A moral document

Our state’s budget is a moral document. How the state legislature spends taxpayer dollars for the next two years is a direct reflection of the priorities of our government.

Last week, both the House and the Senate released their initial budget proposals. I haven’t quite made it through all 2000+ pages of what’s being proposed, but what I know so far is that the House version provides more necessary funding for public education and health and human services than the Senate budget. That’s good. Of course, with the good comes the bad – both proposed budgets come up short in adequately addressing the critical issues facing our state.

These are the urgent needs: 

  • Increasing public school funding and making our finance system more equitable
  • Addressing the critical CPS caseworker shortage and finding ways to improve foster care
  • Reinstating acute therapy rates which were cut, impacting 60,000 children who may lose access to physical, speech and occupational therapy
  • Expanding and supporting mental health programs to help more Texans

Even with so many critical issues in need of attention, some of which are at crisis levels, there’s still far too much emphasis on border security funding in both budgets (to the tune of $800 million in the Senate version and $663 million on the House side).

In response to these figures, the El Paso Times editorial board called state funding for border security “more about politics than results.” I couldn’t agree more.

During the next several weeks, there will be much debate about the budget proposals. For those outside our district, call your legislators in both the House and Senate and share your thoughts. To find out who represents you, click here. Of course, you can always contact me and share your views.  

Making History 

TristanOn Saturday, members of my Capitol staff, including our honorary “junior intern” (aka Lisa’s and my godson), 5-year-old Tristan (pictured waving at the crowd), were among the 50,000+ marching at the State Capitol. The marches held on Saturday around our nation and around the world were a real testament to grassroots organizing and the power of a unifying message.

It was an important first step of what I
hope will be many.

I look forward to hearing from the energized women and men who marched in our community, in Austin, or in Washington, D.C., as well as from those unable to march, but stood in solidarity. Their collective voices will no doubt result in real change and a brighter future for Tristan and future generations.

Chris

 

P.S. It’s not too late to sign up for Texas 101 Day at the Capitol. We still have a few seats available. Stay tuned to my Facebook page for updates and exciting announcements about the trip. Call 817-459-2800 to reserve your spot!

New Session, New Site, New Staff; Same Commitment

With Lisa by my side, last week I once again took the oath of office to represent the people of District 101.

It’s an incredible honor to come back to the Capitol to be a strong voice on the issues that matter to our community: increasing funding for our public schools, protecting our state’s most vulnerable kids who have been victims of abuse and neglect, and fighting for fair and equal treatment for all, regardless of economic status, race, or sexual orientation or identity.

During the next several months, if you’re in Austin, I hope you will come by and say hello and talk to me or my staff about the issues that matter most to you.

To help kick off the new year and the new legislative session, my website — www.repchristurner.com — has a new look. Please take a few minutes to check it out and let me know what you think. I hope you will visit it often for regular updates about what’s going on at the Capitol and in House District 101.

On the home front, you probably received the announcement that we have moved. Right before Christmas, we relocated our district office to 320 Westway Place, Suite 501 in Arlington, just south of I-20 and east of Matlock, a more central location in our district. The new Center Street bridge will be open soon, providing convenient access for constituents north of I-20.  We hope you will come by and visit.

While you are there, say hello to our new district director, Miles Wilson, who joined Team Turner earlier this month. Miles grew up in Arlington and recently graduated from Claremont McKenna College in California. He’s already been great addition to our office and has hit the ground running. I hope you reach out to Miles, either by visiting the office, by phone at 817-459-2800 or email at miles.wilson@house.texas.gov.

If you’ve signed up for the February 8th Texas 101 Day at the Capitol, you’ll have any opportunity to meet Miles then. If you haven’t signed up for a seat on the bus, it’s not too late! For details, call our district office, which you can reach at the number above.

State Representative Chris Turner

Texas 101 Day at Capitol

The bus is leaving on Wednesday, February 8, for our biennial Texas 101 Day at the Capitol. My staff and I are putting together a great day of activities in and around the Capitol for those who attend.

