There’s less than two weeks until Texas 101 Day. To get ready, this week and next, I’m sending emails that will hit on the topics we’re going to discuss in detail that day. In advance of the event, I’d really like to hear your thoughts.
The first topic: pay day and auto title lending.
In the past few months, there’s been a lot of talk about these businesses, and for good reason. They are everywhere. In parts of Arlington and Grand Prairie, I’ve seen two on the same street corner.
How prevalent are they? According to the Office of Consumer Credit Commissioner, the Texas agency with oversight over these businesses, there are close to 300 payday and auto title lenders in Tarrant County, 57 of them located in and around the district I represent.
These businesses hit the financially vulnerable harder in Texas than in any other state. In a report released last month, The Pew Charitable Trusts found that because Texas has no limit on how much a person can be charged for a loan, our state’s citizens pay a higher price than they would in any other state in the nation. They found that in Texas, to borrow $300 for a five-month period, on average, a person will be charged a 454 percent annual interest rate and it will ultimately cost the borrower $701.
AUSTIN — In reaction to the Texas Transportation Commission’s (TTC) approval of the SH360 project agreement, state Representative Chris Turner released the following statement:
“Today’s decision by the Texas Transportation Commission to approve the agreement is a significant milestone toward extending SH360 south. There are still a few steps left in the process, but once the project is complete, it will have an incredible impact on those who live and work in southeast Tarrant County’s fast growing communities.
“I commend the TTC and NTTA’s leadership for understanding the critical need for this project and for working together to ensure it is funded and constructed in a timely manner. Extending SH360 has been one of my top priorities since first taking office in 2009 and I look forward to seeing the continued progress and eventual completion of the project.”
ARLINGTON — In reaction to the North Texas Tollway Authority’s (NTTA) unanimous approval of the SH360 project agreement, state Representative Chris Turner (HD-101) released the following statement:
“Today’s action by the NTTA is a major milestone in the effort to extend SH360 south from Sublett Road/Camp Wisdom Road. I commend the NTTA for its leadership on this issue and look forward to the Texas Transportation Commission also approving this project.
“Extending SH360 has been one of my top priorities since first taking office in 2009. I know that once the project is complete, it will have a positive impact on the quality of life for families in southeast Tarrant County.”
In 2009 and 2010, Turner organized a stakeholders group that brought community leaders, officials from the NTTA, Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG), as well as officials from Arlington, Grand Prairie, Mansfield, and Tarrant County together in an effort to improve SH360.
The agreement approved today requires TxDOT to fund $294 million and the NTTA to be responsible for road operations and maintenance. The agreement must still be approved by the Texas Transportation Commission. Once that occurs, the NTTA anticipates the extension of SH360 will be completed in 2018.
I say it often — there are 150 members elected to the Texas House of Representatives, but just one who represents District 101. Although I regularly weigh in on issues that impact everyone in our state, and will continue to do so, my primary focus has been and always will be on working for Arlington and Grand Prairie.
Of course, our district isn’t really that different from the rest of Texas — it’s diverse and dynamic, made up of women and men who want a bright future for their families. It’s full of children who deserve the opportunity for a future of unlimited possibilities.
Like the rest of our state, in order for these families to have the opportunity to succeed, they shouldn’t have to do it alone. They should be able to count on their elected officials and their government to be a partner in securing those opportunities.
One area where that partnership is critical is healthcare. …
AUSTIN – In reaction to today’s announcement that Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) Commissioner Julia Rathgeber approved additional regulations for Texas’ 300-plus Affordable Care Act Navigators, state Representative Chris Turner released the following statement:
“After listening to many of the concerns raised by elected officials, non-profit organizations, and others, I appreciate that Commissioner Rathgeber rejected or scaled back some of the more extreme, politically-driven rules that had been proposed.
However, there are still reasons for concern. The tight March 1 deadline will make it difficult for many navigator entities to comply. With the health insurance enrollment period ending March 31, many navigators will have to shift their focus to completing paperwork, instead of helping some of the 6.4 million in Texas who lack health insurance coverage.
It is imperative that TDI make the registration process as fair and as quick as possible so that the navigators can continue to do the work they were hired to do. I will continue to work with TDI and navigators to see that we’re able to make real progress in signing people up for health insurance. “
Good evening. Thank you, Rev. Whisler, for your kind words of introduction.
Pastor Evans, it is always a privilege to be in the warmth of fellowship at Bethlehem Baptist Church. Thank you and all the members of Bethlehem for once again honoring the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with this important community event. It is an honor to be here.
It is somewhat daunting to follow Lyndsey Captain to this lectern – what an inspiring speech. Let’s give her a hand, one more time.
I’d like to introduce Devan Allen, who is with me today. She’s a leader in our community and I am fortunate that she is my District Director.
Ms. Victoria Dodd, who as always, has done an amazing job of organizing this event, nine years running – has asked me to speak on the theme of “Freedom and Equality: the Hope for our Future.”
As I really focused on those words, it forced me to ask some questions that I had not really considered before.
Freedom and equality. Both are certainly goals for which Dr. King dedicated his life and his ministry to advocating for. But are freedom and equality two, distinct and separate concepts – or are they two ideals which are inextricably linked?
