Helping our neighbors

Early yesterday morning, fire broke out at an east Arlington apartment complex, displacing 37 residents and injuring four. According to news reports, the fire was a result of a domestic dispute involving gasoline, and impacted eight apartment units.

Please keep the residents and those injured in your thoughts and prayers.

Upon hearing the news, my district staff went to the complex to offer help to residents and the apartment staff, and to connect with local Red Cross representatives. During their visit, they learned that those who have been displaced were given housing by the apartment’s management. They also learned that other community partners, including Mission Arlington, are working with the Red Cross to help replace what has been lost.

At this point, it’s our understanding that there is no immediate need for specific items to help these House District 101 constituents, but if that changes, we will post information on my Facebook page. Of course, there are other ways you can help our neighbors in need, both those impacted by yesterday’s fire and others who may be facing other challenges.

To help ensure that others remain safe, the Red Cross will be hosting a smoke detector installation event in Arlington on September 30th. If you’re interested in volunteering or learning more, click here. If you would rather help our neighbors in other ways, visit the North Texas Red Crossand/or Mission Arlington websites today.

As always, if you need help from our office, please call 817-459-2800.

Bathrooms vs. Real Solutions

Earlier this week, law enforcement officials from across our state gathered on the Capitol steps to speak out against the “bathroom bill.” Last week, several business leaders, including CEOs from Fortune 500 companies with major footprints in Texas, also publicly opposed the bill. Late last week, hundreds of people — men, women and children — traveled to Austin to testify at a senate committee hearing in opposition to this dangerous measure.

Yesterday, a majority in the Senate chose to disregard these voices and passed the “bathroom bill.”

In doing so, the senators who voted in favor also ignored the negative economic impact this type of law will have on our economy — an estimated $3.3 billion lost every year. These senators voted in favor of a divisive and dangerous measure that could cost our state and our communities 35,600 jobs. These senators turned their backs on the most vulnerable in our state — including transgender children and their parents who have bravely shared their stories and who fear they will no longer be welcome in their state.

By spending so much time and effort on this measure that is nothing more than a solution in search of a problem, Governor Greg Abbott and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick are ignoring the real challenges facing Texans. Here’s just a snapshot of what the Legislature should be addressing:

  • The Texas economy has dropped from #3 to #21
  • California – yes California, is beating us on unemployment and economic growth
  • Texans haven’t seen a minimum wage increase in 8 years
  • Texas women get paid 79 cents for every $1 a man makes for the same job
  • Texas is cutting funding to public education, causing property taxes to go up
  • The maternal mortality rate has doubled and Texas mothers are dying at a higher rate than anywhere else in the developed world
  • Texas has more uninsured people than any state in the country, which makes health care more expensive for all of us; and if Trumpcare becomes law, an estimated 1.1 million Texans could lose private health insurance coverage and another 225,000 will lose Medicaid
  • Tuition at Texas colleges and universities has risen 147% over the last 14 years

But Abbott and Patrick just want to talk about bathrooms. 
If you, like me, agree that a “bathroom bill” isn’t a solution to the challenges facing Texans, and that you support the real solutions that will help our state’s kids, our economy, our health, and our communities, let us know.Today, the House Democratic Caucus, which I chair, is rolling out our “Real Solutions for All Texans” petition. I want my friends to be the first to add their names to the list.

Click here to add your name.When the 30-day special session comes to a close, I am hopeful that it will do so without a harmful and hateful “bathroom bill” becoming law. I am not as confident however, that the governor and lieutenant governor will make real solutions for all Texans a priority moving forward.

2018

During my four terms serving in the Texas House of Representatives, and as the current chair of the Texas House Democratic Caucus, I have been on the frontline fighting to create more opportunity for Texas families: better funding for our public schools, improved access to healthcare, protecting the rights of all Texans and expanding consumer protection.

Back at home, my number one priority has and always will be to engage members of our community and for our office to be a resource for constituents. Through informational events, our Texas 101 Task Force, and effective constituent services, we have been able to accomplish a great deal on behalf of the people of House District 101.

There’s still more I would like to do both here at home and at the Capitol.That is why I am seeking re-election to the Texas House of Representatives.

With your help, I will continue to serve the people of Arlington and Grand Prairie as a strong voice supporting real solutions for ALL Texans – and I will continue to help lead the charge in the House against the divisive, partisan agenda of Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick.

