AUSTIN — Earlier today, Texas House Speaker Joe Straus named Representative Chris Turner (HD 101-Grand Prairie) to the House Select Committee on Mental Health. The committee is charged with examining the current status of mental health care in Texas, as well as identifying what areas need to be addressed.
In response to his appointment, Turner released the following statement:
“Mental health care is a critical issue that impacts every person in our state. I am honored to serve on this important committee and grateful that Speaker Straus has made this issue a top priority.
“Over the next year, I look forward to learning more about what programs and initiatives have worked in addressing our state’s mental health needs, as well as exploring gaps which exist.
“With the second largest population of veterans in the nation, we must delve deeply into how veterans’ mental health is being addressed and what more can be done to prevent military and veteran suicide and homelessness.”
Turner brings with him extensive experience working on issues impacting veterans, including passing legislation which has led to tens of millions of dollars in funding for organizations which aid veterans and their families.
In 2014, Turner was elected to serve his third term in the Texas House of Representatives and his second term representing District 101, which includes major portions of Arlington and Grand Prairie. In addition to the House Select Committee on Mental Health, Turner serves on the House Committees on Higher Education, Ways and Means, and General Investigating and Ethics. Turner is the only member from Tarrant County to be appointed to the committee.
Turner Reacts To Today’s Senate Hearing: “Latest Sad Example of Texas Republicans Attacking Women’s Basic Right to Make Their Own Healthcare Decisions.”
Arlington, TX — State Representative Chris Turner (HD 101 – Grand Prairie) released the following statement in response to today’s Texas Senate Health and Human Services Committee hearing:
“Today’s sham hearing is just the latest sad example of Texas Republicans attacking women’s basic right to make their own healthcare decisions. In a hearing in which even the most biased and virulent critics of Planned Parenthood are forced to admit that they have no knowledge of a single law being broken and the Attorney General testifies but can’t even answer basic legal questions, it’s clear that these investigations are nothing more than witch hunts intended to ultimately deny women basic healthcare services.”
Arlington, TX — State Representative Chris Turner (HD 101 – Grand Prairie) released the following statement in reaction to today’s United States Supreme Court decision regarding marriage equality:
“This is truly a historic day. Millions of men and women across our nation will have the ability to legally marry the person they love. Finally, LGBT Texans in committed relationships, will be afforded the same rights as other married couples.
“Unfortunately, here in Texas, today’s decision will face resistance by our state’s leadership. Like many that have come before, history will prove this decision to be the right one. I urge our state’s Republican leaders to not impede the progress that has been made.”
During his three terms in the Texas House of Representatives, Turner has been a vocal proponent of marriage equality and has co-authored legislation to allow LGBT unions. In addition, Turner has been lauded by Equality Texas for his efforts and support on issues impacting the LGBT community.
830,000+ Texans no longer in jeopardy of losing critical tax credits
ARLINGTON, TX — Today, State Representative Chris Turner (HD 101 – Grand Prairie), who authored contingency legislation to protect more than 830,000 Texans from losing their health insurance tax credits, released the following statement in response to today’s United States Supreme Court decision in the case of King v. Burwell:
“I am glad the Supreme Court agreed that it’s clear that Congress intended for the tax credits to be available to all Americans who purchase health coverage in an exchange and are between 100 – 400 percent of the poverty level, regardless of who runs the exchange.
The impact of a different decision would have been devastating. If the Court had decided in the plaintiffs’ favor, more than 830,000 Texans would have been negatively impacted and would have faced a 300 percent increase in their premium costs. Many would not have been able to afford coverage and would have returned to the ranks of the uninsured – a category in which Texas unfortunately already leads the nation.
Despite non-stop partisan, political attacks on the Affordable Care Act, thousands in our communities and across our state have affordable health insurance coverage. Now that this decision has been made and this issue is behind us, we can move forward and get even more Texans enrolled in affordable health care plans.”
During the 84th Texas Legislative Session, Turner filed contingency legislation to address the need for a state-run health insurance exchange. House Bill 817 would have required the Health and Human Services Commission and the Department of Insurance to create a state-run exchange in the event of a judicial ruling which eliminates tax credits for Texans enrolled in the federal exchange. This bill would give the state the ability to determine which plans are eligible to participate, review rates and determine whether plans include coverage of essential health benefits.
Late in the session, Turner tried to add an amendment identical to House Bill 817 to another bill, but the amendment was defeated on a party line vote.
Based on the number of Texans receiving tax credits as of March 31, 2015, The Kaiser Family Foundation determined that 832,334 Texans would have lost tax credits totaling $205,586,498 per month/$2.5 billion per year. In addition, according to their estimates, premium costs would have increased an estimated 305 percent as a result of lost tax credits.
