HHSC Strikes (Out) Again

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) is the largest state agency in Texas and one of the largest in the entire nation. The state’s current two-year budget totals $217 billion; HHSC is responsible for about $80 billion of that.  Given the sheer number of dollars involved – and the important programs it oversees – it’s really important the agency is well-run. 

Under former Governor Rick Perry, HHSC was rightfully criticized for bungling huge, multi-million dollar contracts – wasting taxpayer money and sometimes failing to deliver health care services efficiently.  When Governor Greg Abbott took over three years ago, he made a big show of putting his own people in at HHSC and signaling with him in charge, things would be different.

Not so much.  It’s really just more of the same. 

Last Wednesday, Abbott’s HHSC Executive Commissioner, Charles Smith, appeared before House budget writers in response to two more state contracts being mishandled by the agency. 

In an effort to acknowledge the agency’s mistakes, Smith said: “I’m sitting before you because we failed. We let you down. We let the governor down. We let taxpayers down. We let our vendors down. We let our fellow professionals down. Everyone deserves better.”

That same day, the agency’s chief operating officer stepped downTwo days later, the deputy executive commissioner for procurement and contracting services followed and became the fifth departure in two short weeks over this new set of failed contracts that have followed years of contract mismanagement.

The first of this month’s bungled contracts impacts Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) providers servicing rural areas of our state. The agency incorrectly scored potential providers’ applications, resulting in the cancellation of five contracts worth $580 million. If that wasn’t bad enough, it was the competing providers, not internal agency controls, that identified the errors.  Fortunately for CHIP recipients, the contracts were not set to go into effect until September 1, 2018 and current coverage will be extended to prevent a gap in service.

The second set of errors were revealed via a State Auditor’s report outlining problems with a $17.5 million contract from 2016 for the maintenance of the state’s birth and death records database. As with the CHIP contracts, HHSC failed to use the correct methods to score vendor applications. HHSC officials also used incorrect information to award the contract to Genesis Systems, Inc. The errors ultimately led to the database launch being delayed by a year at a cost to taxpayers of an additional $1 million.

These contracting errors are unacceptable. But what is even more unacceptable is what is missing from Smith’s mea culpa to the committee. It’s the millions of Texans — our state’s most vulnerable who rely on programs administered by HHSC — that Smith, our state’s leadership and this agency have let down.

These contracting errors and mistakes have to stop. There is far too much at stake.

Early voting starts now!

Today is the first day of early voting for the March 6th primary election.

I think we can expect this year’s election – both the primary and the November general election — to be historic. People are fed up with Donald Trump and politicians like Ted Cruz and Konni Burton, who put extreme Tea Party interests above neighborhood schools, the economy and our healthcare.

It’s time to send a strong message that we need change from the top down, which is why I urge you to be a part of this historic election by voting in the Democratic Primary. There are many important contests in this year’s primary and I hope you will consider voting for the following candidates I have endorsed:

Beto O’Rourke for U.S. Senate – Beto is mounting a strong challenge against the extreme Ted Cruz.  Beto’s grassroots campaign is inspiring a lot of people across our state and as our Senator, he will put Texas first, for a change.

Marc Veasey for U.S. Representative, District 33 – We have one of the best congressmen around, and we need to keep him! Marc is a hard-working leader for Tarrant and Dallas Counties and is fighting for us and against the Trump agenda every day in Washington.

Beverly Powell for State Senate, District 10 – I’ve known Beverly for more than a decade and know she will put people ahead of politics.  With her service on the Burleson ISD School Board and years of involvement in our community, Beverly has what it takes to beat Konni Burton in November. When elected, she will be a strong advocate for Tarrant County, something we have been missing in Senate District 10 for the last few years.

Devan Allen for Tarrant County Commissioner, Precinct 2 – I was fortunate to work with Devan when she served as my District Director and know firsthand her commitment and passion for serving others.  When elected, she will be a needed addition to the Tarrant County Commissioner’s Court and a strong voice for Precinct 2.  In addition, I know Devan will be an effective ally on key House District 101 priorities, including health care and transportation.

If you live in Arlington, Grand Prairie, Mansfield or Kennedale and would like to learn more about Devan, Lisa and I are hosting a meet-and-greet event at our home in Grand Prairie onSaturday, February 24 from 2 to 4:00 pm. For more details or to RSVP, email vanna@mrmandco.com.

Early voting runs through Friday, March 2nd. For Tarrant County early voting times and locations, click here.

2018’s going to be a good year – be part of it by exercising your right to vote!

Chris

 

Black History Month

Today marks the start of Black History Month, an annual celebration of African Americans’ incredible achievements and contributions to our nation’s history. During the month of February, I will highlight various African American leaders on social media and on my website. I hope you will join me in honoring these men and women and share the posts among your networks.