Departing Arlington at 6:00am, the bus will arrive at the Capitol at 10:00am and return to Arlington at 7:00pm.Breakfast and lunch are provided. Space is limited, so email chris.turner@house.texas.gov or call 817-459-2800 for more details or to reserve your spot on the bus!

Turner Files Child Car Seat Safety Measure

This week, Representative Chris Turner (HD 101- Grand Prairie) filed HB 519, which would update state law by requiring that children be restrained in a rear-facing car seat until the age of two, unless the child weighs more than 40 pounds or exceeds 40 inches in height. This measure mirrors American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) car seat recommendations, standards that have already been passed into law in numerous other states, including Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and California.

According to a 2007 study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children under the age of two are about 75 percent less likely to die or sustain serious injury in a rear-facing car seat than a forward-facing one.

“Keeping Texas children safe should always be our top priority,” said Turner. “By updating our outdated child car seat laws, we will better protect the youngest Texans and ultimately save lives.”

“Current Texas law is lacking when it comes to protecting our youngest and most vulnerable children from motor vehicle accidents,” said Joyce Elizabeth Mauk, MD, President of the Texas Pediatric Society, the Texas Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “Pediatricians recommend a rear-facing child safety seat until the age of two because it does a better job of supporting the head, neck and spine of infants and toddlers in a crash, distributing the force of the collision over the entire body.”

Turner’s bill has already garnered a great deal of support. Organizations endorsing the measure include: the Texas Pediatric Society, Texas Children’s Hospitals of Texas, Safe Kids Austin, Texas Hospital Association, CLEAT, Texas EMS Trauma & Acute Care Foundation, Texas Nurses Association, Texas State Association of Firefighters, Texas EMS Alliance, and AAA Texas. During the 2015 Legislative Session, a similar measure by Turner was passed out of the House Committee on Transportation.

State Senator Judith Zaffirini has filed the Senate companion (SB 278).

 

State Representative Chris Turner

Audit Requested by Turner Confirms Contract Concerns

“BSI (Brain Synergy Institute) put the health and safety of participants at risk…”

Last year, I asked for an Inspector General (IG) auditof a 2013 contract between Brain Synergy Institute (formerly Carrick Brain Centers) and the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC).  The request came after Dallas Morning News and NBC5 news stories highlighting troubling issues with the contract and the use of a controversial “spinning chair” treatment on veterans with Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).

Late last week, the IG’s report was released and the findings confirmed many of my concerns.

First, some background – in the summer of 2013, then-Governor Rick Perry’s staff began negotiations with HHSC executives to sign a contract with Irving-based Brain Synergy Institute (BSI) for a research study focused on treating veterans with PTS and/or TBI with a spinning chair or “Off-Vertical Axis Rotation Therapy” (OVART). This controversial “treatment” had not been vetted by the scientific community and there was no proof that it would help veterans, or anyone else. Even so, after Governor Perry visited BSI several times and with pressure from his office, the contract was quickly approved.

The state ended up spending more than $2.2 million of your money on this useless “study.”

The Inspector General concluded what I have suspected all along – a stunning level of incompetence on the part of former agency officials and abuse of taxpayer dollars by BSI.

Here’s are some of the deficiencies highlighted in the report:

  • A poorly designed contract, including inadequate research protocol and did not have a control group nor oversight by an Institutional Review Board (IRB)
  • BSI didn’t provide the same treatment to all participants, making findings invalid
  • Completion reports didn’t meet the contract requirements
  • The study was not valid and there is no way to determine whether participants benefitted from the treatment
  • BSI billed for treatment of veterans who were not Texas residents and several veterans who had already received the treatment
  • Worst of all, BSI put the health and safety of participants at risk

In response to the findings, HHSC is demanding BSI pay back over $278,000 to the state of Texas.

Getting some money back from these bad actors is a good start, but given the long list of their failures, they should return every penny of the $2.2-plus million they received as part of this contract.

BSI is not the only one at fault. This is yet one more example of the cronyism that was rampant during the administration of Governor Perry. It is clear this contract would never have happened were it not for his office’s meddling.

