Texas could lose immunity from ADA lawsuits soon if bill passes

Legal News Line Apr. 12, 2007, 7:00am

state Sen. Juan Hinojosa

AUSTIN -- Proponents of legislation that would allow Texans to sue the state under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) claim it will not cost Texans an extra dime. Supporters of Senate Bill 447 and House Bill 1299 cite an estimate by the Legislative Budget Board that the bills would have "no fiscal impact" on the state. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has stated that Texas has sovereign immunity from ADA lawsuits. That means the state now can't be sued for alleged discrimination against the disabled by public agencies. These include facilities like state colleges, hospitals, libraries, airports and government offices. SB447 and HB1299 would remove that immunity and allow ADA lawsuits to be filed in Texas courts. Former Austin mayor Bruce Todd and Coalition of Texans with Disabilities' executive director Dennis Borel argued the case in Tuesday's Austin American-Statesman. "The bills aren't about money, rather they focus in on the basic civil right of freedom from discrimination based on disability," Todd and Borel wrote. Referring to Texas's sovereign immunity from ADA lawsuits, they addded: "The Legislature has the opportunity to forever end this disgraceful practice." The bills were introduced by state Sen. Juan Hinojosa and state Rep. Mark Strama. Abbott has so far made no public response to the legislation.

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