Brews & BBQ

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Texas 101 Day: Two more days!

We’re just two days away from this year’s Texas 101 Day! We have over 100 people signed up to join us for this important event. If you haven’t had a chance to RSVP, it’s not too late. Just give my district office a call at 817-459-2800 or click here. We hope to see you there.

As I have mentioned in previous emails, this year we’re doing things a bit different. We’re focusing our discussion on two main issues: healthy communities and transportation.

We’re excited to have experts from the Tarrant County Hospital District (JPS) and the Tarrant Transit Alliance on hand to present information about these critical issues and how they impact our community.

A few weeks ago, I emailed about health care; today’s focus is our other critical issue: transportation.

Transportation is particularly important in Arlington and Grand Prairie since both communities lack a comprehensive mass transportation system. In fact, Arlington is the largest city in the entire nation without public transit.

It’s been proven time and time again that economic growth and improved quality of life are two primary benefits of mass transit. Improving availability of transit services is especially significant to those in low-income households or for those with limited automobile access, such as students and the elderly.

Last year, to help get a better sense of the needs in our community, I added a measure to the state budget for the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) to study Grand Prairie and Arlington residents’ transit needs. The final report, which is due to be completed at the end of this year, will include the causes of need, existing options and suggested transit improvements. Additionally, and equally important, it will identify the economic benefits of transit; plus, identify the demographic, economic and geographic makeup of the population most impacted by a lack of transit options.

When that report is released, I will share it with you. In the meantime, I hope you’ll be a part of this important discussion at Saturday’s event.

We’ll also talk about the new Rosa Parks Memorial Parkway/360 Toll, high-speed rail and funding for existing roads. Needless to say, we’ll have plenty to talk about. It would be great to hear your thoughts.

I hope to see you Saturday!

P.S. Regarding health care, new US Census numbers were released last week showing the number and rate of uninsured Texans increased from 2016 to 2017. Click here to read my response to the news. 

Have you reserved your spot?

On September 22nd, we will be hosting our 3rd Texas 101 Day in Arlington at Tarrant County College Southeast Campus. This biennial event gives people from House District 101 and surrounding areas an opportunity to discuss important issues impacting our community and our state. More importantly, it gives those in attendance a platform to share ideas and solutions that I can take back to our state Capitol during the upcoming legislative session.

If you’ve attended in the past, this year’s event will be similar to the past events, but with a couple of important changes. First, we’ll be limiting the issues to two: Healthy Communities and Transportation. Next, we’re going to start off with an overview of what’s going on locally, and then to help focus our dialogue, I have invited local experts to discuss these two critical issues. We’ll make sure to have extra time for Q&A and feedback before we break up into smaller groups to discuss problems and solutions.
As I mentioned in an email a couple weeks ago, between now and Texas 101 Day, I will be sharing some thoughts on these two issues to help lay some groundwork for discussion. In my previous email, I focused on health care and how Texas continues to lead the nation in the rate of uninsured, as well as the Texas attorney general leading the fight to make it near impossible for those with pre-existing conditions to get coverage. If you missed it, click hereThe topic of health care in Tarrant County has taken on added importance with the Commissioners Court recently voting to add an $800 million bond election to support the Tarrant County Hospital District. This bond issue will be a major part of our Texas 101 Day discussion.
Watch your inbox for my thoughts on transportation. In the meantime, if there’s something you’d like me to address on these critical issues, let me know. Email me at chris.turner@house.texas.gov.
Finally, if you haven’t reserved your seat for Texas 101 Day, it’s not too late. You can do so one of three ways: 1) click here and fill out the RSVP form, 2) via my Facebook event (don’t forget to share it on your page, while you’re there) or 3) call our district office at 817-459-2800.
I hope to see you on September 22nd.

Nearly 1 in 4 uninsured

I wanted to share a quick update on a few issues impacting healthcare in our state and here locally. On Saturday, September 22nd we will be discussing some of these issues more in-depth at Texas 101 Day. Scroll down for details and if you would like to save your seat, please click here.

UPDATE: THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT

According to a poll conducted by Gallup in late 2017, over 22 percent of Texans lack health insurance coverage. That’s nearly 1 in 4. And it’s the highest rate of uninsured in the nation.

Take a minute and let that sink in.

Before the Affordable Care Act (ACA) went into effect in 2013, the number was even higher — an astonishing 27 percent according to Gallup. Thanks to the ACA, by 2016 that number dropped significantly to below 17 percent — a move in the right direction.

We all know what happened next and why the trend reversed — state and federal leaders became increasingly hostile to ensuring the availability of affordable and accessible health care coverage in our state and across the country. This is why Texas is on track to forfeit $100 billion of our taxpayer money slated for Medicaid expansion that could have served more than 1.1 million of our neighbors, expanded our economy, created new jobs, and improved the overall health of many in our state. But instead, we’re (still) ranked dead last in the rate of insured.