Texas taxpayers deserve better than this kind of corruption and cronyism.  And veterans who have served our nation deserve better than useless studies and false promises.

 

Annual Open House & Toy Drive


State Representative Chris Turner’s 
Annual Open House & Toy Drive
Thursday, December 15, 2016
4:00 to 6:00 PM 
1600 E. Pioneer Parkway, Suite 515
Arlington, TX  76010

Bring an unwrapped toy for a child served by Mission Arlington. To RSVP, click here or call 817-459-2800.

 

 

State Representative Chris Turner

I Am Honored to Continue to Serve You

I want to thank the voters of District 101 in Arlington & Grand Prairie for entrusting me with the privilege of representing them in Austin for another two years. When all the votes were counted, we received 66.3 percent of the vote and won every precinct in our district.

Lisa and I are so appreciative to all our friends and supporters who contributed and volunteered, as well as to my dedicated staff in our capitol, district and campaign offices. It means more than you know and I am honored to continue representing our community in Austin.

Obviously, the outcome of the presidential election was not the result many of us had hoped for. As I watched Hillary Clinton’s gracious concession speech this morning, I was reminded of how proud I have been to support her. She is, above all else, a patriot. We owe her immense gratitude for her lifetime of service to our nation.

As President Obama said today, no matter the outcome of an election, the sun always comes up the next day. And today is no different. For all the shock and dismay that many feel today, no one questions that we will have a peaceful transfer of power in January, just as our country has seen following every election since 1800. No one questions that when the people speak and the votes are counted, we know who our leader will be. There are a lot of people around the world who can’t say that about the country they live in. We’re blessed to be Americans – and our national elections, even when they don’t turn out the way we want – are a reminder of that blessing.

We have important work ahead. Let’s all keep fighting for our beliefs and working to make Texas and America stronger.

Thank you for all you do.

State Representative Chris Turner

After the thoughts and prayers

It’s been a really tough few weeks. From Orlando to Dallas to Baton Rouge, our nation has seen more tragedy in rapid succession than in any time I can recall. For those of us in North Texas, the loss is especially profound – not since 9/11 have so many American police officers been killed in the line of duty.

As a community, we will continue to grieve for our collective loss. For the families who have lost a husband, son, brother or father, their pain is incomprehensible. For the police officers who lost partners and friends, I have to imagine the pain they feel is only magnified by the continued daily pressures and dangers of the job.

So for the rest of us, after the memorials and vigils have passed, as social media and the 24/7 news cycle inevitably directs our attention elsewhere, how do we hold on to the grief and horror we’ve shared lately and translate it into something tangible that maybe helps avert future tragedies?

In the aftermath of the Dallas attack, Dallas Police Chief David Brown rightfully underscored the mounting responsibilities our country places on police officers each and every day.

He said, “We’re asking cops to do too much in this country. Every societal failure, we put it off on the cops to solve. Not enough mental health funding — let the cop handle it. Not enough drug addiction funding — let’s give it to the cop…”

He’s right.

Although there is still much to be learned about the Dallas and Baton Rouge killers, it seems clear both were troubled men who decided they wanted to die while killing police officers. The sad and frightening reality is that in any urban police department, cops are coming into contact with people who have mental health issues every single day. Obviously and thankfully, most of those interactions don’t end in tragedy. But it underscores how police never know what to expect in any given encounter – but when they get there, we expect them to deal with it, no matter what it is.

Soon after being named to the House Select Committee on Mental Health, I sat down with Arlington first responders to learn how mental health issues impact public safety. It was an eye-opening discussion and it was immediately apparent that police have become de facto mental health caseworkers.

Responding to repeated calls from the same person who suffers from paranoia. Checking in on people they’ve interacted with in the past to make sure they’re taking their medicine. Driving someone to JPS in Fort Worth – and often staying with them all day – so they can be checked into the psychiatric facility, instead of taking them to jail.

