused on federal and state policies and system-level approaches to reform.

“Policy is driven by politics and politics is driven by discussion,” said Hon. Dustin Burrows, one of the panelists. Check out the day’s highlights and come be a part of the discussion.


AUSTIN, TX — Texas House Representative Dustin Burrows (HD-83) introduced three bills today, all focused on effective stewardship of taxpayers’ dollars. “Our state government – legislators and our state agencies – ought to be judged by how well we meet legitimate objectives. These bills encourage proper budget planning and accountability. Like Texas families, our government entities must live within their means, and avoid surprises that affect financial solvency,” said Burrows. (Click on PDF attachment for text of full release and links below for full text of bills)

HB 1839 – Relating to the submission of a report by certain entities identifying spending reduction measures.


HB 1840 – Relating to the requirement for a report by a state agency on the request for a study from an institution of higher education.


HB 1841 – Relating to the sunset review of the Legislative Budget Board and a study by the comptroller on the accuracy of fiscal notes prepared by the Legislative Budget Board.


Burrows files three bills to address accountability of state agencies

By: Matt Dotray
Lubbock Avalanche Journal

Fresh off committee assignments, State Rep. Dustin Burrows, R-Lubbock, on Tuesday introduced three bills related to spending and accountability of state agencies.

HB 1839 directs every state agency that makes legislative appropriations to prepare a report identifying how they could reduce expenditures from general revenue by 1, 5 and 10 percent.

HB 1840 says if a state agency requests a study from an institution of higher education, the state agency shall submit a report including the purpose of the study and the anticipated cost of the study.

HB 1841 directs the comptroller to conduct a study after each budget to determine the accuracy of the fiscal notes prepared by the Legislative Budget Board.

“Our state government – legislators and our state agencies – ought to be judged by how well we meet legitimate objective,” Burrows said in a news release. “These bills encourage proper budget planning and accountability. Like Texas families, our government entities must live within their means, and avoid surprises that affect financial solvency.”

Read more here: http://lubbockonline.com/local/2017-02-14/burrows-files-three-bills-address-accountability-state-agencies



Burrows named to Agriculture & Livestock, Investments and Financial Services Committees

AUSTIN, TX — Texas House of Representative Dustin Burrows (HD-83) has been appointed to the Agriculture and Livestock Committee, and the Investments and Financial Services Committee for the 85th Session of the Texas Legislature. Speaker Joe Straus announced the committee assignments earlier this afternoon.


AUSTIN – Speaker Joe Straus on Thursday announced Texas House committee assignments for the 85th Legislature.

“We want to utilize Members’ strengths and allow them to work on issues that matter to their districts,” said Speaker Straus, R-San Antonio.

There are 38 standing committees in the House. In addition, Speaker Straus established two select committees: The Select Committee on State and Federal Power and Responsibility, and the Select Committee on Texas Ports, Innovation & Infrastructure.

Eight Members will chair committees for the first time, while 11 returning chairs are now leading new committees. “These assignments reflect the diversity of the Texas House,” Speaker Straus said.

He added, “Some very good Members are taking on new challenges. I’m looking forward to their leadership. There is always a balance to strike between continuity and fresh thinking, and I think we have the right mix.”

House committees will begin meeting in the coming days.


Texas Representative Dustin Burrows files legislative bills in support of Texas Law Enforcement Personnel and their Families

Texas Representative Dustin Burrows files legislative bills in support of Texas Law Enforcement Personnel and their Families
Bills would address challenges with State Workers Compensation Agency

AUSTIN, TX – Citing an urgent need by members of Texas law enforcement and their families, Texas House Representative Dustin Burrows (HD-83) has filed HB 1688, legislation that will create a “law enforcement liaison” within the Texas Department of Worker’s Compensation Agency. “Texas law enforcement personnel put their lives on the line every single day and unfortunately, many of them are injured – some quite severely – while in performance of their duties,” Burrows said. “Consequently, these officers are often left to their own devices to seek benefits, care and dispute resolution in the complex and slow moving process of Worker’s Compensation claims. A full time, professionally trained ombudsman would aggressively and actively represent the interests of injured law enforcement officers during Worker’s Compensation administrative dispute resolution cases.” (Click on attached PDF for full release and links below for full text of bills).

HB 1688 – Relating to the designation of a liaison to assist law enforcement personnel with workers’ compensation claims.

HB 1689 – Relating to liability of certain governmental entities in certain workers’ compensation actions.

Advocates for wounded officers hope Burrows bills will provide relief

By: Lucinda Holt
Lubbock Avalanche Journal

State Rep. Dustin Burrows filed two bills on Wednesday that he and advocates hope will assist law enforcement officials injured in the line of duty as they seek medical care.

If passed, House Bill 1688 and 1689 would provide officers and their families with a law enforcement liaison within the Texas Department of Workers’ Compensation in an effort to guide them through the medical claims process.

