I Have an Opponent

Two weeks ago at the Arlington Republican Club, a Tea Party Republican announced that he will run against me in 2016. This will be the first time I have faced a Republican opponent in District 101, and I need your help.

I’m not surprised that they’re going after me. After all, I have taken on the Tea Party and their dangerous ideas for our state over and over again. While they seek to grow their power by dividing Texans, I have worked to make Texas a state where every family can succeed.

I believe we do that through strong public schools, access to affordable health care and making smart investments in transportation infrastructure and higher education. And I’ll continue to fight to grow our local economy in North Texas, work to expand transportation options for our citizens and crack down on predatory lending. Those are the priorities of District 101, and I think they’re the priorities of most Texans.

Yes, this is a Democratic district, but even with the numbers on my side and my proven track record of working hard for Arlington and Grand Prairie, I am not going to take this challenge lightly.

To make sure I stay in the Texas House, I need your support.

So, please join me on Thursday, November 19th in Arlington as I officially kick off my 2016 campaign. Scroll down for more details and then email me at chris@votechristurner.com to add your name to my growing list of supporters.

Together, we will win this election.

Thanks in advance for your continued support and I hope to see you on the 19th!

Chris

kickoff

Breaking Ground on SH 360 Expansion

Since I was first elected in 2008, I have made SH 360 one of my top priorities.

In 2009 and 2011, I organized a stakeholders group that brought community leaders, officials from the NTTA, TxDOT, NCTCOG, as well as officials from Arlington, Grand Prairie, Mansfield, and Tarrant County together in an effort to improve SH 360.

After several years of work, on October 21st, I had the honor of helping to break ground on the SH 360 expansion project. I am honored to have be part of this effort and look forward to the positive impact the expansion will have on our community and House District 101.

484% Interest

Can you imagine taking out a $500 loan and it costing more than $1100 to pay back?

FACT: Every day in our area, many of our neighbors are doing just that and paying up to 484% in interest and fees on small, short-term “payday” loans. 

This is completely legal in our state, and as a result, payday and auto-title lenders are making billions of dollars while preying upon people in dire need of financial help to pay their rent, to feed their children, and to fix their car so that they can get to work.

FACT: According to Texas Appleseed, in the Fort Worth-Arlington area, 105 cars are repossessed per week as a result of auto-title loans.

That’s nearly 5,500 cars per year and an equal number of families, single parents, senior citizens, and others who may permanently lose their vehicle for being late on one payment, sometimes by a matter of minutes, even though they’ve been paying back a 300% interest loan on time for months.

FACT: Due to inaction by the state legislature to regulate these predatory lenders, many cities have passed meaningful reforms to protect their citizens.

To date, 26 Texas cities, including Dallas, San Antonio, Houston, Austin, Corpus Christi, Amarillo, El Paso, Flower Mound, and Denton, have passed ordinances limiting loan amounts and the number of times a loan may be rolled over. Right now, Arlington is considering becoming the first Tarrant County city to add their name to this list.

FACT: There are several things that you can do to help be a part of the solution.

First, if you or someone you know has been a victim of predatory lending, let us know. Call my office at 817-459-2800 or click here to send me an email. We want to know how these loans are personally impacting Texans and trapping people in a cycle of debt.

Second, if you live in a city not on this list contact your local leaders and ask them to support a payday lending ordinance in your community.

Third, make your voice heard on this issue. Write a letter to the editor, call your legislator, tell your friends. This is a serious issue, the impact of which goes far beyond those who take out the loans. In fact, the Texas Catholic Conference has estimated that 30% of charitable assistance goes to help those in trouble with payday or auto-title loans and that predatory lending has a negative economic impact of $87,578,234 in the Fort Worth/Arlington area alone.

FACT: Federal regulations are being proposed, but they will not fully address the problem.

Next month, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the federal agency with oversight over predatory lenders, is expected to release new proposed regulations. These rules have become a common talking point among those who are opposed to state or local regulation — they often point to impending action by the federal government as a reason not to pass state or local laws.

