The last full measure of devotion

Today, we reflect on the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our nation and the freedoms we enjoy. We will never be able to repay the incredible debt we all owe to those who gave their lives, or to the loves ones they left behind.

Each year, on Memorial Day, I am reminded of President Lincoln’s words,“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion…”

Today is the final day of the 85th Legislative Session. It has been a long and often trying 140 days, but today, I am reminded how fortunate we are to live in a state and a nation where we can freely debate ideas.  We can’t ever take that for granted, for it is only because of the blood shed by those who have defended our nation that we are able to enjoy the liberties of the United States of America.

Chis Turner Passes Tenant Protection Bill

Measure creates notification process between utilities, landlords, tenants, and municipalities in the event of an electric or gas utility disconnect

AUSTIN − Representative Chris Turner (HD 101, Arlington/Grand Prairie) announced today that the Texas House of Representatives has given final approval to HB 1772, which would establish an important process of notification between utility service providers, municipalities, landlords, and tenants in the event of an electric or gas utility disconnection. HB 1772 deals specifically with nonsubmetered master metered multifamily properties. These are “all bills paid” properties which do not have individual meters assigned to each unit. Bills for utilities such as gas and electricity are generally paid directly by the landlord, using funds built into the tenants’ rent.

“This consumer protection measure empowers tenants by ensuring they have advanced notice if gas or electric service is about to be disconnected through no fault of their own,” said Turner. “This type of situation has occurred all too often in Arlington and elsewhere: the landlord doesn’t pay the utility bill, tenants are left high and dry, and cities are faced with a potential public health crisis because they have citizens who are displaced or suffering from heat or cold exposure,” Turner continued.

“HB 1772 addresses this problem by giving both tenants and cities advanced warning so that both can plan accordingly,” Turner said. “I appreciate the City of Arlington’s leadership in crafting this measure, along with the other stakeholders who have helped in this process.”

HB 1772 received strong support from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, which sent out e-mails and encouraged members to contact legislators in support of the bill.

“This advanced notice of disconnection is critical,” said Mireya Zapata, Association Vice President of Activism with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. “Without prior notice, many people, including those living with MS and other chronic illnesses, may not be able to make alternate living arrangements before utilities are disconnected.”

HB 1772 was joint-authored by Reps. Rafael Anchia of Dallas and Sylvester Turner of Houston. Now that it has passed the House unanimously, it heads to the Senate where Senator Wendy Davis of Fort Worth has filed companion legislation.

 

State Representative Chris Turner

Still time to get this right

chrishskidsWe have just four weeks to go in this legislative session. However, with nearly $11.8 billion projected to be in the Rainy Day Fund, there is still time for the Legislature to make smart investments in our state’s future. That’s why, alongside many of my colleagues, I have stepped up the pressure to fully restore the $5.4 billion that was cut from our public schools last session.

It should come as no surprise that we are juggling several different priorities as a state. Water and transportation continue to be critical. However, our children and our public schools remain, and should remain, our number one priority.

According to a study conducted by the National Education Association that was released in February 2013, Texas has dropped to 49th in per pupil instructional (classroom) spending as a result of the $5.4 billion in public education cuts, leaving the state roughly $3,000 below the national average. In March of 2013, the Texas Education Agency released school district employment figures.  Over the past year, more than 25,000 school district employees lost their jobs — 11,000 of them teachers.  That is 25,000 families that lost a breadwinner and 11,000 classrooms without an instructor.

The situation faced in our classrooms is no less dire now that it was when we started this session, or when we were on the campaign trail. State legislators made a commitment to their constituents to get this right.

To date, the House has passed proposals that only restore 55 cents on the dollar from what was cut in 2011. Specifically, the House-passed budget restores $2.5 billion for public schools over the next biennium. As you may know, I could not support this version of the budget because it did not fully fund public schools. An additional $500 million was appropriated just last week, but even still, this leaves funding $2.4 billion short. That is just not good enough — not for our kids, their parents or our teachers.

