State Representative Chris Turner

Turner: Supreme Court Decision a Victory for Texas Women

AUSTIN — In reaction to today’s United States Supreme Court decision overturning Texas’ abortion law (HB2), State Representative Chris Turner (HD101 – Grand Prairie) released the following statement:

“Today marks a landmark victory for Texas women and a strong rebuke of Texas Republican leaders and their misplaced priorities. The United States Supreme Court has sent a powerful message to lawmakers across our nation that they may not pass restrictive, unconstitutional barriers to reproductive healthcare. The rejection of this ill-conceived law will help ensure that Texas women once again have access to safe, legal reproductive health care. Now that this case is decided, the Legislature should stop trying to find new ways to deny health care to Texans and instead start creating pathways to expanded health care access.”

The Last Full Measure of Devotion

Today we remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedom and ensure that our nation remains the greatest in the world.

Although we will never be able to repay the tremendous debt our nation owes these heroes, we can honor their sacrifice by serving our communities, making a difference in the lives of others and by shaping the future for our state and our nation.

Take a moment today and every day to remember those who through their selfless acts of courage gave what President Lincoln called “the last full measure of devotion.”

Our Public Schools

A general diffusion of knowledge being essential to the preservation of the liberties and rights of the people, it shall be the duty of the Legislature of the State to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools.

Texas Constitution, Article 7, Sec. 1

In a ruling last Friday, the Texas Supreme Court apparently overlooked that part of our state’s constitution when it declared our broken, underfunded and inequitable school finance system to be…“constitutional.”

Needless to say, this ruling stunned a lot of people, myself included.

As I said on Friday:

“As a result of today’s Supreme Court ruling, 5.2 million Texas school children will be left further behind, unless the Legislature is willing to take it upon itself to act. It is shameful that our state ranks in the bottom third in per-pupil funding and that many of our schools have yet to recover from the $5.4 billion in cuts in 2011. I have always argued we should not wait for a court to force us to fulfill our constitutional duty – now, the Legislature needs to do the right thing by fixing our broken school finance system and improving equity and quality for Texas students.”

What’s even more mystifying than the Court’s erroneous decision is the reaction of many Republican leaders. Instead of acknowledging the part of the court’s ruling that urges the Legislature to do its duty and overhaul an outdated and unfair school finance scheme —

“Our Constitution endows the people’s elected representatives with vast discretion in fulfilling their constitutional duty to fashion a school system fit for our dynamic and fast-growing State’s unique characteristics. We hope lawmakers will seize this urgent challenge and upend an ossified regime ill-suited for 21st century Texas.”

— many Republicans, including the Governor, Lt. Governor and Attorney General have seen fit to spike the ball on students, teachers and parents by declaring victory and giving no indication that they’re inclined to press for needed reforms. In fact, we’ve heard a lot in the last week from Lt. Governor Dan Patrick about private school vouchers, a dangerous idea that would further harm our public education system.

It’s now up to all of us who understand that our state’s very future depends on a good education for 5.2 million young Texans to speak up, speak out and be relentless in our demand that Austin work for our students, parents and teachers and not against them.

Just because it’s “constitutional” doesn’t make it right.


PS: Don’t forget this Saturday is our Save Energy, Save Water, Save Money event. It will be held from 10:00 to 11:30 AM at Koinonia Christian Church, 2455 SE Green Oaks in Arlington. For more details, call 817-459-2800.


Helping Our Neighbors

I say it often — the most important part of a state representative’s job is being responsive to the needs of constituents.

This can mean helping constituents navigate what can be a complex and confusing system of state services, by answering questions regarding state law, or providing information by hosting events like our Town Hall earlier this month or the utilities forum we’re hosting in May.

I want to take a moment to highlight one example of why these constituent services are so important.

Last December, I met with Vicki Niedermayer, the CEO of a not-for-profit organization called Helping Restore Ability (HRA). The organization, founded in Arlington in 1977, helps disabled Texans remain independent by helping them receive assistance in their homes. Last year, due to other providers no longer offering these services, and the Legislature providing additional funding to move people off years-long wait lists, Helping Restore Ability’s client base grew quickly. Unfortunately, at the same time, HRA wasn’t being reimbursed by the state and they thought they may have to shut their doors as a result. That’s when Vicki came to me and asked for help.

After back and forth with several agencies and individuals, my staff was able to untangle the issues that resulted in the delayed payments. Although there are still issues being worked out, the problems that nearly shut the organization down earlier this year have largely been resolved.