To add insult to injury, it’s our state’s attorney general leading the fight to strip pre-existing conditions protection from federal law. If Texas and the 19 other states that have joined them win this suit, an estimated 52 million Americans could be immediately impacted. In a rare move, the Trump Administration’s Department of Justice has refused to defend the law in court, further demonstrating that Republicans will do all they can to sabotage the ACA.

IMMUNIZATIONS

It’s the start of the school year and a good time to talk about the importance of immunizations. Last week, the Dallas Morning News reported that there is increasing concern among Texas health officials about the rising number of measles cases in the state. This is coupled with the rise in the number of Texas school vaccine exemptions, which increased by 4,000 to nearly 57,000 last school year. By comparison, that number was just 2,314 in 2003. Locally, from 2013 to 2018, the rate of exemptions for Arlington ISD increased by 72 percent and 47 percent in Mansfield ISD.

Last session, there was a movement to make these exemptions more accessible and easier for caregivers to get and submit to schools. That’s the exact opposite of what needs to be done. Thankfully, most Texans agree. In a recent survey, 86 percent of Republican voters polled support requiring children to be vaccinated before entering school.

In the same poll, a majority of those asked also supported the government playing a role in ensuring protection against vaccine-preventable diseases. This is critical. The increase in measles cases and recent outbreaks of mumps and other preventable diseases is further proof that our government must do more. This is about public health. Those opting out of lifesaving vaccines are not only putting their children at risk, but also many others, including those who are immunocompromised (including those living with cancer) and babies too young to receive vaccines.

TEXAS GENERAL HOSPITAL

Last week, I posted my reaction to Texas General Hospital’s license suspension. You may remember the controversy surrounding this Grand Prairie hospital a few years ago, when it was revealed that patients were receiving bills for five- and six-figure amounts for routine procedures and visits that should have cost a fraction of what they were being charged.

At the time, I asked the Office of the Attorney General, the Texas Department of Insurance and the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) to investigate. Unfortunately, state agencies were unable to identify any steps they could take to deal with Texas General’s excessive billing.

In recent months, in response to complaints and concerns about understaffing and safety issues, DSHS intervened. As a result, the agency suspended Texas General Hospital’s license pending an administrative hearing.

For the safety of people in our community, I hope that the hospital’s doors remain closed unless and until it can be operated in a manner that protects the health of patients, as well as their pocketbooks.  We are fortunate to have a number of good, reputable hospitals in our area and residents will be better served in these facilities.

Back to school

With the first day of school just around the corner, it’s a good time to talk about the importance of public education in our state as well as the related issues and challenges we must address to improve the way we fund our schools, retain our teachers and keep kids safe.

School Safety
As the new school year begins, the issue of school safety will be on the forefront of the minds of many parents, students, teachers and administrators.

Earlier this week, I was asked by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram to share my thoughts on school safety and specifically what advice I would share with those directly impacted by safety in and around our neighborhood schools. In response, I said that I hope parents and other caregivers, students, and faculty and staff will share any concerns they have with the school district, and state and federal officials so that we may make better-informed decisions regarding this critical issue.

This is an important step that cannot be understated. School safety can’t be addressed with a one-size-fits-all approach. For example, in some districts, metal detectors may make sense, but based on feedback I have received, they may not make sense for schools with larger student populations. Other districts may need help improving technology, including text message notification systems, while others need additional help to provide counselors focused on mental health. The more I hear and other state and local officials hear from those directly impacted, the better we will be able to address the unique needs.

Like our local school districts, as well as districts across our state, I am committed to supporting efforts that will help provide needed resources to schools that will be most helpful and keep Texas kids safe.

Teachers

A key ingredient in our public education system is our state’s teachers. There’s no doubt in my mind that each and every day, public school teachers go above and beyond to ensure that future generations of Texans succeed. As a state, we owe them a great deal in response to their commitment.

In past months, I have written about our state’s pension and healthcare systems for teachers. We made some changes to the Teacher Retirement System (TRS) during the last session, but it’s apparent that more must be done.

Earlier this month, the TRS board moved to lower the expected rate of return on investments, which will likely create a benefits gap for retirees. In order to ensure that we fulfill the promises made to our teachers, it’s likely that additional funding will be needed to fill the gap. As we head closer to the 2019 Legislative Session, serious conversations need to occur regarding how this will be accomplished in a way that will protect our teachers and retirees.

School Finance Reform & Property Taxes

One of the issues that I regularly hear about from constituents is property taxes. For many, the annual increase in the appraised value of their homes and subsequently, the property taxes they owe, becomes too much for them to bear financially. This must be addressed.

One solution: fix our broken school finance system. In the last decade, the state’s share of public education funding has dropped from 49 to 38 percent, forcing local taxpayers to foot the rest of the bill. When you remove charter schools from the equation, the state share is just 33 percent.

One fix proposed last session – a measure I joint-authored – would have required the state to increase their share of school funding to at least 50 percent. By doing this, the state contribution would have increased their share of funding by an estimated $10-14 billion per year — providing relief to local communities and property owners. 

In addition to increasing how much money comes from Austin, we also need to fix how the money is allocated. Looking ahead and at the upcoming Legislative Session, this should be, without question, the most important issue impacting Texas. Whether or not our state leaders will agree, only time will tell.

