State Representative Chris Turner

Busy Week

Last week was pretty eventful.

On Wednesday, committee assignments were announced and I’m pretty happy about where I landed. This session, I will serve on three committees — Higher Education, Ways and Means, and General Investigating and Ethics.

meet2010aWith tens of thousands of students at the University of Texas at Arlington and Tarrant County College, and many at private and technical colleges, having a strong voice on the Higher Education Committee is essential for our county. As a member of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, I hope to have the opportunity to play a role in fixing our school finance system and ensuring that we keep the critical funding needs of our state in mind, while addressing our tax system. I appreciate Speaker Straus naming me to these panels.

On Saturday I hosted town hall meetings in Arlington and Grand Prairie, where I had the chance to talk about some of the issues the Legislature will likely address this session. Most importantly, I had the opportunity to hear about what matters to our community. Based on what people said, it’s pretty evident that the focus should be on the issues that impact most Texas families — improving transportation, supporting public education and protecting taxpayers by cleaning up abuses in state contracting.

If you couldn’t make it on Saturday, but want to share your opinion or have a question about an issue, call us any time. My Capitol staff is available at 512-463-0574.

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One more reminder that space is filling up fast for Texas 101 Day at the Capitol, just over a week away on Wednesday, February 18. There’s about 10 seats left on the bus and we don’t want you to miss out. If you plan to attend, please call Tammy at 817-459-2800 or email chris.turner@house.state.tx.us today.

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If you are in need of coverage or want to switch your health insurance plan, open enrollment through healthcare.gov ends this Sunday, February 15. If you need help navigating the system or just have question, call 2-1-1 or our office and we can help.

Keeping Kids Safe

Nothing is more important than keeping kids safe. So when I learned that young children are 75 percent less likely to die or sustain serious injury in a rear-facing car seat, I filed a bill that would require just that — keep kids rear-facing until two.

Last Friday, NBC 5 spoke to a couple of North Texas moms about the measure. Watch the video clip here:

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This is a common-sense measure that will improve the safety of Texas kids, and I’ll be working in the months ahead to pass it into law.

You’ve probably also heard that last week, when Muslim Texans visited their Capitol, a member of the House of Representatives chose to greet them with hatred and bigotry. As a representative with a very diverse district, who regularly visits local mosques and has developed friendships with many Muslim leaders in our community, I am appalled by her actions.

The Capitol belongs to all the people of this state, not a select few. Texans from all walks of life should feel welcomed when they enter the doors, not shunned because of the color of their skin or their religious faith.

With that said, if you are ever in Austin, please come by and visit. Our door is always open.

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To all who observe, I want to wish a joyous Lunar New Year. There are several events happening in our community to celebrate, including one this week at Asia Times Square in Grand Prairie. They are hosting the 8th annual Lunar New Year Festival, the largest celebration in North Texas!

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Don’t forget — I am holding two Town Hall meetings this Saturday, February 7. The first will be at 10:00 am at the Arlington Municipal Airport and the other at 2:00 pm at the Grand Prairie Municipal Airport. Come by to discuss the issues important to you and your family, including public education, healthcare, transportation, criminal justice, and the economy. For more details, click here or call 817-459-2800.

There’s only a few seats left on the bus for Texas 101 Day at the Capitol. If you plan to join us on February 18th, please RSVP by calling 817-459-2800 or Link.

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We Need a State Exchange

Last week, I filed two measures to create a state-based health insurance exchange, which would make it easier for Texans to sign up for coverage and ensure that the health insurance plans meet state requirements. Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, it would protect Texans if the United States Supreme Court decides that federal tax credits are not available to people in states which do not have their own exchange. If these tax credits disappear, hundreds of thousands of Texans will see a significant tax increase and may no longer be able to afford coverage.

To read more about the bills click here.

On the topic of the health insurance exchange, there’s only a couple weeks left to find or switch coverage during the current open enrollment period. Visit www.healthcare.gov by February 15 to enroll or switch. If you have any questions about how it works or need help navigating the system, call 2-1-1 or my office at 817-459-2800.

Of course, even with the success of the federal exchange, there will still be more than one million Texas adults without access to affordable coverage. It’s time for Texas to join the 28 states that have expanded coverage and for our state’s leaders to listen to the business community, counties, cities, hospitals, and close the coverage gap.

Chris

Town Halls:

On Saturday, February 7, I will host two town hall meetings, one at the Arlington Municipal Airport at 10:00am and the other at the Grand Prairie Municipal Airport at 2:00pm. Come by to discuss the issues important to you and your family, including public education, healthcare, transportation, criminal justice, and the economy. For more details, click here or call 817-459-2800.