Final Version of HB 1 leaves too many Texans behind
AUSTIN — Today, State Representative Chris Turner delivered the following remarks outlining his opposition to the conference committee report to HB 1, the two-year state budget:
When this budget was voted on in the House, it was a budget I was proud to vote for, I think a lot of us were proud to vote for it. Now that this budget has come back from the conference committee and is before us for a final vote, the picture I see is much, much different than what we had here two months ago.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some positive aspects of this conference committee report on the budget. On Higher Education, I’m very grateful that this budget funds our first Tuition Revenue Bonds in nearly a decade, and that the budget provides a needed formula funding increase for our universities and colleges. I know that that would not have happened were it not for our House negotiators, led by Chairman Otto.
There are other things to like in this budget — there are things we can all like. On the major issues that will shape our state in the years ahead, this budget misses the mark.
I was proud to support the House version of this budget, because it provided up to $3 billion more for our public schools. The budget that comes back to us today, comes back with only $1.5 billion more for our schools. As a result, more than one-third of our schools will remain funded at a lower level than they were in 2011.
On healthcare, the picture is not much better. Again, I was proud to support a House-version of the budget that increased Medicaid reimbursement rates for primary care physicians — it is critical that we did so. In 2000, 67 percent of physicians in Texas accepted new Medicaid clients, today it’s just 34 percent.
The decreasing number of physicians accepting Medicaid is often given as justification for not expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, a move that would insure one million Texans, create hundreds of thousands of jobs, and strengthen our health care system.
We can’t expand Medicaid, because Medicaid is broken, we’re told. Well, if it is broken, it is because we don’t reimburse our doctors at a sustainable rate. Even Alabama has a higher reimbursement rate than Texas. If Medicaid is broken, it’s because we broke it — and this budget does not fix it.
So what are our priorities, if it’s not investing in our schoolchildren and health care system?
It’s apparently a priority to throw $800 million at a nebulous border security plan, even though border apprehensions, a leading indicator of border security, are at the lowest level since the 1970s.
It’s apparently a priority to cut off life-saving breast and cervical cancer screenings for up to ten percent of our at-need population, simply because those folks have relied on Planned Parenthood for these vital services.
We’ve put $4 billion into tax cuts, some of which I support and some of which I did not support. But I do not see any justifiable reason to leave $6 billion in general revenue under the pay-as-you-go limit on the table and another $11 billion in the Rainy Day Fund at the end of the biennium, while we underfund our schools and compromise our health care system.
Our state budget should be the mechanism, the machinery, we use to build a bridge to the future that every Texan, young, old, urban, rural, man, and woman, is able to cross and realize a brighter future for themselves and their families when they get to the other side.
This budget, in my view, does not build that bridge, at least does not build one that is strong enough or wide enough. It leaves too many Texans behind, looking across that chasm.
For those reasons, I will be voting no on this budget.
Politicians should not be allowed to collect salary, pension simultaneously
AUSTIN – Today, State Representative Chris Turner (HD 101- Grand Prairie) passed HB 408, which would bar elected officials from collecting a salary and state pension at the same time, if their retirement payments are a result of their service as an elected official. Turner first proposed this legislation in 2013.
“This legislation simply says that if politicians want to start collecting a state-funded pension as a result of their time in office, they need to really retire and no longer collect a salary. Our state leaders frequently tout Texas as a national example for fiscal responsibility. This measure is about fiscal responsibility — it’s just plain common sense that an elected official should not be getting paid twice for doing one job,” said Turner.
“Banning double dipping is an important step to strengthening the public’s trust and faith in both elected officials and the laws under which we serve,” said Turner. “I want to thank the members of the House for overwhelmingly approving this legislation with a vote of 144-1.”
The measure will prevent state elected officials from being eligible to receive state annuity payments as a result of their service as an elected official by preventing their time as an elected official from triggering retirement eligibility until they have left office.
This issue came to light when it was reported that during his final term in office, Governor Rick Perry was collecting a state pension, in addition to his salary as governor. This was discovered after Perry filed a personal financial disclosure statement with the Federal Elections Commission as a requirement of his 2012 presidential candidacy. Because this type of information is not required to be submitted as a part of Texas’ personal financial statements, it is unclear if other state officials also collect both a pension and salary.
The modifications proposed are not retroactive, nor would they impact state retirees who become eligible for retirement benefits as a result of service in a non-elected capacity and then later run for and are elected to office.
Turner’s Ethics Measures Aimed at Increasing Transparency By Elected Officials Moving Through Legislative Process
Bills reforming candidate/PAC reporting, expanding personal financial statements and improving access to state agencies heard this week in House committees; Measures join “double-dipping” ban to round out Turner’s transparency and ethics legislative package
AUSTIN − This week, state Representative Chris Turner presented three measures before House committees, all of which would increase ethics and transparency in state government. These bills join HB 408 to round out Turner’s ethics and transparency legislative package; that bill would ban so-called “double dipping” by state elected officials and passed unanimously from the House Committee on Pensions.