To be successful, I need your help.

I hope you will sign on as an early supporter of my 2018 re-election effort and contribute before today’s critical midnight deadline.

Working together, we will continue to help our neighbors and to fight for what really matters to our community and our state.

Not so special

Last week, Governor Greg Abbott announced a special session of the Legislature to begin on July 18th. I talked about it on WFAA’s Inside Texas Politics on Sunday (spoiler alert: I don’t think this session will be very special).

What could be so important that Governor Abbott would call the Legislature back for its first overtime session since 2013?

Would it be to finally fix our broken school finance system, the one that increasingly shifts the cost of education to property taxpayers while state government continues to shirk its responsibility at the expense of 5.3 million public school students?  I could sure get behind a special session to improve public education – but alas, that’s not what the governor wants, unless you count a meaningless “study” of school finance.  

Perhaps, instead, Governor Abbott has finally recognized it’s his and the Legislature’s duty to do something about the shameful fact that Texas has the highest number and rate of uninsured of any state in the nation and it is past time we improve healthcare access and affordability for Texans?  Well, you’d be dreaming if that were the case.

Oh, I know – is Governor Abbott alarmed about the fact that the Texas economy has steadily worsened on his watch? After all, our economy has slipped from #3 to #21 in the last couple of years and our GDP growth has slowed to a crawl while housing prices continue to rise.  But no, if you thought that was the reason for the special session, you’re sadly mistaken.

No, Governor Abbott has decided we need a costly special session to address a Tea Party wish list of crazy ideas: new attacks on women’s reproductive rights, the discriminatory “bathroom” bill, an assault on unions, private school vouchers and myriad efforts to upend cities’ ability to…well, be cities.

There is one must-pass bill: the measure that would keep the Texas Medical Board, the agency that licenses doctors, operational.  (It didn’t pass in the regular session when Lt. Governor Dan Patrick sabotaged it so he could force Governor Abbott to call this special session). We could pass that bill in two days, go home, save the taxpayers a lot of money and the state of Texas a lot of embarrassment.

This is the new normal in the Republican Party in the age of Trump – serious problems are ignored while Republican politicians create new ones to placate their Tea Party base.

It’s a shame, because the people of Texas deserve much better.

 

#TXLEGE in Review, Part 1

It’s so good to be home. To be perfectly honest, I was happy to see Austin in my rearview mirror when I was driving up I-35 on Tuesday. There is a lot to say about what happened in this just-concluded legislative session, and I won’t try to say it all in one email. There was some good, but a lot more bad.

I have always said my most important job is to work for our district. So, I will start my recap there and let you know some of the things we worked on for the benefit of Arlington and Grand Prairie.

SH 360: The Rosa Parks Memorial Parkway

First and foremost, I am thrilled to announce that once construction is complete, the SH 360 extension from Sublett/Camp Wisdom Road to the northern Mansfield city limit will be named the Rosa Parks Memorial Parkway. Paying homage to this Civil Rights icon is an appropriate way to highlight and honor our community’s rich diversity. This effort would not have been successful without the support of so many in House District 101. The portion of the road south of District 101 will be named for former state Senator Chris Harris.

Arlington & Grand Prairie Transit Study

I successfully added language to the budget which will allow the University of Texas at Arlington to study the transit needs of the communities I serve. As you know, Arlington is the largest city in the nation without a mass transit system. Grand Prairie, and its growing population, also lacks transit. The study, which will focus on the transit needs in our community and how they may be addressed, will be completed by the end of 2018. A leading urban research university, UT Arlington is well-positioned to conduct this important study.

Mental Health

We have talked a lot over the last couple of years about the immense mental health needs in Texas.  One of the best displays of bipartisanship this session was significant mental health reforms, aimed at improving access and providing more funding for those organizations doing the important work on the front lines. I was proud to be a joint author of HB 13 by Rep. Four Price, which establishes a matching grant program for community mental health programs. I worked closely with Rep. Price to add provisions to the bill that will make the grant program more accessible for large county mental health authorities, such as MHMR of Tarrant County.

In my next email, I’ll highlight some of the work I did in the areas of ethics, education, voter rights and protecting children. I’m glad to be able to share news of these victories with you, knowing that none of them would be possible were it not for your continued support and involvement.