“Texas law enforcement personnel put their lives on the line every single day and unfortunately, many of them are injured — some quite severely — while in performance of their duties,” the Lubbock Republican said Thursday. “Consequently, these officers are often left to their own devices to seek benefits, care and dispute resolution in the complex and slow-moving process of workers’ compensation claims.”

For Mary Duncan, area representative for the Peace Officers Angels Foundation advocacy group, the bills would ease the stress of seeking critical medical care at a stressful time.

Having worked toward this cause as the spouse of an officer injured in the line of duty, Duncan has taken on the task of helping those in her position.

“We just never thought this day would get here,” Duncan said, “and I know (Burrows has) been working so hard.”

Joined by Jacob Flores, Ricky Wallace and Jessica Scherlen, the four hosted a news conference at the Lubbock County Courthouse in support of the bills, sharing their tales of tribulations when dealing with workers’ compensation.

Flores, who suffered a life-changing injury in February 2014 while searching for a missing teenager, said this is a victory for him and everyone else in law enforcement.

The process left him searching for answers on his own while trying to physically and emotionally recover. Frustrated with the process, he said Burrows’ bills give him hope.

“For him to realize that something needed to be done, and for us here in West Texas to take that first step, it’s just overwhelming, and I can’t thank him enough,” Flores said about Burrows.

In August 2015, Officer Wallace was injured as he was chasing a criminal suspect on campus at night. After suffering multiple broken bones and a torn meniscus, he said his injuries are still felt today as he hasn’t completely recovered.

Like Flores, Wallace said the medical claims process often left him and his family with more questions than answers as some of their medical claims, procedures and medications were denied.

Told they can appeal a workers’ compensation decision, Wallace said the additional process often meant extra stress.

For Jessica Scherlen, Thursday’s announcement was bittersweet as her husband, Justin Scherlen, died in August from injuries suffered in a vehicle collision while on duty.

Wiping away her tears, she spoke of her husband’s lengthy battle as the family sought medical treatment and help through workers’ compensation.

Following his crash in September 2015, the Amarillo police officer underwent multiple surgeries and procedures. Shortly before he died, he developed an infection that required a specific medication that cost $15,000 for a 30-day supply.

While the medication was not approved, Justin Scherlen went through another procedure but ultimately died due to other complications from his injuries.

“We had a caseworker and she was amazing,” Scherlen said. “She really helped us out a lot, and she did her job very well. But there’s a lot of these guys that don’t have that. They have to fight for a lot of these things on their own, and that’s not fair to them.”

House Bill 1689 aims to hold government agencies that provide or accept workers’ compensation accountable by imposing sanctions and administrative penalties.

While crafting these bills, Burrows met with Duncan several times as she said they are working toward a statewide solution for all first responders.

“We should all be very proud,” Duncan said, “that something from Lubbock is going to impact entire Texas.”

Read more here: http://lubbockonline.com/local/2017-02-09/advocates-wounded-officers-hope-burrows-bills-will-provide-relief

New bill proposed to help injured TX first responders

KFDA – NewsChannel 10 / Amarillo News, Weather, Sports

By: Shannon Smith

LUBBOCK, TX (KFDA) – Some area law enforcement officers have played a big role in the filing of a new state bill meant to better assist first responders who are hurt while on duty.

House Bill 1688 proposes a state liaison be established for first responders who need help with medical care and worker’s compensation if they’re harmed doing their jobs.

St. Rep. Dustin Burrows (R-Lubbock) reached out to lots of officers and their family members for input.

He believes a state liaison for injured law enforcement would help them through the insurance and medical filings necessary during their recovery process.

“I want to know somebody who actually has experience in this, who can help navigate our guys so when somebody is in the hospital on the first or second day after something bad has happened there’s somebody there to kind of help them and guide them through the process,” said Burrows. “[Someone] to make sure they’re getting the things they need working and going through all of the different speed bumps there may be to getting better.”

Sgt. Houston Gass with the Pampa Police Department was one of the people who helped Burrows shape this bill.

He was shot in the face while on duty, requiring several surgeries.

Gass said he was lucky to have great insurance to help him out, and hopes others can say the same.

“I know several officers who have been denied time after time after time,” said Gass. “I’m friends with a lot of these guys and it’s really an undue hardship.”

Officer Justin Scherlen, who was injured in a car wreck while on duty, died this past summer nearly a year after the accident.

His wife Jessica said a liaison would have been helpful in his situation.

“I think Justin, had the medication been approved for him, I don’t think he would have had to spend 30 days in the hospital two weeks before he died,” she said.

Gass and Scherlen hope this proposal can help first responders all across the state.

“This is the best thing that any representative or any senator in the state of Texas has ever done for first responders.”