In appreciation for our role in addressing these crippling issues, Vicki Niedermayer sent me the following note in appreciation and thanks for our efforts:

“Recently, our nonprofit agency experienced an unprecedented surge in the number of people with disabilities needing our help. Our business model is that once we determine that the person is eligible for services, we provide those services and then bill our contracts with the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS) for reimbursement.

Due to a staff shortage and a backlog of authorizations for care at the state level, we were experiencing delays of up to 6 months in being reimbursed for services rendered. Rep. Turner and his staff met with our team, listened to our concerns and the impact on those we serve, and went to work on our behalf immediately. Within just a few weeks, our information was entered into the state billing system, and we were able to recover most of the funds we had been waiting on for many months.

Rep. Turner and his staff were immediately responsive to our situation, which was jeopardizing our 39-year-old agency and more importantly, the elderly and disabled that we serve all across the state of Texas. It is so refreshing to know that we have a caring, compassionate servant leader acting in Austin on our behalf. On behalf of those we serve, thank you Rep. Turner and your dedicated team!”

I’m proud that due to the good work of our team, this organization will continue to serve many people in need, not only in our community, but across the state of Texas.

If you are in need of help with a state agency or have a question about a state law, call my Arlington office at 817-459-2800 and speak with our Director of Constituent Services, Tammy Dubberke.

We’re here to help.

A Broken System

I am sure by now you have heard the name Leiliana Wright. Last month, the Grand Prairie four-year old was tied up, choked and beaten to death. In the months preceding her death, attempts had been made to involve Child Protective Services (CPS) in what had become a very dangerous situation for this young child. Sadly, due in part to inaction by the state agency charged with protecting Texas children from abuse and neglect, her innocent life was cut short.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t an isolated case of a child tragically “falling through the cracks.”

CPS has long been impacted and overwhelmed by an incredible demand for their services. In part due to a lack of adequate funding, the agency has far too often failed to protect our most vulnerable young Texans. In learning about the breakdown in the system in Leiliana’s case, it is apparent that this agency is in crisis.

We all know that a CPS caseworker’s job is hard and stressful and that the pay is low. Last fiscal year, more than one-quarter of the state’s CPS workers left; 59 percent of those had worked for the agency for three years or less. In Dallas County, from September through November of last year, the turnover rate was an astonishing 57 percent. Since many leave in the first few years of service, the amount of institutional knowledge is limited, further eroding CPS’ ability to protect abused and neglected children.

CPS isn’t alone in failing our children. The foster care system, designed to protect the children taken out of harmful situations by CPS, is also in dire need of repair.

Last month, it was reported that children are sleeping in CPS offices and state mental health facilities due to a lack of foster care facilities and homes. This comes just four months after United States District Court Judge Janis Jack found the state’s foster care system to be unconstitutional. To address this dire situation, last month, Jack named two special masters to overhaul the CPS and foster care system.

In the December 17, 2015 court order, Jack stated,

“Texas’s foster care system is broken, and it has been that way for decades. It is broken for all stakeholders, including DFPS employees who are tasked with impossible workloads. Most importantly, though, it is broken for Texas’s PMC (permanent managing conservatorship) children, who almost uniformly leave State custody more damaged than when they entered.

Texas should embrace the opportunity to work with Judge Jack and the special masters to develop immediate reforms. Unfortunately, Attorney General Ken Paxton continues to appeal and is filing motions against supposed “federal overreach.” Now is not the time for those partisan games, and Paxton needs to stop dragging this out through the courts.

In an interview with NBC5, while discussing the enormity of this situation, I stressed that “…if there was ever an emergency in state government, the failure that we are seeing right now in CPS to protect vulnerable children from serious injury is it.”

This is a crisis. And one that we must address now.

Earlier this week, the Abbott administration announced new leadership at the Department of Family and Protective Services. I wish these new appointees the best; they have a very difficult job in front of them. I hope they can quickly identify and implement dramatic improvements. However, if they find the changes they need require legislative action, then Governor Abbott must call a special session of the Legislature. The bottom line is, this can’t wait until the 2017 legislative session. There are too many children’s lives at stake.


PS: April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. If you would like to learn how to help prevent child abuse in your community, visit the child advocacy center for Tarrant County, Alliance For Children, or Texas CASA.

Mental Health and Our Kids

“What weighs on me the most as a pediatrician is that adults with mental illness say their symptoms began in childhood and we missed most of them when they presented in front of us…More children in Texas suffer from mental illness than we would otherwise expect, which really speaks to the unfortunately hidden nature of these conditions.”