Mark your calendar
This Saturday, Arlington ISD will be holding their annual Back to School Kickoff at AT&T Stadium. For details, click here. Also, this weekend is the annual Sales Tax Holiday, when items such as clothes, shoes, backpacks and school supplies will be tax-free. For details, click here.

Another week, another HHSC contracting scandal

Recently, the State Auditor ¹ released a new report highlighting more contracting issues at the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC). This is dangerous because people — especially the most vulnerable in our state — cannot afford to lose health services because of irresponsible mismanagement.
Things have gotten so bad that the State Auditor found problems with every one of the 28 different contracts it reviewed, all awarded within the past two and a half years. It’s obvious that Governor Abbott hasn’t done his job to keep the HHSC accountable and protect healthcare for all Texans. That’s why I’m asking you to help call this for what it is: completely unacceptable!
One of the worst cases in this newest round of problems is a $3 billion STAR Kids contract. In case you missed it, that same program was recently highlighted in a Dallas Morning News series titled “Pain & Profit” ² — investigating how many Texans are being left to suffer while healthcare companies refuse critical services.
It’s clear that Governor Abbott isn’t making an effort to hold the HHSC accountable, after many months and years of scandal, which is why we need to speak out!

What it means to be an American.

Today we celebrate our country’s independence and the freedoms that make our nation the greatest in the world. We hope you’re able to enjoy today’s festivities, parades and fireworks and spend quality time with friends and family!

As we celebrate today, let us remember the brave women and men in our Armed Forces who put themselves in harm’s way to protect our freedom. We owe them a debt of gratitude today and every day.

Let us also reflect on who we are as a country, and what it means to be an American. For Chris and our team, it’s about standing up for what’s right, welcoming others with open arms, treating people with respect, fighting for change, and always trying to do the right thing — it’s values like these that make our country and its people great.

As they do every year, Chris and Lisa will be riding in the Arlington 4th of July Parade — which is one of the largest in Texas. If you’re there, don’t forget to wave and say hello! They always like to see friendly faces along the route.

SCOTUS upholds racial gerrymandering in Texas.

The Supreme Court issued a 5-4 ruling yesterday that rubber stamped Texas Republicans’ discriminatory redistricting maps. I am disappointed — now we’re stuck with legislative maps that diminish the voices of our Hispanic and African American communities.

Texans are growing tired of a rigged system that is meant to benefit one party at the expense of the voters. So if the Supreme Court won’t step in to protect our sacred right to vote, then we must double down on our efforts to elect strong candidates up and down the ballot who will.

Yesterday’s ruling should mobilize and energize us like never before. We need to push harder than ever to ensure our Democratic candidates come out on top this November.

Too little, Too late

As you may have heard, the Trump Administration finally changed their policy of separating parents and children at the US-Mexico border after a massive public outcry. But this is too little too late. The damage has already been done for so many children and families!

The new executive order is still extremely limited, and it isn’t clear at all how children already separated from their parents will be reunited. It also does nothing to reverse the “no tolerance” policy that caused so many families to get separated in the first place.

I can’t imagine the pain and trauma this policy has created for these families. The images of children being taken from their parents, the audio of cries for help, and the talk of “cages” and “tender age shelters” — it’s enough to bring any parent to tears.

Since day one, the Trump administration tried to spin this story. They wanted to shift blame on Democrats and use children as a bargaining tool for their policy agenda — and Governor Abbott remained complicit and silent, except to repeat the false Trump talking points.

Now, Trump only backed down on family separation because of a public backlash that even he couldn’t ignore. It is proof that our voices do matter — so let’s use them to remain vocal, keep up the pressure, and force an end to his anti-immigrant agenda for good.

We must do better.

Woof! Happy Father’s Day

I’m Cora (left), and I’m Cassie (right). And we’re just two dogs on a mission to make sure everyone has a wonderful Father’s Day today.

We know there are lots of dads out there who deserve a big thanks for everything they do, but we want to give a special thanks to our pops — State Representative Chris Turner. Woof! Woof!

Our dad rescued us from the Fort Worth Humane Society, but that’s not the only thing that he’s done to help people (or pooches) like us.

As the Chair of the House Democratic Caucus, Chris goes to work every day to unite people behind shared values and support policies that help others get ahead. He isn’t afraid to stand up when things aren’t right, and he treats people with respect. (Wait, did someone say treats?!)

Sometimes we miss him when he’s gone doing the people’s work in Austin, but it’s all worth it: Because we know he is changing lives, just like he did by rescuing us!

Thank you for everything, dad. We can’t wait for what the future has in store!

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  • Brews & BBQ

    Click here to RSVP: https://act.myngp.com/Forms/7918091481862048768

    Read More
  • Texas 101 Day: Two more days!...

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  • Have you reserved your spot?...

    On September 22nd, we will be hosting our 3rd Texas 101 Day in Arlington at Tarrant Co

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  • Nearly 1 in 4 uninsured

    I wanted to share a quick update on a few issues impacting healthcare in our state and here locally. On

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