This Sunday, February 4th, marks what would have been Rosa Parks’ 105th birthday.  As you may recall, last year I passed a measure to name the Arlington and Grand Prairie portion of the SH 360 South extension the Rosa Parks Memorial Parkway.  This will both honor her legacy and pay tribute to the rich diversity of our community.

Over the last few months, my staff and I have worked with the North Texas Tollway Authority and Dr. Jason Shelton, the Director of the Center for American Studies at the University of Texas at Arlington, to finalize the language for the commemorative plaque that will be installed when the road is complete.  It will read:

The Texas Legislature has designated this important Southeast Tarrant County road the Rosa Parks Memorial Parkway, in honor of an American hero whose courage helped to change our nation for the better. As a black woman in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955, Ms. Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a city bus to a white man. This act of courage inspired the Civil Rights Movement, which aimed to eliminate racial discrimination and make the American Dream possible for all people. Ms. Parks’ fight for equality and fairness spanned her entire life, as she continued to tackle issues such as affordable housing and public education until her death in 2005.

“I would like to be remembered as a person who wanted to befree…so other people would also be free.” – Rosa Parks 

This spring, there will be an event to open the highway and unveil the plaque.  As we get closer and confirm the details, I will send additional information so that you may mark your calendar.

In the meantime, I hope we can all reflect on the rich contributions of African Americans in Texas and across our nation this Black History Month.

ACA & District Spotlight

There has been a lot of talk in recent days (and weeks and months) about the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Unfortunately, much of the focus has been on the attempts to dismantle the law, even though the result could be 32 million Americans losing their health insurance coverage.

The Trump Administration has made it abundantly clear that it wants the ACAACA
to fail, with no concern for what that will mean for millions Americans, including 1.7 million Texans who rely on health care coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace.

Last week, Trump announced that he would cut payments to insurance companies. These payments offset the costs to insure low- to middle-income Americans and the impact of this reckless decision will have dire con-sequences and many will no longer be able to afford coverage as a result of this decision. Of course, this is just one of many ways that the Trump Administration has deliberately sabotaged the ACA — if you’d like to see a more comprehensive list of other ways they are trying to deny health care to Americans, click here to read a recent New York Times story on the matter.

With just two weeks until Health Insurance Marketplace open enrollment begins, there must be more focus on ensuring that our neighbors are able find and keep their coverage.  Help spread the word — this year’s open enrollment period, which has been shortened considerably from past years — begins November 1st and goes through December 15th.

For more details or to find a health insurance plan, visit the healthcare.govwebsite. For those in House District 101 or in other parts of North Texas, you may also contact the Community Council of Greater Dallas if you have questions about enrolling or about your application.

Around HD 101


Arlington NAACP
On the topic of the Affordable Care Act, last Tuesday, I joined the Arlington NAACP at their monthly general meeting, where they discussed the upcomingACA open-enrollment period.  Since the Health Insurance Marketplace opened, the Arlington NAACP has been on the frontline spreading information about how to apply and helping members of our community sign up for coverage.

Planned Parenthood Texas Votes
On Wednesday, I was honored to receive the “2017 Legislative Champion Award” from my friends at Planned Parenthood Texas Votes. The organization has been instrumental in fighting to increase access to health care across Texas and protect a woman’s right to choose.  I am proud to stand with them.

Ornament

2017 HD 101 House Christmas Ornament
Every year, members of the Texas House are asked to have an ornament designed to represent their district. For the past several years, talented
students from Tarrant County College Southeast Campus have designed the HD 101 ornament, which will be hung on the Christmas tree on the House floor. On Thursday, I met this year’s artists, Elijio Ledesma (L) and Jose Villa (R), pictured above with TCCSE President Dr. Bill Coppola. The TCCSE students both plan to pursue careers in graphic design. We’ll post close-up pictures of the finished ornament when it’s placed on the tree in the Capitol.

Upcoming Events

Wednesday, October 18
Arlington State of the City Address, Arlington Convention Center, Arlington
For more details, click here.

Monday, October 23 through Friday, November 3
Early Voting 
For locations and times, click here.

Wednesday, October 25
Children First Counseling Center’s Little Lunch of Hope, Pioneer Event Center, Grand Prairie
For more details, click here.

Saturday, October 28
CASA of Tarrant County’s Superhero Walk/Run, Levitt Pavilion, Arlington
For more details, click here.

Sam Houston High School “Destination Success”
For more details, click here.

Tuesday, November 7
Election Day
7:00 AM to 7:00 PM
For polling locations, click here.