Arlington PD is doing some great things. Working with the local mental health authority, MHMR of Tarrant County, the APD has 24/7 access to mental health care resources, including four counselors on staff.

Arlington is not alone. Police departments across our state are finding innovative ways to help those with severe mental health needs. They have come up with effective local programs, which is good.

The reality is that Arlington and other departments are doing this out of necessity. That doesn’t mean we should accept it as their responsibility alone.

The state of Texas needs to step up in a big way on mental health care and take some of the pressure off of our first responders. In the next few months, our committee will make recommendations to the full Legislature on what we need to do to improve access to mental health care. Chief Brown’s words should serve as a wake-up call to all of us in the Legislature, because we can’t continue to push problems down to local communities. As Brown noted, “policing was never meant to solve all those problems.”

He’s right. It’s time for the Legislature to act to help ensure that first responders aren’t expected to solve every acute problem on their own.

A concerted, meaningful focus on mental health care is good place to start.

Dallas

What an empty feeling to start a day. What happened in Dallas, the city I grew up in, is still unfathomable to me.

I can’t imagine the grief of the families of the five officers who gave their lives in the line of duty…and the anguish of those families whose loved ones are in the hospital. Let’s all pray that those officers are able to return home to their loved ones. It’s a tragedy of incomprehensible magnitude. Let’s all pray for Dallas.

Yesterday, I was trying to process the tragedies in Baton Rouge and Minnesota. And I think of the anguish of the families of those two men who lost their lives. And as I saw the reaction on social media to both these shootings (and I have already seen some of this re: Dallas), I’m frustrated to see people’s reactions and perceptions break down along predictable lines: if you say #blacklivesmatter that means you’re against law enforcement. If you support the police, that means you don’t care that African American men are killed in this country at an alarming and unacceptable rate. If you’re political, this is somehow all the other party’s fault. We saw similar storylines unfold in the wake of Orlando: if you support the Muslim community, you’re an ISIS sympathizer. And on it goes.

As a nation, we have to stop this.

Everything is not so black and white (pardon the expression). It is possible to believe Black Lives Matter (as I do); that what happened to Alton Sterling and Philando Castile is unacceptable – and still hold law enforcement in high regard.

There are bad apple teachers, lawyers, doctors, but that doesn’t mean everyone in those professions is bad. In fact, the vast majority are honest, professional and dedicated to do what’s right. We have to look at law enforcement the same way. Remember those officers who ran toward the gunfire last night in Dallas — some of them are in the hospital this morning. Five of them are never going home again. That’s the kind of valor that few of us, honestly, can comprehend.

Similarly, those who support law enforcement (as I do) can recognize there is a problem when minorities are statistically so much more likely to be charged, arrested and yes, shot. And just as those are true facts, we need to focus on fact-based solutions — training? different policing techniques? — I don’t know the answer, but we need people who are experts to develop solutions and then policymakers to implement them. What we need not do is dismiss the real and understandable anger and apprehension many Americans feel in the wake of the news of another African American man killed.

So, as President Obama said last night (before Dallas, but it’s even more applicable now), we have to do better as a country. We are better.

It’s my hope in the wake of a terrible week, Dallas — and our larger North Texas community — will lead the way for our nation, forging a trail of better understanding, more appreciation for our fellow Americans, and real solutions to the tremendous challenges confronting us.

State Representative Chris Turner

Turner: Supreme Court Decision a Victory for Texas Women

AUSTIN — In reaction to today’s United States Supreme Court decision overturning Texas’ abortion law (HB2), State Representative Chris Turner (HD101 – Grand Prairie) released the following statement:

“Today marks a landmark victory for Texas women and a strong rebuke of Texas Republican leaders and their misplaced priorities. The United States Supreme Court has sent a powerful message to lawmakers across our nation that they may not pass restrictive, unconstitutional barriers to reproductive healthcare. The rejection of this ill-conceived law will help ensure that Texas women once again have access to safe, legal reproductive health care. Now that this case is decided, the Legislature should stop trying to find new ways to deny health care to Texans and instead start creating pathways to expanded health care access.”

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