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It’s time to board the bus and head to Austin for Texas 101 Day at the Capitol. Those who attend will enjoy a day in Austin, be recognized from the House floor, take a tour of the Capitol and meet other legislators and special guests. There is no cost to attend and food and beverages will be provided. However, it’s first-come, first-serve, so don’t lose your spot on the bus — click here or email chris.turner@house.state.tx.us to sign up today!!

Turner Files Bills To Create Texas Health Insurance Exchange

Will help ensure health insurance coverage remains affordable for hundreds of thousands of Texans; Prevent possible tax increase.

AUSTIN — On Wednesday, State Representative Chris Turner (HD 101- Grand Prairie) filed two bills, HB 818 and HB 817, both creating a state health benefit exchange.

HB 818 would require the Health and Human Services Commission and the Texas Department of Insurance to create a state-based health benefit exchange, commonly known as a health insurance marketplace. The exchange would offer health insurance plans to Texans seeking coverage and 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.

HB 817 would require the creation of a state health insurance exchange in the event the United States Supreme Court determines that tax subsidies may no longer be offered to those who purchase plans through the federal Health Insurance Marketplace. During the first year of implementation, 84 percent of the 733,757 Texans who purchased plans through the Health Insurance Marketplace received tax credits to offset the cost of their health plan premiums.

“Although the Federal Health Insurance Marketplace has been successful in our state, with over 730,000 enrolled in health insurance plans during the first year alone, providing a state-based program would help ensure that Texans receive plans tailored to their healthcare needs,” said Turner.

“Both measures would protect hundreds of thousands of Texans from a tax increase if the Supreme Court decides that those buying coverage through the federal exchange would be ineligible for subsidies.”

Upon implementation, Texas would join 13 states and Washington, D.C. with a fully state-run marketplace. In addition to the states with their own marketplace, three states have a state-run exchange using the federal website and another seven have partnered with the federal government to conduct plan management and consumer assistance. Texas is one of only 19 states where those seeking insurance coverage outside of the private market must fully rely on the federally-facilitated marketplace.

In July 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that federal subsidies should only be made available to those who purchase insurance through a state-run exchange. In November 2014, the United States Supreme Court agreed to hear the case addressing this issue. A Supreme Court decision is expected this summer.

Time to Get to Work

It’s time to get to work!

At noon today, the 84th Legislative Session convenes and I will be sworn in for my third term in the Texas House of Representatives. It’s an incredible honor to be the voice for House District 101 and to represent Arlington and Grand Prairie in Austin.

The beginning of each session brings with it the promise that elected officials will work together in good faith to address our state’s priorities for the next 140 days. The 150 members of the House come from all over the state, and our viewpoints can be as varied as the Texas weather — but we all love our state and want to do what’s best for its people.

If the Legislature and state leaders put partisan politics aside and do what is best for Texas, I know we can work together and get results. Of course, there’s no escaping the reality — there will be a lot of tough issues to confront this session and many strong and passionate voices on all sides of any given issue.

As the representative for District 101, I have heard loud and clear what people in our community want the Legislature to address:

  • fully funding our public schools, improving access to affordable health care,
  • providing more local transportation options,
  • curbing the outrageous interest rates and fees charged by payday and auto-title lenders, and
  • bringing new businesses and good paying jobs to our neighborhoods.

Those are some of the key priorities I hear about in our district often — priorities my staff and I work on year-round, and that I will continue to work on during the legislative session and beyond. I look forward to doing so side-by-side with you and hearing feedback from members of our community as the session gets underway.

I’ve already filed a number of bills and there will be more to come. If you would like to learn more about the measures I have filed, or if there’s a law you think should be changed, please let me know. You can email me at any time at chris.turner@house.state.tx.us.

Thanks for your support and continued friendship. I look forward to continuing to work together to fight for the issues that matter to our community.

Turner Pre-files Double Dipping ban and other measures

Turner Pre-Files Five Bills: Measures Focus On Double Dipping, Dram Shop Laws, Consumer Protection, Non-Discrimination & Veterans

AUSTIN – On Monday, State Representative Chris Turner (HD 101- Grand Prairie) pre-filed five pieces of legislation in advance of the 84th Legislative Session. The measures target a wide range of issues, including instituting a ban on “double dipping,” ensuring bars carry liability insurance, providing additional aid to veterans in need, cracking down on unsolicited calls by high-interest lenders, and protecting Texans from discrimination based on sexual orientation.

“The first bills I filed address issues impacting the people of my district and our state,” said Turner. “The ban on double dipping and the requirement for bar owners to have liability insurance gained traction last session and I look forward to continuing to work with concerned citizens and stakeholders to get these and other measures passed and signed into law.”

