83rd Legislative Session Accomplishments
Honoring Those Who Paid the Ultimate Sacrifice
- On November 5, Texas voters will have the opportunity to approve Proposition 1, which will extend the 100 percent property tax exemption to surviving spouses of service members killed in service to country.There are thousands of Texas families whose lives have been changed forever due to the loss of a husband, a wife, a mother or a father killed defending our nation. The money saved as a result of this exemption won’t take away their sorrow, but will help support a family who now must be faced with a future without the support of their loved one.
This is a small but meaningful way we can help and thank the Texas families who have made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our nation and our freedoms.
Chris authored and passed HJR 62, placing Proposition 1 on the ballot.
- In Arlington and elsewhere, there have been instances of landlords of “all bills paid” apartment complexes failing to pay a utility bill, leaving tenants high and dry and cities faced with a potential public health crisis because renters may be displaced or suffer from heat or cold exposure as a result of no electricity or gas.
As the author of HB 1772, Chris worked closely with tenant rights groups and the City of Arlington to ensure that residents living in these types of multi-family units receive advance notification of a utility cutoff so that they may make other living arrangements. In addition, the bill requires the landlord to notify the city the property is located in, so that first responders can be prepared and better handle a potential public health and safety problem.
Improving Public Safety
- This law was a priority for the City of Grand Prairie, and since its passage, Chris’s office has heard from law enforcement officials around the state, thanking him for authoring and passing this measure.The passage of HB 1222 will improve the ability of municipal law enforcement agencies that patrol Texas lakes to make them safer by allowing citations issued on waterways to be heard in municipal court. Previously, these citations could only be heard in a Justice of the Peace court, which resulted in unnecessary delays and red tape for police departments. With a great deal of activity on both Joe Pool Lake and Lake Arlington, this law will provide local law enforcement with another tool to improve public safety on our waterways.
Protecting our Children
- HB 2539 updates Texas’ “duty to report” laws by requiring computer technicians to report instances of child pornography that they discover in the scope and practice of their work.This bill, which Chris authored and filed for a second time, represents an important step that the state can take to protect its most vulnerable citizens − our children. This measure was strongly supported by law enforcement, who believes that it will provide a new, valuable tool in their fight against child predators.
A recent incident illustrates why this measure is so important. In July, an Arlington principal was arrested on child sex charges. After the arrest, it was revealed that a campus technology manager found child pornography on the principal’s AISD issued iPad a year earlier. If Chris’s law had been in effect then, the technology manager would have been required to report the findings to law enforcement, alerting them much sooner.
Working for Veterans and Their Families
When leaving active duty, military veterans deserve the opportunity to be able to use the skills they learned in the military to help get a job as a civilian. With unemployment among veterans at an unacceptably high 9.9 percent, Chris authored the following measures to help veterans and service members obtain new jobs more quickly, using the skills and knowledge they gained while serving our county in uniform.
- HB 2028 will help service members find employment by directing the Texas Board of Plumbing to credit experience, training, or education in plumbing that a member of the armed forces, Texas National Guard or Texas State Guard obtained while in service towards requirements for a plumber’s license in the state.
- HB 2029 will help service members become licensed electricians by directing the Texas Commission of Licensing and Regulation to credit experience, training, or education in electrical work obtained by a member of the armed forces, Texas National Guard or Texas State Guard.
- HB 860 helps active duty service members or reservists obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL) by waiving the state residency requirement. The goal of this law is to help veterans and service members find jobs in the fast growing trucking industry, a sector that has more than 200,000 positions to be filled nationwide. Chris sponsored the Senate version of this bill.
Strengthening Small Businesses
- HB 2645 will help strengthen and modernize the regulations under which Texas independent review organizations, otherwise known as IROs, operate. IROs play an important role in giving patients one last appeal following denial from their insurance company for covering a medical procedure or treatment.
Improving Public Schools
- With public schools still suffering from the 2011 Legislature’s $5.4 billion in funding cuts, Chris joined his Democratic colleagues to fight for additional school funding. As a result of their efforts, per pupil formula funding was increased by $3.4 billion over the biennium and spending for our public schools was increased nearly $4 billion overall.