If the bill passes, first responders would start seeing changes on September 1st.

Read more here: http://www.newschannel10.com/story/34472685/new-bill-proposed-to-help-injured-tx-first-responders

Help For Injured Officers: Rep. Burrows Files 2 Texas Bills

By: Alyssa Goard

Lubbock, TX – State Representative Dustin Burrows (HD-83) filed two bills in the Texas House Thursday to offer additional assistance to first responders injured on the job.

According to Burrows, HB 1688 will appoint a “law enforcement liaison” who would help injured officers navigate the workers’ compensation system.  HB 1689 will work with the Texas Department of Insurance to look into insurance policies and make sure workers’ comp insurance is getting officers the benefits they need.

“If you talk to the men and women who have been shot and injured [in the line of duty], it’s urgent for them to get better so they can get back on the streets back to protecting us,” Burrows said.

Burrows said around April, officers began speaking with him about their difficulties getting their medical needs met. Since then, he has spoken with families from Snyder to Amarillo who have faced the same difficulties in navigating workers comp.

“At first I thought it was maybe one or two people,” Burrows explained Thursday. “When I met with over ten of them, I realized this is a pervasive problem and I’ve talked to other representatives so I know it’s across the districts. And so what we want to make sure is that if someone gets hurt in the line of duty that they’re actually going to be able to get better, it’s important to me and it’s important to the district.”

Many of these injured officers have been pushing for the past year to get lawmakers to understand the difficulties they’ve faced.

Mary Duncan has been working to get injured officers recognized statewide. She is the area representative for Peace Officers Angels Foundation, and she believes that many officers who are injured in the line of duty face delays in workers compensation and medical care. One hurdle she sees often is delay in follow up care.  She explained that in most cases after a first responder is injured on the job, their bill is taken care of by their local government.

“However if you need any follow up visits for medical care, you have to get approval from workman’s comp before you can even see a doctor and in some cases you need to see that doctor right away,” Duncan explained.

In September she assembled four of these injured officers for the Star of Texas awards, many of whom expressed hope for more laws in support of injured officers.

Jacob Flores was present at that gathering in September and returned with Duncan again in Thursday to express support for Burrows’ legislation. Flores was working as an officer for Lubbock Police when in February of 2014, he broke his leg while on a chase related to an Amber Alert search.

His injuries ultimately forced Flores to medically retire from the Lubbock Police Department, though he moved to Lubbock for the position and planned to have a life long career in law enforcement.

After his fracture, Flores began developing blood clots.

“It was required to take blood thinners and my blood thinners had been denied for a refill because of the cost of the medication itself, so I went almost a week– week and a half without those blood thinners which was ridiculous,” Flores said. “Throughout this time I ended up developing other blood clots throughout my body, you have to wonder if those couple of weeks would have made a difference in not having those blood clots.”

More recently, Flores needed to request a leg brace, but workers comp delays prevented him from getting the leg brace for three weeks.

“It impacts the entire law enforcement community because we’ll give up anything, we’ll give up our lives and all we ask is for basic simple healthcare,” Flores said.

Flores feels that Burrows’ bills will directly benefit him and other officers.

“I think if this had been passed when I first broke my leg in 2014,  I wouldn’t have had so many issues,” he said.

Flores has committed himself to pushing for legislative change, and for him hearing about these bills feels “empowering.”

“Being a law enforcement officer or a first responder that is injured, you are physically injured and you’re mentally injured because you have to go through this lengthy process of dealing with workers’ comp,” Flores said. “And being able to talk to a liaison who specializes in this and that’s their sole purpose is to advocate for the other officers, I think that relieves a lot of stress.”

Officer Ricky Wallace is a current Texas Tech Police Officer who was injured on the job in 2015 while chasing a fleeing subject. He has been involved with Flores and Duncan in this push for change as well. He was very excited about the prospect of a law enforcement liaison.

“I wish it would have been in place back with my injury  because we didn’t have anybody and to have somebody there to fight on your side would have been a very big help, because I’ve spent hours on the phone I’ve got an attorney and everything,” Wallace said. “Workers’ comp is supposed to help us, not to deter us from getting  back to the job we were doing before. Now if all this can go through  we actually have someone there in our corner who is there to fight for us and knows what to do.”

It’s not just Lubbock officers and their families who are invested in these bills, Jessica Scherlen of Amarillo traveled to Lubbock to express her support for the bills.

Scherlen’s husband Justin had worked for the Amarillo Police Department for over a decade when he was in a motor vehicle accident in 2015 as he was driving to a call.

Justin Scherlen worked on patrol for Amarillo Police, but his life changed after that accident. Justin Scherlen was in a coma after the accident and then spent two months in the hospital. He was in and out of the hospital  for nine surgeries after the crash, keeping him away from Jessica and his four children.