Water is indeed critical and transportation absolutely needs to be addressed. But so do our kids and their future. I have not and will not waver in my belief that our top priority must be to restore funding for public education. There is no reason at all why we can’t make smart investments in our children, who are vital to our state’s future. With four weeks left, there is still time to get this right.

 

Chris Turner Passes Bill Critical To Law Enforcement Efforts On Local Waterways

Turner’s bill will help local law enforcement officers better patrol Texas waterways

AUSTIN − State Representative Chris Turner (HD 101 – Grand Prairie) announced today that the Texas House of Representatives has passed HB 1222, a bill which allows citations issued on Texas waterways by municipal law enforcement officers to be heard in municipal court. Currently, these citations can only be brought before justice and county courts. State Senator Royce West has filed an identical bill in the Senate (SB 501).

“This bill was an issue brought to me by the City of Grand Prairie before the legislative session even started,” said Turner. “HB 1222 is a product of local and state governments working together on legislation that benefits everyone in this state. With warm weather quickly approaching, giving our law enforcement officers every possible resource to keep Texans safe on our lakes and rivers is critical.”

HB 1222 amends the Texas Water Safety Act by adding municipal courts as a venue where water safety violation cases can be heard. Despite the fact that violations and offenses committed under the Texas Water Safety Act can only be heard before a justice or county court, enforcement responsibility is still shared by Texas Parks and Wildlife Game Wardens and other state, county or municipal peace officers who are certified as a marine safety enforcement officer.

By adding municipal courts to the list of allowable venues, HB 1222 would create a system for policing waterways that more closely resembles traffic enforcement on roads and highways. This issue is important to Grand Prairie because the city’s police force serves as the primary law enforcement agency for Joe Pool Lake in areas within the city limits.

Currently, municipal police officers who patrol Joe Pool Lake must rely upon a separate paper ticket writing system in order to refer the violation to justice or county court. HB 1222 would make this process more efficient and ultimately, enhance public safety.

 

April 9, 2013 Comments are off Admin2

A Step in the Right Direction

hb5tHB 5 is a step in the right direction.

I was proud to co-author and support HB 5, which passed in the Texas House of Representatives with nearly unanimous support. This piece of legislation offers meaningful solutions to key issues facing our state’s public high schools and students.

HB 5 reduces the number of end of course assessments from 15 to five, creates one standard diploma that allows every student the opportunity to apply to a four-year university in Texas, encourages students to pursue diploma endorsements in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), and business, as well as arts and humanities. It also broadens school ratings so that factors other than standardized tests will contribute to measuring a school’s performance.

I am pleased that three amendments I proposed were added to HB 5. One will give special education teachers more one-on-one time to spend with their students, rather than prepping for tests. Another amendment promotes dual credit for career and technical education students to put towards an associate’s degree or a licensing certification. Finally, I offered an amendment that prohibits individuals connected with or paid by test vendors from serving on Texas Education Agency assessment committees. These are committees responsible for setting testing standards.

While there are many other issues that need to be addressed when it comes to our state public education system, such as fully restoring the $5.4 billion in cuts to public schools, HB 5 is a step in the right direction .

April 3, 2013 Comments are off Admin2

Chris Turner Passes Jobs Bill For Veterans, Active Duty Service Members & Reservists

Turner’s bill would waive residency requirement for U.S. military service members applying for commercial driver’s license

AUSTIN − State Representative Chris Turner (HD 101) announced today that the Texas House of Representatives has passed HB 860, a bill which would waive the residency requirement for service members applying for a commercial driver’s license. State Senator Wendy Davis has filed an identical bill, SB 229.

“This bill is an important step in bringing down the high unemployment rate that our veterans are facing right now,” said Turner. “What is an easy part of the application process for most, is extremely difficult if you are active duty or reserve, unexpectedly relocated to Texas, and need to get back to work as soon as possible. I’m proud to continue working with Senator Davis on such an important issue. This is small way we can continue to honor the service of these men and women.”