Arlington NAACP ACA Enrollment Event 
6:00 to 8:00 PM
Greater Community Baptist Church, 126 E. Park Row, Arlington

Saturday, December 2
Arlington NAACP ACA Enrollment Event 
10:00 AM to 2:00 PM
Greater Community Baptist Church, 126 E. Park Row, Arlington

If you know of an event in or near HD 101 that you would like us to feature, please send an email to chris.turner@house.texas.gov.

 

Discrimination

Last week, SB 4, the “show me your papers” bill was signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott. It’s surreal. It’s disgusting. 

The result of this misguided law: local law enforcement and college campus police will now serve as de facto immigration officers, driving many members of our community deeper into the shadows. This law, which was billed as a pro-public safety measure, will make our neighborhoods less safe. Don’t just take my word for it, here is what Arlington Chief of Police Will Johnson wrote about the measure in a recent editorial:

“This will lead to distrust of police, less cooperation from members of the community and the belief that they cannot seek assistance from police for fear of being subjected to an immigration status investigation.

“Distrust and fear of contacting or assisting police has already become evident among immigrants here legally as well.”

This was the concern shared by many in law enforcement before the addition of a Tea Party Republican amendment, which turned an already-bad bill into something much, much worse. As a result, Texas has now become a “show me your papers” state, the consequences of which will be felt in our neighborhoods, in our schools and colleges and reflected in our state’s economy.

Since day one, this bill has had one goal — to discriminate against a specific group of people for purely political gains.

We shouldn’t be surprised by this, as our state’s Republican leaders have a long history of passing measures found to have discriminatory intent. In just the past two months, three federal court rulings have highlighted how the Texas Legislature has systematically discriminated against minorities: 

  • March 10th ruling: Texas Congressional districts drawn in 2011 were drawn with discriminatory intent
  • April 10th ruling: Photo voter ID law was passed with a discriminatory purpose
  • April 20th ruling: 2011 Texas House district map — “map drawers were motivated in part by an intent to dilute minority voting strength”

So what’s the Republican response to these rulings?  It’s to pass measures like SB 4, further harming minorities and dividing our communities.

Chris

Photo credit: Texas AFL-CIO

New Maps Must be Drawn Immediately

Today’s ruling on the state House map proved what we’ve known all along — Republicans in the Legislature cynically and intentionally divided minority voters so Republicans could enhance their power. By doing so, Latinos and African-Americans saw their ability to elect the candidate of their choice diminished.
As the ruling clearly states, “The impact of the plan was certainly to reduce minority voting opportunity statewide, resulting in even less proportional representation for minority voters.” This is shameful and unacceptable – new maps must be drawn immediately.

Halt Investments in Russia

Today, I filed HCR 128, urging Congress to halt investments in Russia until federal investigations into election tampering and related interference have been completed.

Regardless of political party, we should all be outraged that the Russian government meddled in our presidential election. It’s time for Congress to send a strong message to Vladimir Putin and his allies that playing games with our elections comes with a price.

Since last summer, evidence has been mounting regarding Russia’s involvement in the 2016 United States presidential election.  Instances of interference include hacking the Democratic National Committee’s computer network, attacks on state voter registration systems in Arizona and Illinois, and sharing data with the controversial website, WikiLeaks.

In his March 20, 2017 testimony in front of the House Intelligence Committee, FBI Director James Comey confirmed that his agency is investigating Russia’s actions. At the hearing, Comey stated that the Russians were successful in injecting “chaos and discord” into the 2016 presidential election and that our country should expect future attempts by the Kremlin to meddle in our elections. During his testimony, Comey also indicated that his agency is investigating coordination between the Russians and the Trump Campaign.

Click here to read the full text of HCR 128. 

Turner urges Paxton to stop fighting foster care suit

Citing sex-trafficking series, Texas Dem urges Paxton to stop fighting foster care suit

BY EDGAR WALTERS AND NEENA SATIJA
FEB. 22, 2017 1:37 PM

After a Texas Tribune series exposed the connections between the state’s embattled child welfare system and child sex trafficking, the chair of the Texas House Democratic Caucus has asked state Attorney General Ken Paxton to stop fighting a federal judge’s mandate to overhaul the agency charged with protecting vulnerable kids.

“If there was ever a call to action for state officials to get serious about reforming foster care, this was it,” state Rep. Chris Turner, D-Arlington, wrote in the letter to Paxton on Wednesday.

The lead plaintiff in the class-action lawsuit filed against Texas’ child welfare system was a victim of sex trafficking. Turner’s letter cited The Texas Tribune’s reporting in the “Sold Out” series, which found there could be tens of thousands of child sex-trafficking victims in Texas today — and that many of them have had some contact with the child welfare system.

“Those stunning facts should outrage every single one of us,” Turner wrote.

Since a federal judge ruled in late 2015 that the long-term foster care system had violated children’s constitutional rights by placing them at undue risk of harm, Paxton has objected to or worked to delay various court-ordered reforms.