Anu Partab, MD, Pediatrician
Testimony, House Select Committee on Mental Health, March 22, 2016

Half of all chronic mental illness begins by age 14 and seventy-five percent by age 24.

Please take a moment and let that sink in. It is a startling statistic and one that should not be ignored.

Last week, I was in Austin for the House Select Committee on Mental Health hearing, where the focus was child and adolescent mental health. We spent several hours hearing from health care providers, educators and others on the frontline of this critical issue. It quickly became clear that while many in our state are doing great work and finding innovative ways to address this issue, there is much more that needs to be done.

I am still processing much of what was said, but my initial takeaway is this: it is critical that we improve access to care, increase early intervention and find innovative ways to address an overwhelming need. Ultimately, the more resources we bring to bear to address children’s mental health care — time, money and people — the more likely we will achieve better educational outcomes, lower rates of incarceration and keep more of our neighbors off the streets.

The first step is to increase access to care. According to the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, in Texas each year more than 525,000 children experience severe mental health needs. Thirteen percent of youngest kiddos — ages 2 to 7 — have a mental, behavioral or developmental disorder. With a shortage of child psychiatrists and other providers, many of these kids and their families simply do not have the ability to access care. This isn’t isolated to children; the lack of providers, as well as a lack of mental health coverage, extends to adult Texans as well. We must focus more attention on training and retaining mental health providers, as well as decreasing the stigma associated with receiving mental health care.

The second step is to focus on early intervention. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children receive an annual mental health screening as a part of their well-check. Based on information provided during the committee hearing, children accessing care through Medicaid only receive one screening between the ages of 12 and 18. I brought this issue to the attention of the state’s Medicaid director and asked why the state was not following the AAP’s guidelines. This must be addressed and it’s an issue I will continue to push. We must also ensure that educators and other school staff have the tools they need to be able to recognize mental health concerns and once they do, have a place to refer a child in need of care.

Finally, we must share best practices, as well as find new and innovative ways to address this issue. We heard testimony from representatives from several school districts who have partnered with private counseling centers or the local mental health authority and brought mental health care services to their school campuses. The impact of these counseling centers has been incredible, and according to those who testified, has resulted in higher graduation rates, lower suspension rates and a more positive atmosphere on the campuses served. Funded largely through 1115 Waivers, these programs may not work in every community, but are definitely a step in the right direction and the model should be shared across our state. It is this sort of outside-the-box thinking that is needed.

th2016Children’s mental health should be a top priority during the next legislative session. If we take real steps to address this issue and make the investments needed, it will result in long-term success and positive outcomes for generations to come.

I have heard from many of you on this issue and invite you to continue the discussion regarding mental health by emailing me at or by visiting my Facebook page.

If you would like, we can discuss your thoughts in person at my upcoming Town Hall meeting on April 9 from 10:00 to 11:30 am at the Arlington Municipal Airport.



Town Hall – April 9, 2016

th2016Please join Representative Chris Turner to share your views and discuss the critical issues impacting Arlington, Grand Prairie and the State of Texas.

If you would like more information, please call 817-459-2800 or email chris.turner@ today!


You can download a PDF copy of this invitation here.

Making Progress: TX101 Task Force Updates

Nearly two years ago, I hosted more than 100 constituents and community leaders for “Texas 101 Day,” to discuss acute issues impacting Arlington and Grand Prairie. By the end of day, working together, we identified several key topics we believed were not receiving adequate attention and began to brainstorm potential solutions to address these needs.

The most important key to success is for citizens, the business community, Faith leadership, non-profits and all levels of government to work together to affect change in our community.

As a result of that first meeting, we formed our Texas 101 Task Force focused on four key areas: healthcare, predatory lending, transportation and local economy and jobs.

Fast forward to today. We are seeing meaningful movement on some of these key issues, and I am proud that our Task Force members have been involved in these efforts.


Last week, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported on the final version of the Fort Worth Transportation Authority’s (The T) Master Plan. Among other things, this plan addresses the lack of public transit in Arlington.

A few months ago, the Texas 101 Task Force was briefed by The T’s leadership and provided input regarding the draft plan and the transit needs in our community. Now included in the T’s proposal are recommended Rapid Bus routes throughout Arlington and District 101 along Pioneer Parkway and Arkansas Road to Great Southwest Parkway, Cooper Street to HWY 287, and a route down Matlock Road to Tarrant County College’s Southeast Campus. I appreciate that The T incorporated some of the feedback that Task Force members and I provided into this plan.