HB 860 is supported by Texas Veterans Coalition Organizations (TCVO) and the Texas Motor Transport Association (TMTA.)

“For these veterans who have been trained on and then operated sophisticated military vehicles of every description in combat theaters of operation, HB 860 recognizes these skills, and offers these newly minted veterans the opportunity  to more rapidly obtain a Commercial Driver’s License, exit the ranks of the unemployed and begin a new, well-paying career,” commented John Miterko, TCVO legislative liaison. “TCVO appreciates the efforts of Representative Turner, who has once again proven to be a true friend and staunch supporter of Texas Veterans.”

“TMTA applauds Representative Turner and the forethought of his peers on the passage of HB 860,” said TMTA President and CEO John D. Esparza  “Alleviating the unnecessary obstacles to new job opportunities for veterans is an honorable and needed action.  Employing our service men and women is a priority for Texas trucking, and with the abundance of available, high paying jobs in our industry, we look forward to growing military personnel opportunities in Texas.”

State Representative Chris Turner

Just Now

now

I just got out of a press conference with Congressman Joaquin Castro, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins and other Democratic leaders who urged Governor Perry and Republican leadership to accept Medicaid expansion.

Earlier this morning, Governor Perry, U.S Senator John Cornyn, and U.S. Senator Ted Cruz took a stubborn stand against the expansion. Governor Perry was quoted by the Dallas Morning News as saying “Texas will not be participating in Medicaid expansion.”

Political stunts like the one held today by Governor Perry make it clear that he is not getting the message. We need to stop playing politics with the health of our constituents. There is too much is at stake.

We’ve tried Governor Perry’s plan for 12 years, and after 12 years of Governor Perry’s failed health care policies, we have the highest rate of uninsured in the nation with 6 million Texans without insurance. It’s time for a new plan. It’s time to expand Medicaid. 

If Republican Governors in Arizona, New Jersey, and Florida can put partisan politics aside and do what is best for their citizens, Texans have every right to expect their leaders to do the same.

It is the right thing to do for the 1.8 million Texans who will receive coverage. It’s the smart thing to do because of the $68 billion economic impact that would take place in just three years.

Congressman Castro challenged Governor Perry to “give up the swagger and get serious about Medicaid expansion.” I hope he heeds that call.

Turner & Van De Putte File Legislation to Address Hazlewood Funding

AUSTIN − State Representative Chris Turner (HD 101 – Grand Prairie) and state Senator Leticia Van de Putte (SD 26 – San Antonio) have filed identical measures aimed at addressing concerns raised by some Texas universities regarding the expense of Hazlewood, the state’s veteran higher education financial aid program. The legislation would allow schools to use “B-On-Time” funds that are not utilized at the institution at which they are collected to offset that school’s Hazlewood and Hazlewood Legacy tuition exemption programs.

“Hazlewood represents a solemn promise from the state of Texas to our veterans and their families and our legislation is aimed at keeping that promise,” Turner said. “By allowing our state’s colleges and universities to utilize unused B-On-Time funds that are currently being transferred back to the state to instead offset Hazlewood costs, we will strengthen our veterans benefits and help our colleges and universities.”

“The first and foremost consideration is that we help the 1% who defend our freedoms and have earned their Hazlewood benefits,” Senator Van de Putte said. “It makes sense to give schools the flexibility to utilize monies already appropriated for their campuses before looking at additional state dollars. This bill will help our universities do the right thing for our veterans and their families.”

HB 3265 (Turner) and SB 1543 (Van de Putte) would permit state institutions to retain unused tuition funds designated for the “B-On-Time” loan program. The unused funds will be used to cover the cost of Hazlewood and Hazlewood Legacy exemptions, as well as other financial aid programs at that university. These measures would ensure that leftover funds stay with the institution at which they were collected, rather than be sent to other institutions, as is the current practice.

March 5, 2013 Comments are off Admin2

One-time Use

It’s no secret that our public schools face a lot of challenges right now.