In other words, can someone be free if they are not an equal in our society? And can someone be equal, if they are not free? Something for us to think about.
Last year, an estimated $90 million in Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC) went unclaimed in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. In an effort to help make residents aware of this credit, the City of Arlington and the AARP (Grand Prairie) are offering free tax help to low and middle-income families.
Beginning Tuesday, January 21, tax preparers with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program will be available to help Arlington residents complete their returns. On Monday, February 3, free help will be available to those in Grand Prairie.
Those seeking assistance should bring their W-2, 1099 or 1098, Social Security card or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) letter, and a picture ID.
For additional information, contact my Arlington district office by calling 817-459-2800.
The locations and times are listed after the jump.
With 6.4 million uninsured in Texas, state agency needs to put people ahead of politics
AUSTIN – Today, state Representative Chris Turner attended the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) hearing on the proposed rules regarding the regulation of navigators to share his concerns. The following are excerpts from his prepared remarks:
“After the September 30 hearing and subsequent meetings, I had begun to hope that the proposed rules might reflect the legitimate concerns that have been laid for the last two months by elected officials and navigators, nonprofit organizations and others who are working hard every day to connect uninsured Texans with access to affordable health insurance.
These rules, for the most part, do not appear they are aimed at protecting consumers; rather, they seem clearly intended to make a political statement, a statement that if it’s made, will be done to the determent of millions of uninsured Texans.
For some organizations, the financial impact could very well force them out of providing navigator services altogether, which will have a negative impact on our state.
Now, everyone knows that politics is everywhere when it comes to the ACA. Navigators have simply become the latest easy target in an all-out assault on the Affordable Care Act.
Chairman Darrel lssa
House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
2157 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Ranking Member Elijah E. Cummings
House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
2471 Rayburn House Office Building Washington, DC 20515
Dear Chairman Issa and Ranking Member Cummings:
With one in four Texans –a staggering 6.4 million people –lacking health insurance coverage, our state leads the nation in the rate of uninsured. As a result, the need for successful implementation ofthe Affordable Care Act in Texas could not be greater. Yet, our state Republican leaders and those on Capitol Hill are doing everything in their power to create barriers for those most in need of health insurance.
Today’s hearing is no different. It is my understanding that the purpose of the hearing is not to find ways to increase participation in the Health Insurance Marketplace, but is aimed at vilifying those on the frontlines helping Texans sign up for affordable, comprehensive coverage. It is also my understanding that the hearing will be based on heavily-edited and misleading videos made by a man who has been convicted in federal court for his questionable practices.
Turner Honored by Recognition from State’s Largest Police Association
AUSTIN – On Monday, State Representative Chris Turner received the “Best of the House” award from the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas (CLEAT) in recognition for his work on issues affecting the law enforcement community. This is the second “Best of the House” Turner has received from CLEAT; he also received the award in 2009. This year, Turner is one of only ten House members to receive the recognition.
“To have the opportunity to work on behalf of the brave men and women who serve and protect our community is reward enough,” said Representative Turner. “However, I am incredibly honored to receive recognition from the largest police association in Texas.”
“Representative Turner has been a loyal friend to law enforcement not only in his district but in the Capitol,” said Charley Wilkison, CLEAT’s Executive Director. “He has remained committed to the rights and interests of the law enforcement community no matter the pressure from opposing sides.”
Turner given award by physicians for his work on women’s health
AUSTIN – Yesterday, State Representative Chris Turner received the “Texas Women’s Health Champion” Award from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Turner received the award in recognition of his commitment to improving health care and promoting the best health outcomes for women and their newborns.
“The obstetricians and gynecologists who work every day to protect women’s health are the ones that deserve recognition,” said Turner. “I am glad that I was able to lend my voice during the regular and special sessions to speak out against the attacks on women’s health. I look forward to working with ACOG in the future to turn back some of the draconian measures that have become law during the last few sessions, and begin to focus on measures that will protect the health and welfare of women and their children.”
“Though the 83rd Legislative Regular and Special Sessions proved to be challenging, Representative Turner stood proud in his support for women and their health care needs,” said R. Moss Hampton, MD, ACOG District XI chair. “We are grateful for the time and energy he spent advocating for women and newborns.”
Attorney General Greg Abbott, the leading Republican candidate to replace the retiring Mr. Perry, is pushing ethics reform and recently told a TV station he wanted to prohibit double dipping by politicians. His most likely Democratic opponent, State Senator Wendy Davis of Fort Worth, also supports the ban.
The endorsements are welcome news to State Representative Chris Turner, Democrat of Grand Prairie, who fought a lonely battle this year to prohibit future double dipping. But Republican leaders ignored the bill, and it never got past the committee stage.
Mr. Turner said he could have used help from Mr. Abbott, a close Perry ally, when the bill was up for a debate, and he questioned why Mr. Abbott was talking about it on the campaign trail now.
“He had every opportunity in the last two years to go on record saying that he thinks it’s wrong,” Mr. Turner said. “When he had the opportunity to do something, he did nothing.”
Matt Hirsch, a spokesman for Mr. Abbott, sidestepped the criticism about Mr. Abbott’s previous silence …