Tarrant Commissioners Court urged to create third minority JP/constable district

BY STEVE CAMPBELL | Fort Worth Star-Telegram | Sep. 20, 2011

FORT WORTH — Democrats and community activists pushed Tuesday night for the creation of a majority-minority justice of the peace/constable precinct at a public hearing on Tarrant County redistricting.

County commissioners were presented with a proposed “minority opportunity” map that carves out a compact Precinct 7 in east Arlington and Grand Prairie that would be made up of 57 percent minorities.

Precinct 7 currently anchors the southeast quadrant of the county. The proposed map would turn it into a long, slender slice of eastern Arlington and south Grand Prairie.

Democrats as well as NAACP and LULAC representatives said that under the current precinct map, only two of eight precincts give minority voters a chance to elect a justice of the peace and constable.

Opponents said the new map would create unwieldy administrative districts by stretching the current Precinct 2, now centered in central Arlington, from Grand Prairie to the southern edge of the county.

Before the public hearing, Commissioner Roy Brooks, the lone Democrat on the commissioners court, vehemently denied rumors that he was involved in drawing the new map.

Wendy Burgess, a Mansfield City Council member, said the changes would cause unnecessary administrative expenses and noted that Precinct 3 is represented by a minority constable and justice of the peace.

Former Democratic state Rep. Chris Turner of Arlington supported the new map.

“In a county where the bulk of the population growth has occurred in minority populations, it’s only fair that minority voters have increased opportunities to elect the candidates of their choice,” Turner said

Kelly Cannon, a tea party member from Arlington, said the proposal is racially motivated.

“It is a sad day when skin color motivates district lines,” she said.

After the public hearing, Commissioner Andy Nguyen, the first county commissioner of Vietnamese heritage, drew an ovation when he told the crowd that the real challenge for minority communities is the lack of engagement, not the lack of representation.

“If we increase the number of voter registrations from the minority community by about 5 percent and if we learn to work together, then we will have representation and that is really the challenge,” he said. “It’s about the quality of your idea and the quality of your leadership — it’s not about the color of your skin.”

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June 10, 2010 Comments are off Admin2

State Rep. Chris Turner Named “Legislator of the Year” by the Vietnam Veterans of America, Texas State Council

AUSTIN – Today State Representative Chris Turner was named “Legislator of the Year” by the Vietnam Veterans of America, Texas State Council. Turner is the only member of the Texas House of Representatives to receive the honor.

TTVA

(L-R) Duncan McGhee, Texas Veterans Commission (TVC); Charles Buerschinger, TVC; State Rep. Chris Turner (HD96); John Miterko, Texas Coalition of Veteran Organizations; James Nier, TVC; Roy Grona, VFW of Texas; Morgan Little, Texas Coalition of Veteran Organizations

“Representative Chris Turner proved to be a staunch advocate for Texas veterans during the 81st Texas Legislature,” said John Miterko, Legislative Liaison, Texas Coalition of Veteran Organizations. “Turner has placed the well-being of Texas veterans and their families as his number one priority for which we are all grateful, and which makes him the uncontested choice for the Vietnam Veterans of America, Texas State Council, Texas House Legislator of the Year Award for 2010.”

“I am incredibly honored and humbled by this recognition,” Turner said.  “The Vietnam Veterans of America worked hard to pass the veterans lottery bill and it is they and other veterans leaders who really deserve the credit for its success. I am just happy I could be part of this important effort that will make a meaningful difference in the lives of many veterans across Texas.”

The award reads: “VVA Texas State Council, 2010 Legislator of the Year, Presented to State Representative Chris Turner, In Appreciation For Your Work For The Texas Vietnam Veterans.”

During the 81st Legislative Session, Representative Turner authored and passed several pieces of legislation benefitting veterans and their families. Most notably, Turner authored House Bill 1299, creating a scratch-off lottery ticket to benefit the Permanent Fund for Veterans’ Assistance (FVA).  The FVA provides grants to aid veterans and their families in times of financial need and support PTSD counseling and other veterans’ services.  The lottery ticket was released on November 9, 2009 and has raised over $5.2 million for the FVA.

 

Turner, who was named “Freshman of the Year” by the bipartisan House Veterans Caucus and given the “Leadership Award” from the Texas Veterans Commission, also passed legislation requiring institutions of higher education to designate a financial aid specialist to be trained on issues related to veterans’ programs, including the GI Bill and the Hazelwood Act.

