I am signing House Bill No. 680 into law because it makes many improvements to the complaint process at the Texas Medical Board. However, I have serious concerns about one provision in House Bill 680 regarding the disposition of contested case hearings at the board, a provision that is also included in Senate Bill 191.
The board is charged with regulating the practice of medicine in Texas by, among other things, enforcing physicians' standards of conduct and imposing appropriate sanctions when those standards are violated. When the board is unable to resolve a case, it is referred to an administrative law judge (ALJ) at the State Office of Administrative Hearings. House Bill 680 requires the board to accept an ALJ's findings of fact on whether a physician has committed a violation.
This provision weakens the board's authority to oversee physicians and vests that authority instead in the ALJ. This bill treats the Texas Medical Board differently from every other occupational licensing agency by mandating that the board accept the ALJ's findings.
The responsibility for deciding whether a physician has violated a standard of conduct should belong to the multimember board, not to a single ALJ. ALJs serve the important role of providing an independent forum for conducting adjudicative hearings to determine the facts, but their role is to assist agencies in reaching a proper decision, not to supplant them or relieve them of that duty.
IN TESTIMONY WHEREOF, I have signed my name officially and caused the Seal of the State to be affixed hereto at Austin, this 17th day of June, 2011.
Governor of Texas
ESPERANZA "HOPE" ANDRADE
Secretary of State