But according to a staffer working for state Rep. Sylvester Turner, whose amendment to the Sunset bill established the language in question, a separate section of the bill requires the agency to implement some sort if Indigency program by September 1 of this year, with more detailed specific requirements becoming mandatory in two years.
I'm certain this Grits post only contributed to the confusion, but after conversations with Mange and Turner's staff, I think I've cleared things up:
Rep. Turner amended the Sunset bill in two places, adding what became Sections 6 and 15 of the bill. Section 15 gives detailed specifications for an Indigency program, but that section of the bill specifically states it would not go into effect until Sept. 1, 2011. However, Section 6 of the bill takes effect September 1, 2009: That portion of the legislation changes a "may" to a "shall," requiring the agency implement some sort of indigency program this year. (See the full bill here - large pdf.)
As background, DPS originally was authorized in 2007 to create an Indgency program (along with "amnesty" and "incentive" programs) by SB 1723 authored by Sen. Steve Ogden in the 80th Texas Legislature. That bill said the agency "may" create such programs, but they never did so. As a result, this year Section 6 of the Sunset bill changed that to a "shall," effective September 1.
Turner's staffer said the delay in requiring Section 15 to be implemented was to give "flexibility" to the agency, but some version of an Indigency program must be in place when the Sunset bill takes effect. Thanks to SB 1723, the Public Safety Commission has full authority to implement the Section 15 requirements ASAP - they can delay, in other words, but nothing requires them to do so.
The Public Safety Commission has already put off creating an indigency program for too long, and for that matter they'd do well to create "amnesty" and "incentive" programs to help ameliorate the gaping flaws in Texas' surcharge scheme. This program is not working properly and the PSC should use its authority to fix the problem instead of putting off changes until they're absolutely forced to make them.
In any event, the law requires them to implement an Indigency program of some sort sooner than later.
UPDATE: In the comment section, Shannon Edmonds of the Texas District and County Attorneys Association helpfully informs us that, "While I don't claim it to be authoritative, I'll volunteer that our 2009 Legislative Update book (available for order by calling 512.474.2436 or attending one of our legislative update seminars) interprets HB 2730 the same way that you and Rep. Turner's office do."
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