He was also the House sponsor of legislation to allow state employees, who are members of military reserves or National Guard, to continue to accrue their sick and vacation leave time while they are on active military duty.

May 28, 2010 Comments are off Admin2

Top Law Enforcement Organization Names Rep. Chris Turner “Best of the House”

CLEAT praises Turner as Strong and Effective Voice for Texas Law Enforcement

CAPTION: (From Right to Left) State Representative Chris Turner receiving CLEAT's "Best of House" award from Arlington Police Association President Randle Meadows,  Charley Wilkison, CLEAT's Director of Public Affairs, and Tony Molina, Vice President of the Arlington Police Association.

(From Right to Left) State Representative Chris Turner receiving CLEAT’s “Best of House” award from Arlington Police Association President Randle Meadows, Charley Wilkison, CLEAT’s Director of Public Affairs, and Tony Molina, Vice President of the Arlington Police Association.

ARLINGTON – Yesterday 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 to protect Texas families and support public safety officers. Turner is among a small group of members of the Legislature to be named “Best of the House.”

“It is truly an honor to be named ‘Best of the House’ by the largest law enforcement association in the State of Texas,” said Turner. “It is an even greater honor to represent so many brave men and women who put their lives on the line to protect Tarrant County families every day.”

“Representative Turner has always been a strong advocate of the law enforcement community,” said Charley Wilkison, Director of Public Affairs at CLEAT. “His deep commitment and support of law enforcement legislation included landmark legislation toughening penalties for criminals.

“We consider Representative Turner a true friend of law enforcement, and look forward to working with him next session in not only looking after the rights of officers, but also continuing to ensure that our communities are kept safe,” continued Wilkison.

Wilkison and Randle Meadows, President of the Arlington Police Association (APA) presented Turner with the award at the Thursday, May 27th APA meeting.

May 25, 2010 Comments are off Admin2

Renewed effort in Austin to limit HOA powers

by CRAIG CIVALE | WFAA | May 24, 2010

BURLESON — Over the last few weeks, News 8 has reported about the plight of Sherre Mueller. While she owns her Burleson home outright, she lost it to foreclosure for failing to pay her homeowners’ association dues.

It was a story that not only caught your attention, but piqued the interest of state lawmakers.

“You don’t seize someone’s home that’s entirely paid off for a few hundred dollars in back dues,” said State Rep. Chris Turner (D-Dist. 96). “That’s fundamentally unfair and not right.”

Turner is the latest state legislator to tackle HOA reform, and on Monday, he recruited Sherre Mueller to join his fight.

“I want to be an advocate for people to never let this happen again,” she said.

State lawmakers have tried unsuccessfully to reduce the powers of HOAs for years. In 2009, two proposals in the House and Senate ran out of time.

Turner would like to add two major safeguards to the law, including one that would make it impossible for an HOA to foreclose without a court order.

He also thinks members of an association — your neighbors — should have the final say and vote whether to seize a house.

An anonymous donor is helping Mueller buy back her home, and she’s now doing her part to help change the law that allowed it to be taken from her.

“There’s been so many positive things to come of this — it’s unbelievable,” she said.

Abdallah case highlights battle for tougher DWI laws

by JIM DOUGLAS | WFAA-TV | April 23, 2010

ARLINGTON – A repeat drunk driver, John Patrick Barton had three prior convictions and now faces murder charges.

However, his is not the only face that has sparked outrage over the state’s drunk driving laws. Stewart Richardson had seven previous convictions before his alleged eighth left an Arlington child in a vegetative state. If convicted, Richardson’s sentence cannot exceed 20 years, no matter how many convictions.

Now, there is a push to change that.

State Rep. Chris Turner is leading the effort for tougher DWI laws, which would be called Abdallah’s Law, named after three-year-old Abdallah Khader.

While the law wouldn’t help Abdallah, it could help other victims and maybe get more drunks off the roads.

Steroids now help keep Abdallah alive in a permanent vegetative state. Abdallah can’t move, but his story has moved a lot of people. About 10,000 people have signed up on the Facebook page “Pray for Abdallah.” People are outraged by the long DWI history of Richardson, the driver who crushed the Khader family’s car, leaving Abdallah in his current state.

“A person with seven DWIs before, I thought it was obvious to put this man in jail for life,” said Loubna Elharazin, Abdallah’s mother.

Prior to the crash with the Khader family,  the DWIs were in other states. Unless Texas prosecutors convince an appeals court otherwise, the most Richardson faces if convicted is 20 years.