 

Voter ID Ruling

Rep. Chris Turner Statement on Voter ID Ruling
Today, for the fifth time since 2011, a federal court has ruled that the Republican leadership in Texas intentionally discriminated against minority voters.  It’s shameful that GOP leaders have been found to have intentionally discriminated at all – let alone more than in any other state in the country this decade.
It is past time that Republicans drop their defense of discriminatory photo ID laws and redistricting maps, both in the courts and in the Legislature.

Budget Recap: Democrats Succeed

Budget Recap: House Democrats Successfully Fought to Put Texas Kids and Families First

House Democrats succeeded in making the House version of the budget better.  Led by Rep. Sergio Muñoz and Rep. Ina Minjarez, House Democrats successfully added more money to Child Protective Services and foster care and Rep. Muñoz added an additional $21.5 million towards reversing the cuts made to acute therapy services for kids. Rep. Garnet Coleman secured vital funding for mental health crisis services.

Additionally, Rep. Abel Herrero led the successful passage of an anti-voucher amendment, sending a clear message to Governor Abbott and the Texas Senate that we want more funding for our local public schools, and that voucher schemes are going nowhere in the Texas House. This was on top of the already important efforts of Democrats on the Appropriations Committee who worked tirelessly to increase funding for student financial aid.

As with every state budget, with the good also comes the bad. At the end of the debate, after Democrats successfully killed an attempt to gut the Texas Dream Act, House Republicans succeeded in passing one of several anti-women’s health measures they had proposed. Sadly, this was no surprise, as Republicans have conducted an all-out assault on women’s health for years.

Democrats brought forth several amendments to increase funding for family planning services and to stop wasting money on ineffective, so-called crisis pregnancy centers. It’s low-income, rural and minority women who are paying the ultimate price for these tactics. House Democrats will continue to fight for access to needed health care for all Texans.

#TXKidsMatter

Actions have consequences.

Last session, in a backroom deal made during the 11th hour of the 84th Legislative Session, a Medicaid “cost-savings” measure was tacked on to the two-year state budget.  The result — an estimated 60,000 low-income children were put in jeopardy of losing access to speech, occupational and physical therapy.

Since then, providers of these services have been fighting to keep their doors open. Last week, my staff met with an Arlington-based provider that serves 500 North Texas children covered by Medicaid.  As a result of the draconian rate cuts, in just the past few weeks, this provider has had to:

Max out their line of credit

Lay off employees

Cut remaining employees’ pay by 10-15%

Negotiate lower utility costs to keep the lights on

Serve fewer children

To add insult to injury for acute therapy patients and providers, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission released a new set of cuts just a couple of weeks ago, including a 30% rate reduction for therapy assistants. This would hit rural and other underserved areas of the state particularly hard because in those communities, there is a shortage of licensed therapists. As a result, therapy assistants, who hold four-year college degrees, fill the gaps. However, in order to do so, they must be supervised in some capacity by a licensed therapist, an expense that is not reimbursed by Medicaid and is paid directly by the therapy service providers. Cutting therapy assistants’ pay is a double hit for providers.

Yesterday, the Senate approved their version of the state’s budget for the next two years. How much was included to reverse these terrible cuts? Zero. Nothing. Not one dime. Of course, it was Senate Republicans who added the rate cut measure to the budget two years ago, so…

Next week, consideration of the budget moves to the House floor. I haven’t seen the final version to be presented yet (it’s being considered by the House Appropriations committee right now), but my understanding is that there will be funds to reverse some of these cuts. It is my hope that the House fully fills the hole and I will continue to strongly push for that to happen, since we have the money to do so, regardless of what some Republicans may say.

Right now, the Economic Stabilization Fund (ESF), commonly known as the “Rainy Day Fund”, is flush with cash. In fact, it’s the largest such fund in the country and if left untouched, it’s estimated that by 2019 it will reach $12 billion.

The ESF was put in place to fund criticaTXKidsMatterl programs in tight budget years.  Not using what would be a very small portion of the ESF to fully reverse the Medicaid therapy cuts is unfathomable.

Over the past few weeks and months, there has been a renewed push by families, providers and advocates to #ReverseTheCuts and videos featuring the children impacted by these cuts are being spread across social media. The videos are a moving reminder of what is at stake. I urge you to watch and see the faces of this issue. Click here to watch their stories.