The judge’s scathing opinion held that Texas had violated the constitutional rights of some 12,000 children in permanent managing conservatorship, the state’s designation for children who cannot find lasting homes with relatives or adoptive parents and are unable to be reunited with their biological families. U.S. District Judge Janis Jack ruled that children “often age out of care more damaged than when they entered.”

“Since the ruling, you and your office have inexplicably spent an inordinate amount of time, energy and money on pointless and unsuccessful appeals and objections,” the letter said. Paxton’s most recent objection, which the court rejected last week, is the latest example of “legal foot-dragging,” Turner wrote.

Paxton and other top Republican leaders, including Gov. Greg Abbott, have argued the class-action lawsuit against the state a waste of money, that the federal judge overstated foster care’s deficiencies and that the state can make its own decisions about reforms. Paxton’s office has called the ruling a “misguided federal takeover of the Texas foster-care system.”

Paxton’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the letter. In previous comments about the lawsuit, Paxton has said he is obligated to defend the state, not make policy.


Link to letter to Attorney General Paxton: 2.22.17_CTurner_LettertoAGPaxton_CPS.FosterCare

Statement on Trump Deportation Plan

Rep. Chris Turner, Chair of the Texas House Democratic Caucus, released the following statement regarding President Trump’s plan to use the National Guard as a deportation force: 

“President Trump’s draft plan to use the National Guard as a deportation force is dangerous and un-American.  As Commander-in-Chief of Texas Military Forces, Governor Abbott needs to speak up immediately and let the President know that Texas will play no part whatsoever in this operation.

“Two years ago, Governor Abbott insulted United States military special forces when he expressed angst about Operation Jade Helm, a routine training exercise.  Given the Governor’s past concerns about federal overreach, I’m confident he will swiftly and categorically reject and condemn this dangerous plan from the Trump Administration.”

 

Photo credit: Darren Hauck / Getty Images

Honored to Serve

It’s only Thursday and it’s already been a busy week.

On Monday, my colleagues chose me to serve as Chair of the House Democratic Caucus. I am honored and humbled that my fellow House Democrats have put their confidence in me.

As Caucus Chair, I look forward to working with all of my Democratic colleagues as we focus on strengthening our public schools, creating more economic opportunity for Texas families and standing up to the misguided policies coming from the Trump Administration.

The House Democratic Caucus has a lot of work to get done this legislative session, but by working together, I am confident we will protect the best interests of Texas families.

It didn’t take long before House Democrats were put to work.

On Tuesday, Governor Abbott gave his State of the State address and laid out his priorities for the legislative session.  With so many critical issues impacting our state, it was my hope that Governor Abbott would focus on those issues and largely avoid partisan rhetoric.

Unfortunately, that was not the case. In his speech, there was far too muchHDC Presser focus on right-wing red meat issues and too little on the crisis impacting CPS and foster care or the need for more public school funding. There was no mention of the 60,000 children who may lose access to their speech, occupational or physical therapy due to last session’s draconian budget cuts or the need to spend time and money on expanding mental health services across our communities and state.

Following the speech, more than 30 House Democrats and several of our Senate colleagues held a press conference to respond to the governor’s remarks. If you missed what we had to say, click here.

In reaction to the speech, I also released the following statement:

Governor Abbott’s State of the State address was one of missed opportunities and misplaced priorities. Texas Democrats have one priority – giving all Texans a fair shot at achieving the American Dream. That means investing in our schools, making college more affordable, protecting vulnerable children and making sure Texans can earn fair pay.

Governor Abbott spent his speech largely on partisan and divisive issues that will hurt, not help, the people of Texas. New barriers to women’s health care, attacks on local elected officials, telling Texans how they can and cannot spend their paycheck and denying homeowners the right to hold their insurance company accountable do nothing to move our state forward.

In contrast, House Democrats are ready to focus on our communities’ priorities and to address the real needs of our state, not focus on partisan rhetoric. We want every Texan to have a fair shot at getting a good education, finding a well-paying job and feeling safe in their community.

House Democrats have a lot of work ahead of us and we will fight day and night for our communities and the children of this state, and against the divisive hate-filled rhetoric that is plaguing our political system in Washington and here at home.

Chris

Search


Latest News

  • Brews & BBQ

    Click here to RSVP: https://act.myngp.com/Forms/7918091481862048768

    Read More
  • Texas 101 Day: Two more days!...

    Read More
  • Have you reserved your spot?...

    On September 22nd, we will be hosting our 3rd Texas 101 Day in Arlington at Tarrant Co

    Read More
  • Nearly 1 in 4 uninsured

    I wanted to share a quick update on a few issues impacting healthcare in our state and here locally. On

    Read More

Recent Posts

Upcoming Events