“I think the time is right for the legislature to act on this, and really, really get aggressive with drunk driving,” Turner said.

Turner, who met with Abdallah’s family, wants laws tightened to make sure all out-of-state DWIs carry their full weight in Texas courts. Turner also wants tougher penalties for intoxication assault when the results are catastrophic.

“Obviously, that type of catastrophic injury is far different than breaking a leg, breaking an arm, that sort of thing,” he said.

Change in DWI cases is something Abdallah’s mother hopes will save lives.

“No law that’s going to get passed will take this pain away,” she said. “It’s not going to change anything, but it will protect other people.”

Khader turns four next week. His family will throw him a party, but just like his third birthday, he’ll never know it.

Texas is the worst state for drunk driving deaths. In the state of Texas, there were 1,292 alcohol-related deaths in 2007. Twenty-one percent of were in North Texas, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Saturday, dozens of members of “Abdallah’s Army,” as they call themselves, will don their bright yellow T-shirts and take part in the annual Walk Like MADD, sponsored by MADD. Thousands are expected to take part in the walk, which begins at 8:30 a.m.

Under fire, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas offers to cover medical expenses for Crowley baby

BY JAN JARVIS | Fort Worth Star-Telegram | Mar. 30, 2010

Houston has health insurance.

The news, announced on a Web site set up for the Crowley baby, ended his family’s weeklong fight after the newborn was denied health insurance because he needed surgery to repair a heart defect — what the insurance company called a pre-existing condition.

Doug and Kim Tracy’s battle with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas garnered national attention, coming on the heels of historic healthcare legislation, signed by President Barack Obama a week ago, which will require insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions.

The Star-Telegram reported on the Tracys’ problem on Friday. That evening, Darren Rodgers, president of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas, personally contacted the family. Initially he offered to see whether coverage through the Texas Health Insurance Risk Pool could be back-dated to the baby’s birth, Tracy said.

But when that was not possible, he offered to work with Cook Children’s Medical Center to pay for Houston’s medical care.

On Monday, a letter outlining the offer was sent by courier to the Tracy home. Blue Cross Blue Shield agreed to pay the baby’s medical expenses from his birth on March 15 through March 26, when coverage through the risk pool took effect. Houston’s surgery took place on March 19.

“I feel like Blue Cross Blue Shield finally realized they made a mistake and did come through for me,” said Tracy, 39. “I am happy this is taken care of and my little boy is going to be fine.”

Privacy laws prevent Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas from commenting on individual situations, said Margaret Jarvis, a company representative.

“We understand what an emotional time this is for the Tracy family and we regret the frustration they are feeling,” a statement from the company reads. “What we can tell you is that we’ve responded to Mr. Tracy in writing over the weekend and are pleased to report that we’ve proposed a solution that addresses his and his family’s concerns.”

Tracy said that coverage his son will get through the Texas Health Insurance Risk Pool will cost only $10 more than the policy that he was denied.

Doug and Kim Tracy do not carry health insurance on themselves, but they do cover their two other children and planned to add Houston. The couple said that they are self-employed and find insurance for themselves too expensive. She owns a beauty salon and he owns Burleson Scuba and Paintball. They paid for prenatal care and hospitalization out of their pockets.

Tracy said he called Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas before the baby’s birth to get the child covered but was told by an insurance representative that he had 30 days after the birth to apply for a policy. Then the baby was born with the defect.

After the denial of coverage, friends rallied around the family and contacted politicians and the media to publicize the situation. State Rep. Chris Turner, D-Arlington, and Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, asked Blue Cross to reconsider its decision. Turner said that it was great news that the medical bills would be covered.

“I commend Doug and Kim for their tenacity in fighting for their son, and am grateful to have had the opportunity to help in this situation,” the statement read.

Doug Tracy said he appreciates all the support his family received. Friends used Facebook and other outlets to garner national attention for the story, which Tracy said put a lot of pressure on Blue Cross Blue Shield. “I think they realized this is not going to go away,” Tracy said.

Blue Cross Blue Shield would not say what prompted its decision, citing privacy laws. The issue is sensitive, Jarvis said, but the company is committed to providing affordable coverage whenever possible.

Tracy said that the money that people raised through benefit concerts and contributed to a fund to pay for Houston’s medical bills will be donated to Cook Children’s Health Foundation.

The Tracy family is an example of a pervading philanthropic spirit that exists at Cook Children’s, said Gary Cole, vice president for development for Cook Children’s.