Of course, it only gets harder from here. Now that there’s a plan, we need to work with local leaders and our institutions of higher education, including UT Arlington and Tarrant County College, to figure out how to make this plan — or something similar — a reality.

Predatory Lending

In November, the City of Arlington became the 29th Texas municipality to approve an ordinance to crack down on predatory payday and auto-title lenders by limiting loan amounts, as well as loan frequency. My office provided the City with legislative and regulatory background at both the state and federal levels as it considered this ordinance and our Task Force joined local faith leaders, consumer organizations and others to actively support this important policy.

Right now, Grand Prairie is considering a similar ordinance, which has now been passed in 34 municipalities, covering 9.3 million Texans. Our Task Force is focused on this effort, which will help protect Grand Prairie families from getting trapped in a cycle of debt.

I want to thank our Task Force members and my staff for their hard work on these issues. In a short amount of time, our Task Force has been effective, but there’s still much more to do. In order to have the most impact, we need your voice. Contact me by emailing to get involved. Also, watch your email or my Facebook page for news about our 2016 Texas 101 Day.


PS: Mark your calendar for Saturday, Saturday, April 9. From 10:00 to 11:30am, I will be hosting a Town Hall Meeting at the Arlington Municipal Airport, 5000 S Collins St, Arlington, TX 76018. For more details, call 817-459-2800. All are welcome and I hope to see you there.

Cast Your Ballot

Today is the first day of early voting.

It goes without saying that this is a critical election and beginning today, voters will cast their ballots to pick party nominees from the courthouse to the White House. I urge you to be a part of this historic election and to vote in the Democratic Primary. When doing so, I hope you will consider voting for the candidates I have endorsed, including:

  • Hillary Clinton for President – Last week, I emailed you and laid out the reasons why I think she is the proven leader who is unmatched in dealing with the challenges the next president will face.
  • Marc Veasey for U.S. Representative, District 33 – Marc is a friend and former colleague in the Texas House. He is a hard-working congressman for Tarrant and Dallas Counties and is fighting for our priorities in Washington: good-paying jobs, comprehensive immigration reform and expanded health care and educational opportunities for all Americans.
  • Lon Burnam for Texas Railroad Commission – Another friend and former colleague, Lon Burnam, is running for a seat on the Railroad Commission. This is the agency focused on our state’s oil and gas industry, dealing with safety, production and the environment. Lon has long been a leader on these issues and will do a great job as Railroad Commissioner.

But no matter who you vote for, the most important thing is that you get out and vote. Early voting runs through Friday, February 26. For Tarrant County early voting times and locations, click here.

Please vote.


I’m for Hillary


Early voting for the Texas primaries begins next Tuesday, February 16. I hope you will vote in the Democratic Primary and join me in voting for Hillary Clinton for President of the United States.

I’m supporting Hillary because she is a proven leader with the experience, judgement and values I want to see in our next president.

Hillary has the most experience of anyone running for President on either side of aisle. As First Lady, U.S. Senator and Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton has proven to be unmatched in dealing with the challenges that the president must face.

But experience alone does not a president make – our president must have sound values to guide her actions. Whether it was helping create the Children’s Health Insurance Program as First Lady, opposing irresponsible tax cuts for the wealthy as a senator or advocating for human rights across the globe as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton has proven time and again she has the values and the right priorities to be our president.

The stakes in the 2016 election could not be higher. It’s imperative that Democrats win the election so that we can build on the tremendous progress our country has made under President Obama. The Republicans are determined to undo the good work President Obama has done on the economy, health care, the environment and foreign policy – we can’t let them do that, and we sure can’t let Donald Trump or Ted Cruz appoint the next 2-4 Supreme Court Justices.

Make no mistake about it – Republicans will come after Hillary with their big-moneyed powerful interests, as they’ve done for the last 25 years with all sorts of falsehoods and innuendo. But Hillary knows how to fight back and win – with facts not fiction, with class not crass and with iron-willed grit and determination. We need someone who will fight for all of us and Hillary is that champion.

Hillary Clinton’s commitment to strengthening the middle class by tackling income inequality and improving access to education, along with her determination to protect civil rights and correct racial injustices, makes her my choice for president. She has the values to do what’s right, the experience and know-how to get things done and the backbone to stand up and fight.

I am proud to support Hillary Clinton and I hope you will, too.


PS: Hillary’s campaign is ramping up in Texas. If you want to get involved in the campaign, visit her website and for Tarrant County folks, check the Tarrant for Hillary Facebook page for the latest news and updates.


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