Prominent organizations across our state, like the Texas Catholic Conference, the Baptist General Convention’s Christian Life Commission, and Texas Appleseed, agree that these rules will not replace local ordinances, but serve to complement these existing laws.

It’s also critical to point out that the timeline for implementation of federal rules is unclear. My office has been in contact with the CFPB and has been told that it will like take about two years for rules to go into effect; this of course assumes that implementation is not halted by industry lawsuits or a new administration.

Predatory lending is an issue that impacts us all. Even if you have never taken out a loan, somewhere down the line, through the need for more charitable contributions or as a result of the strain on local economies, you’re going to pay a price. It’s time we help our neighbors and time we act on their behalf.

Please, tell us your story, contact your elected officials, or write a letter to the editor. Whatever you do, don’t sit on the sidelines and let these predatory lenders trap more of our neighbors in a never-ending cycle of debt.

Chris

P.S. If you’d like to join our Texas 101 Payday Lending Task Force, click here.

Saving Young Lives

Since it’s Child Passenger Safety Week, Chris let me commandeer his email to help spread the word about one of my passions, keeping kids safe in cars.

If you’re not the parent or grandparent of a young child, you’re probably saying to yourself, “this doesn’t apply to me. I don’t need to read this. I can skip this one.” Before you move on to your next email, I ask that you please read on. You never know, this information could come in handy one day and even save a life.

sonNext month, my son will turn four (he’s the cute kid in the picture, and he also happens to be Chris and Lisa’s godson). Every day, I’m amazed at how much I didn’t know about raising a child. For most things, like getting him on a sleep schedule or figuring out the foods he should eat, there’s been a lot of trial and error along the way. But when it comes to car seats and car safety, I knew I had to try and get it right the first time. So, I’ve spent countless hours researching the best options for his age, how car seats should be installed, and how he should be properly restrained. After all, it could mean the difference between life or death.

Here’s a surprising statistic — somewhere in the neighborhood of 70 to 95 percent of car seats are installed or used incorrectly. And another fact – motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children 14 years old or younger. Many of these deaths could have been prevented, since one in three of the children were not properly restrained.

All parents want to keep their children safe. That’s our job after all. When it comes to kids riding in cars, I’ve learned that many people simply don’t know what to do. With so many different types of seats and so much confusion about the law, it’s hard to get it right. I know that I’ve made my share of mistakes. That’s why highlighting child passenger safety is so important.

To make it a little easier, here are some quick and easy guidelines for picking the right restraint based on a child’s age:

carseat

Of course, choosing the right seat or booster seat or no seat is just part of it — child restraints must be used correctly every single time. So, next time you put a child in a car, make sure their car seat straps are tight (you shouldn’t be able to pinch more than ½ an inch), the seat belt or harness straps are in the right place, and the child is fully buckled in. And of course, kiddos under two should be rear-facing.

Still not sure you’re doing it right or just want a second opinion? There’s help out there. Click here to find car seat safety technician in your area. In Tarrant County, you can look no further than Cook Children’s Healthcare System, a leader on this issue.

I appreciate you taking the time to read this email, and I hope it’s been helpful. I just have one favor to ask – in celebration and recognition of Child Passenger Safety Week, if you know someone with a child, please take a moment and pass this message on. You never know whose life it could save.

Best,

Emily Amps Mora
Chief of Staff
Office of State Representative Chris Turner

Turner: Supreme Court Gets it Right on Marriage Equality

gavelNorth Texas lawmaker urges state leadership to not impede the progress that has been made

Arlington, TX — State Representative Chris Turner (HD 101 – Grand Prairie) released the following statement in reaction to today’s United States Supreme Court decision regarding marriage equality:

“This is truly a historic day. Millions of men and women across our nation will have the ability to legally marry the person they love. Finally, LGBT Texans in committed relationships, will be afforded the same rights as other married couples.

“Unfortunately, here in Texas, today’s decision will face resistance by our state’s leadership. Like many that have come before, history will prove this decision to be the right one. I urge our state’s Republican leaders to not impede the progress that has been made.”