You can help these kids.

Tomorrow, I, along with many of my House Democratic colleagues, will participate in a Thunderclap to spread attention about this issue. Thunderclap is a new concept for me, but the millennials on my staff assure me that it’s pretty effective. To make sure it is a success, we need your help.

Click here to join our Thunderclap campaign and share via Twitter or Facebook the Texas House Democratic Caucus’ message on reversing the cuts.

The social media posts will go out at the same time tomorrow (Thursday the 30th), so please sign up now!

Thousands of kids across Texas need our help.

Chris

Rosa Parks Memorial Parkway

Today, I filed HB 3897, which will name the northern portion of the new State Highway 360 South extension the Rosa Parks Memorial Parkway.

The new SH360 South extension will serve a diverse community in Southeast Tarrant County and the names of our major roadways should celebrate that diversity. Rosa Parks was one of the most important figures in American history.  Her simple, yet extraordinary, act of courage on a city bus in 1955 – refusing to give up her seat to a white man, despite being ordered to do so by the bus driver and her subsequent arrest – set in motion the events which ignited the Civil Rights Movement and led to the demise of legalized segregation. To paraphrase a quote Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was fond of, Rosa Parks helped bend the arc of the moral universe towards justice.


The measure would name the portion of the highway located in House District 101 – from Sublett Road/West Camp Wisdom Road to the northern Mansfield city limits – in memory of Parks. Other bills have been filed to name the roadway in honor of former state Senator Chris Harris, who served Tarrant County in the Texas Legislature from 1985 – 2013 and passed away in 2015.  HB 3897 incorporates that proposal by designating the southern segment of the roadway as the Senator Chris Harris Memorial Highway.

To show your support of this effort, please share the image above on your social media pages and with your network. You may also add your name to our list of supporters, by clicking here.

Turner urges Paxton to stop fighting foster care suit

Citing sex-trafficking series, Texas Dem urges Paxton to stop fighting foster care suit

BY EDGAR WALTERS AND NEENA SATIJA
FEB. 22, 2017 1:37 PM

After a Texas Tribune series exposed the connections between the state’s embattled child welfare system and child sex trafficking, the chair of the Texas House Democratic Caucus has asked state Attorney General Ken Paxton to stop fighting a federal judge’s mandate to overhaul the agency charged with protecting vulnerable kids.

“If there was ever a call to action for state officials to get serious about reforming foster care, this was it,” state Rep. Chris Turner, D-Arlington, wrote in the letter to Paxton on Wednesday.

The lead plaintiff in the class-action lawsuit filed against Texas’ child welfare system was a victim of sex trafficking. Turner’s letter cited The Texas Tribune’s reporting in the “Sold Out” series, which found there could be tens of thousands of child sex-trafficking victims in Texas today — and that many of them have had some contact with the child welfare system.

“Those stunning facts should outrage every single one of us,” Turner wrote.

Since a federal judge ruled in late 2015 that the long-term foster care system had violated children’s constitutional rights by placing them at undue risk of harm, Paxton has objected to or worked to delay various court-ordered reforms.

The judge’s scathing opinion held that Texas had violated the constitutional rights of some 12,000 children in permanent managing conservatorship, the state’s designation for children who cannot find lasting homes with relatives or adoptive parents and are unable to be reunited with their biological families. U.S. District Judge Janis Jack ruled that children “often age out of care more damaged than when they entered.”

“Since the ruling, you and your office have inexplicably spent an inordinate amount of time, energy and money on pointless and unsuccessful appeals and objections,” the letter said. Paxton’s most recent objection, which the court rejected last week, is the latest example of “legal foot-dragging,” Turner wrote.

Paxton and other top Republican leaders, including Gov. Greg Abbott, have argued the class-action lawsuit against the state a waste of money, that the federal judge overstated foster care’s deficiencies and that the state can make its own decisions about reforms. Paxton’s office has called the ruling a “misguided federal takeover of the Texas foster-care system.”

Paxton’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the letter. In previous comments about the lawsuit, Paxton has said he is obligated to defend the state, not make policy.


Link to letter to Attorney General Paxton: 2.22.17_CTurner_LettertoAGPaxton_CPS.FosterCare

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