Pocketbook Protection

Protecting Families from Surprise Utility Rate Hikes 

Chris wrote the law that now requires residential electric providers to give at least 30 days written notice that a customer’s electric contract is scheduled to expire, allowing the customer time to shop around and select a new plan.

Chris learned that a number of his constituents had experienced situations in which their utility bill skyrocketed overnight, due to a contract expiring without their knowledge.

“Chris is genuine, honest, and he listens. He took on the utilities when they were raising their rates without telling us. With Chris, we know that we have a voice in Austin who stands up for us.” – Adrena Stephney, Precinct Chair, Arlington

Making Insurance Companies Accountable 

When Chris was in office, he wrote and filed several measures aimed at holding insurance companies accountable for the high premiums they charge consumers. Currently, Texans pay the highest rates for homeowners insurance in the nation and the coverage they receive does not reflect the amount they pay. Powerful special interests fight efforts to reform Texas’ insurance system, but Chris is determined to help deliver real reform for Arlington and Grand Prairie families.

For his work on consumer protection issues in 2009, Chris was named “Freshman of the Year” by Texas Watch, a leading consumer advocacy organization.

It’s Not a Game, Governor

Today, Governor Rick Perry launches his latest political stunt: he’s calling on lawmakers and candidates to sign a pledge promising that they will continue failed Tea Party Republican budget policies.

The Texas Budget is NOT a game, Governor.

Quite simply, Perry’s pledge says: we can’t spend the Rainy Day Fund to help struggling schools, we must starve the health care system at the expense of millions of uninsured and underinsured Texans and we must keep cutting spending, even though Texas already ranks last or near last in virtually every category of per-capita funding in the nation.

And in a Texas Tribune story previewing today’s stunt, Perry says this: “I think we’re at a unique time that we can reset the budgeting game in Texas.”

The budget is a moral document that demonstrates the fiscal responsibility, compassion and strategic thinking of those in government – or the lack thereof.

 The budget is not a game.

It’s not a game to Carolyn, a woman I met last week in East Arlington, who is worried about her two grandchildren who have no health insurance. She told me they keep getting cut off of Medicaid, and she didn’t know why. The reason why, I explained, is that under the Perry Administration, kids are intentionally cut off of Medicaid every six months.

It’s not a game to the elementary school principal I met at church yesterday, who sees firsthand that increasing class sizes are having a very real and detrimental effect on the quality of children’s education.

And it’s not a game to the southeast Arlington woman who works for the state. She and other hard-working state employees are frustrated that as they go years without pay increases, Perry is double-dipping at our expense by collecting a pension and salary at the same time.

 The budget is not a game – it has very real and direct consequences for each and every person who lives in the state of Texas.

Texans deserve a budget that honors our priorities and prepares for our future by investing in education, healthier families and infrastructure. Texans don’t deserve more budget gimmicks and trickery from Rick Perry and Tea Party Republicans.

If you agree, I hope you’ll help me win this race by contributing $100, $50, $25 or $10 today.

 

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.

Chris Turner: Legislative Highlights (81st Legislature)

Giving Back to Texas  Veterans and Their Families

  • capitol1Because of his work on issues affecting veterans and their families, Turner was named the bi-partisan Legislative Veteran’s Caucus “Freshman of the Year.”
  • Given the “Leadership Award” by the Texas Veterans Commission.
  • Turner authored H.B. 1299 which will create one scratch off lottery ticket to provide an estimated $8 million annually for critical and emergency aid to Texas veterans through the Fund for Veterans Assistance. The bill passed the House and was ultimately amended to a Texas Veterans Commission bill.
  • Turner authored H.B. 1636 which ensures that all state employees who are called to active military duty are able to continue to accrue their vacation and sick time and do not lose these benefits because they were deployed. The bill was the House companion to Senator John Carona’s S.B. 833, which Turner sponsored.
  • Turner authored and passed H.B. 3951 requires state colleges and universities ensure a professional in their financial aid office is familiar with and trained on the major educational benefits available to veterans.
  • Turner authored H.B. 3952 extending the Hazelwood Act to the spouses of Texas military members who are killed in the line of duty or left completely disabled. Turner amended the measure to S.B. 93.
  • Turner added an amendment to H.B. 1935 which establishes the Jobs and Education for Texans Grant Program. The amendment will ensure that those organizations that have programs benefiting veterans will be given priority in the grants awarding process.

Fighting for Consumers and Small Business

  • For his efforts on behalf of consumers, Turner was named “Freshman of the Year” by the non-partisan pro-consumer organization, Texas Watch.
  • Turner authored H.B. 995 which passed the House Committee on State Affairs unanimously (15-0) and was later amended onto another House Bill. The legislation will require retail electric providers to give their customers at least 30 days written notice that their fixed price electric contract is expiring.
  • For his efforts on behalf of consumers, Turner was named “Freshman of the Year” by the non-partisan pro-consumer organization, Texas Watch.
  • Turner filed several pieces of legislation protecting homeowners from unfair practices by the insurance industry.

Improving Our Public Schools & Helping Texas Universities  Excel

  • Turner co-authored H.B. 3646, which will provide an additional $1.9 billion in school funding and increase the equity among school districts.
  • Turner co-authored H.B. 51, the “Tier One” bill, which opens the door for “emerging research universities,” such as the University of Texas at Arlington, to become a “Top Tier” research university.

Shielding Our Families from Sexual Predators

  • Turner authored H.B. 2396 will require sex offenders who claim to be homeless to register with their local law enforcement agency every 2 weeks. The bill was combined with an identical piece of legislation during the committee process and was signed into law by Governor Perry.
  • Turner authored and passed out of the House legislation requiring computer technicians to report the discovery of child pornography to law enforcement.  This measure had strong support from law enforcement, but unfortunately the bill died in the Senate.

Supporting Texas Businesses and Cutting Taxes

  • H.B. 1637 made improvements to the shared work unemployment compensation program, making it possible for many of our large manufacturers and other employers who operate on swing shifts to take advantage of this state program. Turner passed this bill on the first day the House considered legislation.
  • Turner co-authored H.B. 4765 which will exempt small businesses with less than $1 million of revenue from paying Texas franchise taxes.
  • Turner co-authored H.B. 831 which would exempt Chambers of Commerce from paying ad valorem taxes on property they owned and used for their primary functions.

Lower our sky-high utility rates

Just a few years ago, Texas had some of the cheapest utility rates in the country — today, we have some of the highest.

powerHigh natural gas and electricity rates are squeezing many middle class families in Tarrant County.

Chris Turner knows we can change things and do better — he will work in the Legislature to lower utility rates for Texas families and hold the big utility companies accountable to our communities.

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