During his three terms in the Texas House of Representatives, Turner has been a vocal proponent of marriage equality and has co-authored legislation to allow LGBT unions. In addition, Turner has been lauded by Equality Texas for his efforts and support on issues impacting the LGBT community.

Reflections after Charleston

Last week, in the wake of the mass murder at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, I wrote something on my Facebook page to express my horror and disbelief at the heinous crime that had occurred. I referred to the shootings as an “unspeakable tragedy.”

A commenter on my post disagreed with the word “unspeakable” – there are “a lot of words to describe white supremacy and racism,” she argued – we just have to be willing to use them.

I used the word “unspeakable” because its definition – “incapable of being expressed in words” and “inexpressibly bad” – fit exactly how I felt upon learning that nine African Americans were gunned down in cold blood while studying the Bible in a historic Black church. I really could not find the words.

But the commenter was right in saying that we have to acknowledge this act for what it is and we need to have some honest conversations about race in America.

For much of my life, I’ve generally believed that our country has been making forward progress on the vexing issue of racial division and that we have begun to close some of the tremendous gaps in equality that exist between white America and virtually everybody else. We’ve certainly come a long way since the days of legalized segregation, and in my adult lifetime, I can see that new progress has taken place.

And although I am enormously proud that this country has twice elected an African American president, we cannot just point to President Obama and say “see, our racial problems are over.” We can’t say, “Sure segregation and discrimination were wrong, but that’s been over for a long time now.  Everyone’s equal.”

When I spoke at the Grand Prairie Juneteenth celebration a few days ago, I spoke about the significance of the holiday as occasion to celebrate that we are all equal and we are all free. But I also said that it’s not enough just to say we’re all equal – we still have work to do until there is equality of opportunity for all Americans.

We don’t have guaranteed outcomes in our democracy. But if equality and freedom are to be realities for all Americans, we have to keep working until all people truly have equal opportunity to send their kids to a good public school, to have access to affordable health care and real opportunity to earn a decent wage to support their family. We know we’re not there yet – so we have to keep working, here in Texas and across the country.

At the same time, we need to start peeling back the layers on the racial tensions and discrimination in our country and try to figure this out. It’s a good thing that the South Carolina governor is calling for the removal of the confederate flag from the state capitol. It’s a good thing that there’s serious discussion underway about removing the statue of Jefferson Davis from the University of Texas campus, and as an alum, I hope UT does this soon.

Symbols have meaning. And we should not display symbols like that flag and statue, for they are inherently divisive and represent the very worst in our nation’s past.

At the same time, when they come down – and I think they will – let’s not kid ourselves into thinking we’ve solved the problem. We’re going to have to find the answers within ourselves and within our communities. It will only happen if we start communicating more and stop making assumptions.

I don’t know exactly what the answers are. My guess is that it will be everyday Americans who lead the way on this, and not politicians – though those of us in elected office must absolutely do our part to heal these divisions. And this I know for certain: we – all of us – absolutely must to speak up, loud and clear, when we hear people using language that divides us and when we witness acts that are either overtly or covertly racist. We have to let people know that as stereotypes are perpetuated, they pave the way for intolerance. Intolerance leads to hatred, and hatred – especially when it grows in someone who’s weak-minded, gullible or mentally unstable and has easy access to a gun – can be deadly.

What are your thoughts? Email me or visit my Facebook page. We should start this conversation – and keep it going for a long time to come.

Chris

 

TURNER: King V. Burwell Decision Good News For Texas

830,000+ Texans no longer in jeopardy of losing critical tax credits

ARLINGTON, TX — Today, State Representative Chris Turner (HD 101 – Grand Prairie), who authored contingency legislation to protect more than 830,000 Texans from losing their health insurance tax credits, released the following statement in response to today’s United States Supreme Court decision in the case of King v. Burwell:

“I am glad the Supreme Court agreed that it’s clear that Congress intended for the tax credits to be available to all Americans who purchase health coverage in an exchange and are between 100 – 400 percent of the poverty level, regardless of who runs the exchange.