HB 1059 would expand the information required on Personal Financial Statements (PFS), filed by candidates and elected officials. Specifically, the measure would require filers to give a more accurate picture of their finances, including whether or not they receive income from a pension plan. The bill would also require the statements to be posted online and available to the general public. HB 1059 was heard today in the House Committee on General Investigating and Ethics.
“Elected officials and those running for office owe it to those they represent or would like to represent to be as open and transparent as possible,” said Turner. “By requiring elected officials to more fully report their sources of income is an important step to ensure that there are no conflicts of interest.”
HB 1787 would make needed improvements to the campaign and PAC financial disclosure system. The measure would clarify how much money remains unspent by an elected official, candidate or a PAC by clarifying how “cash on hand” is calculated. It would also require the filer to list outstanding debts. HB 1787 was heard yesterday in the House Committee on State Affairs.
“Right now, there is a lot of ambiguity in the reporting system and how candidates and political action committees report their finances,” continued Turner. “These rules need to be more clear, especially when it comes to how much money a candidate or committee really has to spend and what debts are owed.”
HB 2368 would require that information about every state contract be posted on the Comptroller of Public Accounts’ website. The information would include the date the contract was signed, the expiration or completion date, a description of the goods, services or purpose of the contract, and the value of the contract. HB 2368 was heard yesterday in the House Committee on Government Transparency and Operation.
“There have been several reports of contract mismanagement by state agencies,” said Turner. “In part, the issues were due to a lack of transparency in the contracting process. It’s past time that we require information from every single state agency contract be posted and available to the public online.”
Measures would allocate $1 billion to address holes in walls, leaking ceilings and rat infestations
Austin — Yesterday, State Representative Chris Turner filed two measures, HB 2841 and HB 2842, to provide funding to fix state agency and university buildings in dire need of repair. Each measure would transfer $500 million from the Economic Stabilization Fund (Rainy Day Fund) to pay for needed renovations.
In a request to members of the House Committee on Appropriations, the Texas Facilities Commission estimated needed state building repairs, ranging from critical to recommended, could cost nearly one billion dollars.
According to the most recent deferred maintenance report, which was released in 2012 by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, needs for state institutions of higher learning top $740 million.
“I was appalled when I heard reports of holes being repaired using toilet paper and buildings with bat and rat infestations,” said Turner. “If your roof is leaking, you wouldn’t wait to fix it. You would take money out of your savings account and take care of it before it got worse. Many of our state agency and institutions of higher education are beyond leaky roofs, and the longer we wait to fix them, the more it will cost.”
“With a robust economy and money in our state’s Rainy Day Fund, now is the time to address these needs and to make these buildings safer for residents, students, visitors, and employees,” said Turner.
According to a December 2014 Facilities Commission’s report, “if needed maintenance is not completed in one year, then the costs of maintenance, repair, or replacement are significantly higher in subsequent years. Asset management studies have shown that if routine preventative maintenance is not performed, then repairs equaling five times the maintenance costs are generally required. In turn, if repairs are not completed, expenses of renovation or replacement can be five times the repair costs.”
HB 2841 would appropriate $500 million to address deferred maintenance needs at state institutions of higher education. HB 2842 would appropriate $500 million for maintenance, renovation, and repair of state buildings.
The Economic Stabilization Fund is expected to have a $11.1 billion balance by FY 2017.
Community invited to attend informational forum about these important programs
ARLINGTON, TX – On Thursday, January 22, State Representative Chris Turner will co-host an informational forum on the Deferred Action for Parents Accountability (DAPA) and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programs. The event, which is open to the public, will be held at Sam Houston High School in Arlington, and will feature a presentation by the North Texas Dream Team.
In addition, immigration experts will be available for those seeking additional information regarding the programs.
“These programs open the door for many in our community and help ensure that millions of law-abiding families — including many in North Texas — will no longer be in constant fear of being ripped apart,” said Turner. “DACA and DAPA not only benefit immigrants, but our local, state and national economy.”
WHAT: DACA/DAPA Informational Forum
WHEN: Thursday, January 22, 2015; 6:00 to 8:30pm; Doors open at 5:30pm
WHERE: Sam Houston High School, 2000 Sam Houston Drive, Arlington, TX 76014
WHY: To provide resources to members of the community seeking information regarding the Deferred Action for Parents Accountability (DAPA) and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programs.
For additional details, members of the community should call 817-459-2800. For media inquiries, call 512-463-0574.