“Legislation helping veterans and their families has been a top priority during my terms in office. It’s an honor to file HB 410, a measure that could positively impact thousands of veterans and their families who are in acute need of services, like counseling for PTSD or transportation to VA hospitals across the state,” said Turner.

“Many of my constituents are solicited by credit access businesses offering loans that seem too good to be true. In reality, these loans come with a high price tag and people often get locked into a cycle of debt that’s hard to break,” said Turner. “HB 411 would help make sure these companies aren’t targeting as many vulnerable individuals.”

“I filed HB 412, because it’s time that we end discrimination based on sexual orientation. This measure will prohibit state contractors from using sexual orientation as a reason to deny employment or to fire someone and will send a strong message that this type of discrimination will not be tolerated in our state or by our state government,” said Turner.

The Five Bills Turner Filed Include:

Ban on Double Dipping: HB 408
The first bill Turner filed, HB 408, would ban the practice of “double dipping” by state elected officials. If passed, it would bar certain officials from collecting a salary and state pension at the same time, if their retirement payments are triggered as a result of their service as an elected official. This issue received a great deal of attention during the 2012 Presidential election, when it came to light that due to a loophole in state statute, elected officials are able to use time served in office to collect both a state pension and a state salary at the same time.

Require Bars to Have Liability Insurance: HB 409
In Texas, businesses that hold alcoholic beverage permits are not required to purchase liability insurance to cover damages that might arise as a result of drunk driving or other alcohol-related incidents. As has occurred throughout the state, if a bar owner is found responsible for over-serving a customer, but is unable to pay for the resulting damages, the case oftentimes goes unresolved. Requiring bar owners to purchase liability insurance would ensure that damages will be covered and that businesses are not in danger of closure or bankruptcy.

Help to Our Veterans and their Families: HB 410
This bill would guarantee $5 million in funding for veterans services by transferring unclaimed prize money from the Texas Lottery Commission to the Permanent Fund for Veterans Assistance, which aids Texas veterans and their families by providing grants to non-profits who help with services including, counseling for PTSD and traumatic brain injury, transportation to VA medical facilities, housing assistance, and family and child counseling.

Prevent Credit Access Businesses from Soliciting by Phone: HB 411
To curb the use of short-term, high interest loans, this measure would prohibit credit access businesses from contacting new customers unsolicited via phone to offer their products. Many consumers who are solicited are lured into taking these types of loans, which ultimately lead to a long and expensive cycle they are unable to break.

Prohibit Discrimination by State Contractors: HB 412
This bill would prohibit contractors hired by state agencies from denying employment or firing an individual based on his or her sexual orientation. It would also require contractors to adopt a policy prohibiting this sort of discrimination. The measure also creates a penalty for those in non-compliance.

State Representative Chris Turner

Veterans’ Day

“This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave.” -Elmer Davis

In an ultimate display of unwavering patriotism, our nation’s veterans have made unbelievable sacrifices in order to protect the rights and liberties we cherish as Americans. It is because of their courage, their strength, their commitment, and their dedication to freedom and democracy that we have become the great country we are today.

In recognition of their service, today we thank the many brave men and women who have worn our country’s uniform. We remember our sacred obligation to all veterans and their families, and celebrate our nation’s true heroes. Their admirable contributions at home and abroad merit far more honor than we can ever bestow, nor we can ever fully repay them for their sacrifice and selflessness.

Please join me today in paying tribute those who have served our nation and fought to protect our freedom. They have truly earned our lasting respect and gratitude.

Pay Day Lenders and New Coverage Stats

There’s less than two weeks until Texas 101 Day. To get ready, this week and next, I’m sending emails that will hit on the topics we’re going to discuss in detail that day. In advance of the event, I’d really like to hear your thoughts.

The first topic: pay day and auto title lending.

In the past few months, there’s been a lot of talk about these businesses, and for good reason. They are everywhere. In parts of Arlington and Grand Prairie, I’ve seen two on the same street corner.

How prevalent are they? According to the Office of Consumer Credit Commissioner, the Texas agency with oversight over these businesses, there are close to 300 payday and auto title lenders in Tarrant County, 57 of them located in and around the district I represent.

These businesses hit the financially vulnerable harder in Texas than in any other state. In a report released last month, The Pew Charitable Trusts found that because Texas has no limit on how much a person can be charged for a loan, our state’s citizens pay a higher price than they would in any other state in the nation. They found that in Texas, to borrow $300 for a five-month period, on average, a person will be charged a 454 percent annual interest rate and it will ultimately cost the borrower $701.