“In a time of personal need, this family is seeking ways to help others,” he said. “This is the truest form of philanthropy, and we are most grateful for such acts of kindness and concern for our patients.”

North Texas Legislators Call for Insurance Reform

homeowner_insState Reps. Kent, Miklos and Turner respond to recent rate hikes by Texas’ largest insurance provider

AUSTIN – Today State Representatives Carol Kent, Robert Miklos and Chris Turner renewed their call for comprehensive insurance reform in light of last week’s announcement that State Farm, Texas’ largest homeowners insurance provider, will raise rates by 4.5% in May, just seven months after an 8.8% rate hike. This comes on the tail of recent rate increases by both Allstate and Farmers Insurance.

“Most families in North Texas haven’t seen their incomes go up by double digits this year, yet these big insurance companies think it’s ok to increase their premiums by double-digit percentages,” said Representative Chris Turner (HD 96-Burleson). “With Texans already paying the second highest homeowners insurance rates in the nation, this is unacceptable.”

In November, Allstate announced a 9.8% jump in their homeowner’s insurance rates. In January, Farmers Insurance, the third largest insurance company in the state, proposed raising rates 10% statewide and 11% for North Texas area customers. According to the Dallas Morning News, after Texas Insurance Commissioner Mike Geeslin called the hikes, “excessive and discriminatory,” Farmers agreed to only increase their rates by 4.5%. However, the company will be allowed to charge the excessive rate through March 2011 and keep the premiums they have already overcharged.

Currently, insurance companies are required to notify the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) of rate increases, but TDI has no authority to block these rate hikes.

“The insurance commissioner should have the power to stop outrageous rate increases,” said State Representative Robert Miklos (HD 101 – Mesquite). “By increasing their rates by double digits in less than a year, State Farm is sending a message that it is ok to for insurance companies to line their pockets at the expense of consumers.”

In an attempt to combat overnight rate hikes by insurance companies, legislation has been filed in the past to create a “prior approval” system, which would give TDI the power to approve or deny these rate increases and give the agency true oversight over this industry. Many of the filed measures would have allowed for increased public input when insurance companies ask to raise their rates.

“During the next Legislative Session, when TDI is up for sunset review, we need some common sense oversight to protect homeowners.” said State Representative Carol Kent (HD 102 – Dallas). “There are far too many North Texas families struggling to make ends meet in this economy, and raising their insurance rates over and over again will just make that struggle even harder.”

In late May, the Legislative Sunset Advisory Commission, comprised of six member of the Texas Senate and six member of the Texas House, will begin to review TDI. Once the review process is complete, the advisory committee will present its recommendations to the 82nd Legislature.

State Representatives Carol Kent and Robert Miklos represent Dallas County districts. Representative Chris Turner represents southern Tarrant County.

Vet lottery ticket sales top $5M in 1st month

Special to the Burleson – Crowley Connection | Dec 14, 2009

Sales of Veterans Cash, a scratch-off lottery ticket created to fund veterans’ programs, totaled more than $5.3 million during their first month of sales, said state Rep. Chris Turner, D-Arlington.

The game launched on Nov. 9.

The Fund for Veterans Assistance will receive more than $1 million based on sales to date.

“I am thrilled to see that the initial veterans lottery game is off to such a great start,” Turner said. “With so many men and women returning from service in Afghanistan and Iraq joining the ranks of the 1.7 million veterans in Texas, organizations that provide aid to veterans need resources now more than ever.”

The Texas Legislature created the FVA in 2007 to provide aid to veterans and their families in need.

The FVA was not funded by the Legislature until the lottery game was created this year.

Turner authored and passed legislation in the House to create the dedicated lottery game to benefit the FVA.

“In this season of sharing and helping those less fortunate among us, the people of Texas have proven once again that they support our active duty military, our veterans and their families by participating in the veterans scratch-off lottery ticket program,” said John Miterko, legislative liaison with the Texas Coalition of Veterans Organizations. “The money that will go into the Permanent Fund for veterans assistance will provide much-needed help for our disabled veteran population and will go a long way in easing their burdens into the foreseeable future.”

With revenue from Veterans Cash, FVA will be able to provide grants to organizations who help veterans and their families who are in need of services, such as transportation to and from VA hospitals and clinics, job placement services and treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.
Twenty-three percent of the sales go to the FVA. The remainder goes to prizes paid out, 65 percent, administration, 7 percent, and retailer commissions, 5 percent.
The Texas Lottery Commission estimates that Veterans Cash will raise about $9 million annually for FVA.

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