HBA-EDN H.B. 2676 77(R) BILL ANALYSIS Office of House Bill AnalysisH.B. 2676 By: Truitt Criminal Jurisprudence 3/22/2001 Introduced BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE In 1995, the 74th Legislature established child fatality review teams, which have been influential in promoting positive systemic changes responsible for a decrease in incidents of child death and an improvement in the treatment of children by state and local agencies that provide services and assistance to children. The creation of a similar team to review domestic violence deaths could help to decrease the number of deaths which result from domestic violence and provide improved services to victims. The Texas Department of Human Services (DHS) estimates that 857,745 women were victims of domestic violence during the fiscal year 2000, and yet only 41,203 women, or about five percent of those in need, received family violence services from DHS that same year. Determining how a death may have been prevented and identifying ways in which services to victims are lacking may contribute to decreasing the incidence of deaths resulting from domestic violence in the future. House Bill 2676 authorizes the establishment of a domestic violence fatality review team in certain counties. RULEMAKING AUTHORITY It is the opinion of the Office of House Bill Analysis that this bill does not expressly delegate any additional rulemaking authority to a state officer, department, agency, or institution. ANALYSIS House Bill 2676 amends the Family Code to authorize a multidisciplinary and multiagency domestic violence fatality review team (review team) to be established in a county with a population of one million or more that contains two or more municipalities, each of which has a population of 250,000 or more, to review domestic violence and unexpected deaths in the county for the purpose of decreasing the incidence of preventable domestic violence deaths. To achieve its purpose, a review team is required to: _develop and implement protocols and procedures for handling each domestic violence fatality case; _investigate ways to implement the recommendations made by the team; _meet on a regular basis to review domestic violence fatality cases and recommend methods to improve the coordination of services and investigations between agencies that are represented on the team; _collect and maintain data; _submit to the bureau of vital statistics of the Texas Department of Health reports on deaths reviewed by the team; and _initiate prevention measures as indicated by the review team's findings. The bill sets forth provisions relating to the establishment, composition, and designation and duties of the presiding officer of a review team. The bill requires the commissioners court for the county to determine the method for funding the review team (Secs. 93.002-93.004). The bill requires a review team to review injuries, illnesses, or events that were the cause of a death, as stated on the person's death certificate, that occurs in the county. A review team is authorized to request certain records and other information regarding a deceased person as necessary to carry out the review team's purpose and duties. The bill authorizes information relating to the mental health or medical condition of a member of the deceased person's family or of any alleged or suspected perpetrator of abuse obtained as part of an investigation by a state agency or an agency of a political subdivision of the state (state agency) to be provided to the review team, but does not authorize the release of records of such information already in the possession of a state agency (Secs. 93.005 and 93.006). The bill provides that a meeting of the review team is closed to the public and is not subject to provisions relating to open meetings. The bill prohibits a member of a review team and any other person attending a review team meeting from disclosing what occurred at the meeting, except as necessary to carry out a review team's purpose and duties. The bill provides that a member of a review team participating in the review of a domestic violence death is immune from civil or criminal liability arising from information presented in or an opinion formed as a result of the meeting (Sec. 93.007). The bill provides that records and other information acquired by a review team are confidential and are not subject to subpoena or discovery. The bill prohibits records or other confidential information from being introduced into evidence in any civil or criminal proceeding and authorizes disclosure of such records or information only as necessary to carry out the review team's purpose or duties. The bill prohibits a member of a review team from disclosing any information that is confidential (Sec. 93.008). The bill provides that a review team is a governmental unit and a unit of local government for the purposes of the Texas Tort Claims Act (Sec. 93.009). EFFECTIVE DATE September 1, 2001.