The Legislature cut $5.4 billion in education funding last session, and even though a state judge has recently ruled our school finance system unconstitutional, the Republican leadership isn’t exactly rushing to put more money into education.

While the debate about school funding goes unresolved, there are some other education-related issues getting quite a bit of attention right now. For example, school security has been in the news since the tragedy at Sandy Hook — unfortunately, most of the ideas proposed in Austin so far have to do with getting more guns in schools.

There is also a renewed emphasis on providing students more options in school, so that there are sound career and technology offerings, as well. Good idea, but good programs don’t come for free — they take an investment in infrastructure and equipment that many schools simply don’t have the money for.

So that’s why  I introduced two bills last week that would allocate a small portion of the Rainy Day Fund for one-time grants for school security upgrades and career and technology education equipment, for a total of $500 million. This is just over four percent of the $12 billion that is projected to be in the Rainy Day Fund at the end of the next biennium.

These bills would give schools some of the resources they so badly need to protect their students and better train and educate our future workforce.

Two years ago, Democrats called for using the Rainy Day Fund to lessen the impact of school budget cuts. Governor Perry and other Republican leaders said that was not an option — the Rainy Day Fund was only for “one-time use,” not recurring expenses. Now, this is a novel theory that is highly debatable, but assuming we accept it for argument’s sake, here are a couple of relatively small “one-time” expenditures from the Rainy Day Fund to help our schools.

Governor Perry and others have lately been promoting the “one-time use” of $2 billion of the Rainy Day Fund to pay for water infrastructure projects. That’s an important issue, and we’ll see what kind of proposal eventually comes up in the House. But if we can spend billions on new pipelines and reservoirs, surely we can spend millions on keeping our kids safe at school and broadening their educational opportunities.

As I told the Star-Telegram last week, what better one-time expense would there be than to make our schools safer?

 

March 1, 2013 Comments are off Admin2

Chris Turner Files New Measures to Help Texas Veterans, Service Members and Families

def-thumbBills would expand job opportunities, boost assistance fund and help surviving spouses

AUSTIN − State Representative Chris Turner (HD 101) has filed six measures to aid veterans, service members and their families. Turner’s veterans’ package covers several areas, addressing veteran unemployment, providing an additional funding source for the Permanent Fund for Veterans’ Assistance and exempting spouses of service members killed in the line of duty from paying property taxes on their home.

“Since my first term, I have been incredibly fortunate to work on initiatives to honor the service and sacrifice of our service members, veterans and their families,” said Turner. “With unacceptably high veteran unemployment rates, many of the bills I have filed this session focus on helping service members and veterans get good-paying jobs that capitalize on the skills they attained during their time in uniform.

“We must also never forget the spouses of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation,” continued Turner, “which is why I filed a measure to exempt the spouses of service members killed in the line of duty from paying property taxes on their homes, the same benefit we currently extend to 100 percent disabled veterans and their surviving spouses. It’s one small way that we can honor those who died defending our country and provide crucial economic help to their families.”

Turner’s veterans’ legislative package includes:

  • HB 548: gives a property tax exemption to surviving spouses of service members killed in action
  • HJR 62: adds an amendment to the Texas Constitution allowing the property tax exemption for surviving spouses of service members killed in action
  • HB 860: waives the residency requirement for active duty service members and reservists when obtaining a commercial driver’s license
  •  HB 2027: guarantees $5 million in funding for veterans services by transferring unclaimed prize money from the Texas Lottery Commission to the Permanent Fund for Veterans Assistance
  • HB 2028: allows veterans to apply certain military experience as a basis for obtaining a plumber’s license
  • HB 2029: allows veterans to apply certain military experience as a basis for obtaining an electrician’s license

During his first term during the 81st Legislative Session, Turner authored legislation that created the “Veterans Cash” lottery scratch-off game. Since the game’s November 2009 launch, it has generated $26.9 million to provide services to veterans and their families including, but not limited to, counseling for PTSD and traumatic brain injury, transportation to VA medical facilities, housing assistance, and family and child counseling.

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