The impact of a different decision would have been devastating. If the Court had decided in the plaintiffs’ favor, more than 830,000 Texans would have been negatively impacted and would have faced a 300 percent increase in their premium costs. Many would not have been able to afford coverage and would have returned to the ranks of the uninsured – a category in which Texas unfortunately already leads the nation.

Despite non-stop partisan, political attacks on the Affordable Care Act, thousands in our communities and across our state have affordable health insurance coverage. Now that this decision has been made and this issue is behind us, we can move forward and get even more Texans enrolled in affordable health care plans.”

During the 84th Texas Legislative Session, Turner filed contingency legislation to address the need for a state-run health insurance exchange. House Bill 817 would have required the Health and Human Services Commission and the Department of Insurance to create a state-run exchange in the event of a judicial ruling which eliminates tax credits for Texans enrolled in the federal exchange. This bill would give the state the ability to determine which plans are eligible to participate, review rates and determine whether plans include coverage of essential health benefits.

Late in the session, Turner tried to add an amendment identical to House Bill 817 to another bill, but the amendment was defeated on a party line vote.

Based on the number of Texans receiving tax credits as of March 31, 2015, The Kaiser Family Foundation determined that 832,334 Texans would have lost tax credits totaling $205,586,498 per month/$2.5 billion per year. In addition, according to their estimates, premium costs would have increased an estimated 305 percent as a result of lost tax credits.

State Representative Chris Turner

Good to Be Home

It’s been just over a week since the legislature adjourned “Sine Die,” meaning the 84th Legislative Session is in the history books. If you saw what went on during those 140 days in the Capitol, you’d probably agree that the end could not have come soon enough.

Recently, I was asked by a local paper to describe the “theme” of the session. My response: “Do just enough to get by, but avoid as many tough issues as possible.”

Certainly, there were some accomplishments. The Legislature finally funded long-overdue Tuition Revenue Bonds for public universities, including $70 million for UT-Arlington for a science and education innovation and research building. This facility is essential as the school continues to establish itself as a leading urban research university.

If approved by the voters in November, homeowners will see an increase in their homestead exemption – from $15,000 to $25,000 a year – which will slightly ease property tax increases (but don’t expect your bill to go down).

I was grateful to get significant parts of my legislative agenda passed in what was a very challenging political environment. After three years of work to ban elected officials “double dipping” a salary and a pension at the same time, I passed a bill to end that practice. In addition, a bill I authored to protect police officers from forms of online retaliation and retribution also made it to the governor’s desk.

I’m also proud of the work my Democratic colleagues and I did to block several mean-spirited and ill-advised measures. These included efforts to further discriminate against LGBT families, repeal the Texas Dream Act, limit a woman’s access to reproductive healthcare, and terrible anti-worker and anti-consumer bills.

However, the Legislature’s inaction on the major, pressing issues that affect millions of Texans is the big story of this session, in my view. The Legislature failed to address our troubled school finance system, take any meaningful measures to expand health care access to the 17 percent of people in our state who remain uninsured, and resisted all efforts to bring even modest reforms to the predatory payday lending industry. And once again, the House passed a measure to ban the dangerous practice of texting and driving, only to see it die in the Senate.

Each of the three legislative sessions I have served in have been different. The one constant for me is that is an incredible honor each and every day to represent the people of our district in the state Capitol. It’s great to be home in District 101, and I’m looking forward to continuing to work on the issues important to the families and businesses of our district.

Turner’s Ban on “Double Dipping” Headed to Governor

Politicians will no longer be allowed to collect salary, pension simultaneously

AUSTIN – Today, State Representative Chris Turner’s (HD 101- Grand Prairie) measure to bar elected officials from collecting a salary and state pension at the same time passed the final legislative hurdle and is headed to the governor’s desk.

“Today, the House and Senate sent a strong message to the people of Texas by banning the practice of ‘double dipping’ by elected officials,” said Turner. “This is an important step toward strengthening the public’s trust and faith in both elected officials and the laws under which we serve, and I am pleased that HB 408 is headed to the governor’s desk.”