In August of 2016, Justin Scherlen passed away as a result of the injuries he sustained in the line of duty.  His wife wonders what things could have looked like if he could have received some care sooner.

“We had to deal with a lot of waiting, and as far as surgeries, there is always a 72 hour hold and sometimes you don’t know within 72 hours, sometimes it takes longer and then you only have a certain– once it’s approved if it’s approved– you only have 30 days to get it done,” Scherlen explained. The hold she refers to is the delay time between requesting services from workers’ comp and waiting for approval.

Since her husband’s passing, she has turned her attention to helping other injured officers.

“The things that Justin had to fight for and the things that he had to go through just to get the care that he needed and the medications he needed, and I didn’t hesitate once [I said] I’m on this lets go,” she said, explaining her willingness to get involved with other officers looking to raise awareness.

Scherlen said she knows other officers who have been injured in the line of duty who are still having problems with workers’ comp in the same way her husband did.

“I think it will really help them and their families in that they don’t have to fight and stress about things  that should never have to be a stress and a fight for them to begin with,” Scherlen said. “They are all hurt in the line of duty, in the aspect of they were helping another citizen or they were doing their jobs that they were paid to do. They shouldn’t have to fight for any of this any more.”

Representative Burrows said Thursday he believes these bills will be positively received in the legislature, and he hopes that these injured West Texas officers and their families can continue to share their stories with the lawmakers and the entire state.

Read more here: http://www.everythinglubbock.com/news/kamc-news/help-for-injured-officers-rep-burrows-files-2-texas-bills/654342480

Rep. Burrows files two bills to help injured law enforcement officials

KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

By: Presley Fowler

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) – Texas House Representative Dustin Burrows filed two bills on Thursday that could eventually help law enforcement officials injured in the line of duty, as they attempt to file for worker’s compensation.

House Bill 1688 will create a “law enforcement liaison” within the Texas Department of Worker’s Compensation Agency to help injured officers.

House Bill 1689 would allow the Texas Department of Insurance to have oversight and take legal action if needed.

While creating this bill, Representative Burrows met with current and former law enforcement members from our district who were injured on the job.

We spoke with some of them today, to find out how this bill would help them.

Mary Duncan is the area representative for the Peace Officers Angels Foundation, advocating on behalf of officer’s injured in the line of duty.

“I believe that every officer, every injured officer, every injured first responder should be able to walk into any clinic at any time and receive the medical attention that they need,” Duncan said.

Her passion comes from personal experience, when her husband was shot and lost his left eye while serving as a police officer in Olney, Texas in 1977.

Mary says like many other officers injured on the job, her husband ran into problems when follow up procedures and necessary medications weren’t covered by worker’s compensation.

“You have to get approval from worker comp before you can even see a doctor. And in some cases this can be, I mean- you need to see that doctor right away,” Duncan said.

That’s why Mary and others affected by the system have been meeting and working with Representative Dustin Burrows to try and change the way it works.

“I was just blown away with the sheer number that were coming to me with these concerns and thought we needed to do something about it. So I called the Texas Department of Insurance and others and said what’s going on here? This isn’t right. And so we’ve come up with some ideas to try to make sure this doesn’t happen going forward to our law enforcement officers,” Rep. Burrows said.

Jessica Scherlen’s husband was severely injured in a head-on accident as an Amarillo Police officer. He ended up passing away from complications one year later, leaving behind Jessica and their four children.

“He had a serious serious infection that there was only one specific medication that would take care of this infection, and because it was a $15,000 medication, they denied it…a medication that is needed to get an infection out of your leg so it doesn’t get your bloodstream to where it kills you. It shouldn’t have to go through a board of oh well, you really don’t need this. Yeah, you really do need this,” Scherlen said.

Here in Lubbock, Ricky Wallace is losing his badge and gun as a Texas Tech Police Officer. Jacob Flores had to medically retire, both due to their on the job injuries, and hurdles they encountered receiving treatment.

“It’s just from a, what you’ve been doing for so long in your life and what you’ve wanted to do and you’ve worked your way to. Just destroyed and gone in one night. It hurts,” Wallace said.

They both say they feel this bill would be beneficial for any officer who is injured in the future, to receive guidance from a law enforcement liaison and hopefully speed up the recovery process.

“It’s not just for us, it’s for all first responders…hopefully we can start small, we can expand from here,” Wallace said.

“It’s still a long journey that we have to go. But it almost feels like getting ready for a race. You’ve been prepping this entire time. Talking about it. And having him present these bills feels like you’re at the starting line and ready for a big race that you hopefully will finish in your favor,” Flores said.

Representative Burrows says the next step is for this bill to be referred to a Texas House committee and eventually he hopes to get a full hearing on the house floor.

Read more here: http://www.kcbd.com/story/34472455/rep-burrows-files-two-bills-to-help-injured-law-enforcement-officials