Pretty shocking.

Unfortunately, despite some meaningful efforts, not much has been done by the Legislature to fully address this issue. As a result, cities are finding ways to regulate these industries by passing local ordinances limiting the amount one can borrow and where the businesses can be located.

It’s a big issue and I need your help to address it.

Now on to topic number two. I’ll keep this one brief, since it’s something I’ve emailed about often during the past few months: healthcare. On Friday, you may have seen a graphic on my Facebook page or in my Twitter feed. It just said “733,757 #Covered”. This number represents how many Texans found insurance coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace.

It’s a pretty big number, but it needs to be even bigger.

As I have mentioned in previous emails, over 1 million Texans fall into what is called the “coverage gap”. These are working, uninsured adults who make too little money to receive a subsidy for buying coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace.

Our Governor has turned away billions of our taxpayer dollars that would have provided coverage for this group. This short-sighted decision will mean lost revenue for our state and continued costs that will be spread out and paid by all Texans.

Of course, it’s not too late to close this gap and to help our neighbors get covered. It’s a team effort. Even with the tens of thousands of calls I made, and the events I hosted, I can do more and we can all do more. With the next enrollment period just six months away, I need your help. On May 17th, we’ll discuss how you can.

To wrap up, I want to hear your thoughts on these and the other acute issues impacting our community. If you live in Arlington or Grand Prairie, please join us and feel free to bring your neighbors and your friends.

Don’t forget, we are providing lunch.

So, spread the word. Let’s improve our community and help our neighbors. Join me on May 17th.

Chris

P.S. To ensure that we have enough materials and lunches, please RSVP by clicking here or by calling 817-459-2800. You may also email chris.turner@house.state.tx.us to RSVP or to share your thoughts on these or any other important issue.

Turner’s Statement on Texas Transportation Commission’s Approval of SH360 Agreement

AUSTIN — In reaction to the Texas Transportation Commission’s (TTC) approval of the SH360 project agreement, state Representative Chris Turner released the following statement:

“Today’s decision by the Texas Transportation Commission to approve the agreement is a significant milestone toward extending SH360 south. There are still a few steps left in the process, but once the project is complete, it will have an incredible impact on those who live and work in southeast Tarrant County’s fast growing communities.

“I commend the TTC and NTTA’s leadership for understanding the critical need for this project and for working together to ensure it is funded and constructed in a timely manner. Extending SH360 has been one of my top priorities since first taking office in 2009 and I look forward to seeing the continued progress and eventual completion of the project.”

In 2009 and 2010, Turner organized a stakeholders group that brought community leaders, officials from the NTTA, Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG), as well as officials from Arlington, Grand Prairie, Mansfield, and Tarrant County together in an effort to improve SH360.

The agreement requires TxDOT to loan $294 million and the NTTA to be responsible for road operations and maintenance. TxDOT will now move forward with procuring design-build contracts for the project. It is anticipated that the extension of SH360 will be completed in 2018.

TURNER: PROP 1 PASSES IN LANDSLIDE

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Surviving spouses will receive property tax exemption as a result of passage

ARLINGTON, TX — Yesterday, voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 1, which will provide a property tax exemption to the spouses of service members who have given their lives in service to our country. State Representative Chris Turner and Senator Leticia Van de Putte authored and passed the measure, HJR 62, which placed the proposition on the ballot.

“Over the last several years, Texas has been a national leader in honoring the service and sacrifice of our veterans and their families, not just with our words, but also with our deeds,” said Turner. “With the passage of Proposition 1, we are now able to provide this benefit to the very special group of Texans whose spouses have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our nation.”

Turner was inspired to author the measure after hearing Malia Fry’s story. Her husband, Marine Gunnery Sergeant John D. Fry of Lorena, lost his life in Iraq on March 8, 2006 while disarming improvised explosive devices. In addition to Malia, Sgt. Fry left behind three children, all under the age of 10 at the time of his death.

“I want to thank Representative Chris Turner and Senator Leticia Van de Putte for their leadership on this and so many issues impacting service members and their families,” said Malia Fry. “Now, widows like me will be able to better provide for our children. Words cannot describe how grateful I am to the people of our state, who through voting for this proposition not only honored the sacrifice made by the thousands who lost their lives protecting our freedom, but for the sacrifices made by those they have left behind.”

Beginning January 1, 2014, spouses of service members who gave their lives in service to our country will receive an ad valorem tax exemption on their residence or future residence. According to the Office of the Comptroller of Public Accounts, the average Texas homeowner pays about $3,170 a year in property taxes.

 

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