Issue Update: The 86th Legislative Session

 The 86th Legislative Session

Click on the graphics for updates from the 86th Legislative Session.

       

          

          

 

 

 

 

 

 

El Paso

On Saturday, 20 people, shopping for groceries and back-to-school supplies, lost their lives in a hate-fueled act of white supremacy and domestic terrorism. It was just reported that two of the more than two dozen wounded in this heinous attack have also died, bringing the number of victims to 22.

And amazingly, though it’s only been 48 hours, El Paso was not our nation’s most recent mass shooting. Thirteen hours later, another nine people would be gunned down in Dayton, Ohio. 

El Paso is a strong community and I know its resolve and spirit are unbreakable.  We need to help our fellow Texans in El Paso as they deal with the aftermath of this terror attack. If you would like to help the victims in El Paso, visit the El Paso Community Foundation’s Shooting Victims Fund by clicking here.

Helping people in need must be our first priority. But the work cannot end there. We have to take action to put an end to mass shootings and the growing white nationalist threat in this country.

Just think: Dallas, Sutherland Springs, Santa Fe and now El Paso. Four mass shootings in Texas in three years and little has changed.

In Washington and in Austin, common-sense gun safety measures have been ignored or defeated. Harmful and hateful rhetoric coming from the White House is nearly always unchallenged by members of the president’s party. There is far too much finger-pointing and deflecting of blame. All while innocent people continue to die, needlessly.

Here in Texas, why won’t our Republican leaders act?

In large part, they are too afraid to stand up to the NRA and the Tea Party. They’re afraid to challenge the powerful gun lobby for fear of being challenged at the ballot box. Instead, they place the blame on mental health or on video games.

Yet, when the opportunity presents itself to do something meaningful to keep guns out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them, nothing happens.

Texas needs a Red Flag Law, a measure strongly supported by law enforcement that would help reduce the number of dangerous or unstable people who have access to firearms. In fact, after the Santa Fe massacre, Greg Abbott briefly put Red Flag Laws on the table. Unfortunately, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick said he was opposed, so the governor dropped the idea and backed off.

This was a major missed opportunity due to lack of leadership. And this is but one example. 

A few months ago, on his way to school, my 7-year-old godson told his mother, “I like lockdown drills because I like to hide.” What a hard thing to hear from a child. In 1st grade, he should not be preparing for mass murderers, learning to hide from weapons or living in near-constant fear when he’s in his classroom. Unfortunately, however, that has become his generation’s new normal.

We can’t allow this to continue.

Humanitarian crisis in Texas

On Friday, I joined several of my colleagues in Austin for a House committee hearing focused on the humanitarian crisis at our southern border. For six hours, we heard from state agency heads, officials from border counties and representatives from immigrant-rights organizations. We discussed the treatment of detained children, the separation of families and the bleak conditions at many of these facilities, including the lack of access to the most basic needs.

It was apparent that a lack of resources and coordination among federal agencies and other levels of government is in part to blame for these conditions — an issue that I hope was brought more into the light as a result of this hearing. I continue to question, as I did in the hearing, whether Governor Abbott’s recent deployment of 1,000 National Guard to help run detention facilities is the best use of resources.  We heard from city and county officials who are literally on the front lines of this crisis who would benefit tremendously from direct support from the National Guard in particular and the state and federal governments, in general.

Of course, we wouldn’t be having these discussions if the Trump Administration had not handled this entire situation so incompetently from the beginning.  The president’s apparent indifference to this humanitarian crisis is what has rightfully angered so many Americans.   

Saturday, I traveled to Carrizo Springs, located between San Antonio and Laredo, to visit a recently opened migrant shelter currently housing 206 teenagers, with the capacity to house over 1000 more. This facility, run by the US Health and Human Services in partnership with Baptist Children’s and Family Services, is an improvement over the overcrowded and harsh conditions at Border Patrol facilities on our border.

The shelter staff is working to reunite children with their families, with a goal of no one being there more than 30 days. I appreciate the work being done there, and how the facility differs from the horrific conditions at detention centers on the border.

The migrant shelter and the detention centers do share something in common — they are both a symptom of our nation’s overall failure to deal with immigration policy in a comprehensive, effective manner. Until we do, we will continue to pay a human and financial cost.

If you would like to help detainees and others impacted by this humanitarian crisis, click here for a list of opportunities to provide support.

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. 

Search


Recent Posts

  • Issue Update: The 86th Legislative Sessi...

     The 86th Legislative Session

    Read More
  • El Paso

    On Saturday, 20 people, shopping for groceries and back-to-school supplies, lost their lives in a hate-fueled ac

    Read More
  • Humanitarian crisis in Texas...

    On Friday, I joined several of my colleagues in Austin for a 

    Read More
  • 16 new laws & a veto...

    It's been a couple of weeks since my last email update and during that time, several of my bills were signed into 

    Read More

Upcoming Events