“Three years ago, I made a promise to the people of the district I represent that I would close this loophole, and today I am one step closer to fulfilling that promise,” said Turner. “This is an important ethics reform, but more is needed. I look forward to continuing my work on this important issue during future legislative sessions.”

HB 408 will prevent state elected officials from being eligible to receive state annuity payments as a result of their service as an elected official by preventing their time as an elected official from triggering retirement eligibility until they have left office.

In addition to passing the ban on “double dipping”, a Turner provision requiring elected officials to report pension and other similar sources of income was added to another measure, HB 3736. This was a needed ethics reform tied to “double dipping” and will increase transparency by elected officials and candidates.

This issue came to light when it was reported that during his final term in office, Governor Rick Perry was collecting a state pension, in addition to his salary as governor. This was discovered after Perry filed a personal financial disclosure statement with the Federal Elections Commission as a requirement of his 2012 presidential candidacy. This type of information was not required to be submitted as a part of Texas’ personal financial statements, but now will be as a result of the passage of HB 3736.

The modifications are not retroactive, nor would they impact state retirees who become eligible for retirement benefits as a result of service in a non-elected capacity and then later run for and are elected to office.

Turner: Budget Misses the Mark

Final Version of HB 1 leaves too many Texans behind

AUSTIN — Today, State Representative Chris Turner delivered the following remarks outlining his opposition to the conference committee report to HB 1, the two-year state budget:

When this budget was voted on in the House, it was a budget I was proud to vote for, I think a lot of us were proud to vote for it. Now that this budget has come back from the conference committee and is before us for a final vote, the picture I see is much, much different than what we had here two months ago.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some positive aspects of this conference committee report on the budget. On Higher Education, I’m very grateful that this budget funds our first Tuition Revenue Bonds in nearly a decade, and that the budget provides a needed formula funding increase for our universities and colleges. I know that that would not have happened were it not for our House negotiators, led by Chairman Otto.

There are other things to like in this budget — there are things we can all like. On the major issues that will shape our state in the years ahead, this budget misses the mark.

I was proud to support the House version of this budget, because it provided up to $3 billion more for our public schools. The budget that comes back to us today, comes back with only $1.5 billion more for our schools. As a result, more than one-third of our schools will remain funded at a lower level than they were in 2011.

On healthcare, the picture is not much better. Again, I was proud to support a House-version of the budget that increased Medicaid reimbursement rates for primary care physicians — it is critical that we did so. In 2000, 67 percent of physicians in Texas accepted new Medicaid clients, today it’s just 34 percent.

-MORE-
The decreasing number of physicians accepting Medicaid is often given as justification for not expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, a move that would insure one million Texans, create hundreds of thousands of jobs, and strengthen our health care system.

We can’t expand Medicaid, because Medicaid is broken, we’re told. Well, if it is broken, it is because we don’t reimburse our doctors at a sustainable rate. Even Alabama has a higher reimbursement rate than Texas. If Medicaid is broken, it’s because we broke it — and this budget does not fix it.

So what are our priorities, if it’s not investing in our schoolchildren and health care system?

It’s apparently a priority to throw $800 million at a nebulous border security plan, even though border apprehensions, a leading indicator of border security, are at the lowest level since the 1970s.

It’s apparently a priority to cut off life-saving breast and cervical cancer screenings for up to ten percent of our at-need population, simply because those folks have relied on Planned Parenthood for these vital services.

We’ve put $4 billion into tax cuts, some of which I support and some of which I did not support. But I do not see any justifiable reason to leave $6 billion in general revenue under the pay-as-you-go limit on the table and another $11 billion in the Rainy Day Fund at the end of the biennium, while we underfund our schools and compromise our health care system.

Our state budget should be the mechanism, the machinery, we use to build a bridge to the future that every Texan, young, old, urban, rural, man, and woman, is able to cross and realize a brighter future for themselves and their families when they get to the other side.

This budget, in my view, does not build that bridge, at least does not build one that is strong enough or wide enough. It leaves too many Texans behind, looking across that chasm.

For those reasons, I will be voting no on this budget.

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