- Chris co-authored HB 5, which reduces the number of end-of-course exams required of high school students from five to 15. In addition to fewer tests, the new law creates a standard diploma that allows every student the opportunity to apply to a four-year university in Texas and encourages students to pursue diploma endorsements in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), business or arts and humanities.
In addition, Chris successfully added three amendments to the bill, all of which are now law.
- Chris proposed and passed an amendment to ensure that the bill would address the needs of our special education teachers and their students.
In years past, these teachers have had the burden of creating their own preparation materials for their students who take the STAAR Alternate Assessments. As a result of Chris’s amendment, the Texas Education Agency is now required to develop resources for these assessments and special education teachers can focus on their lesson plans and spend more one-on-one time with their students, rather than prepping for tests.
- Chris proposed and passed an amendment to prohibit the involvement of any person who is employed with a state assessment contractor from being on a state assessment and accountability advisory committee.For over sixty years, the Texas state textbook program has operated free from influence of contractors over elected officials or with the TEA. The addition of this important ethics measure ensures that state assessment and accountability practices are completely above reproach.
- Texas high school students who are enrolled in career and technology programs learn new and valuable skills, and upon completion, they should have something to show for their efforts.
An amendment authored and passed by Chris addresses this issue by requiring school districts to provide dual-credit college courses in their career and tech curriculum whenever possible.
This measure was modeled after the relationship between the Arlington and Mansfield ISDs and Tarrant County College, and the schools’ ability to work together to prepare career and tech students to either join the workforce or move closer to earning an associate’s degree. This amendment encourages high schools around the state to provide the opportunity for their vocational students, to apply that hard work toward earning their professional license, certification or two-year degree.
Evening the Playing Field for Charter Schools
- The Legislature passed a comprehensive charter school reform bill, SB 2, which increases the number of charters the state may grant and, provides new guidelines for revoking charters if certain requirements have not been met.
While public school teachers and administrators are required to have a college degree to teach or work in a Texas school, there was no such requirement for charter school teachers and administrators – they were simply required to have a high school diploma.
Chris believes this is unfair to both public schools and to charter school students, which is why he wrote and passed an amendment to require all charter school teachers and administrators to have a bachelor’s degree, at minimum, the same as in public schools.
Protecting Private Property
- Chris successfully added an amendment to a measure that will ensure oil and gas companies can be held liable if a person is injured, dies or if there is property damage stemming from exposure to fluid oil and gas waste. The amendment also includes a provision outlining who will be liable if the waste is transferred to another party for treatment.
Led the Fight in the House Against Anti-Women’s Health Legislation
- During the first and second-called special legislative sessions, Chris helped lead the fight in the House against the attack on women’s health care. Prior to Senator Wendy Davis’ historic filibuster, Turner, who serves as chair of the House Democratic Caucus, played an integral role in delaying House action by nearly 20 hours. http://www.dallasnews.com/news/columnists/wayne-slater/20130731-outnumbered-texas-democrats-have-flexed-their-muscle-in-special-sessions.ece]
In addition, Turner led the effort to file amendments and stand-alone legislation aimed at reducing the number of unintended pregnancies and improving women’s access to lifesaving health care.
- The first bill Chris filed during the 83rd Legislative Session sought to end the practice of “double dipping” by state officials. This issue received a great deal of national attention during the 2012 presidential campaign when it was revealed that then candidate, Rick Perry, received both a $150,000 salary and a $92,000 pension from the State of Texas. Perry took advantage of a little-known loophole in Texas law that allows officials to transfer service credit in order to be eligible for pension benefits − even while still serving in office and being paid by the state.
Although this measure did not make it to the House floor, it received a great deal of attention and cast a spotlight on this questionable practice.
Defeated Divisive Drug-Testing Measure
- Chris successfully led the fight to kill a bill which would have unfairly targeted the least fortunate in our state by requiring those applying for public assistance to go through the demeaning process of being screened for drug use prior to receiving benefits. Even though there is no data or other evidence to suggest that those receiving public benefits are more likely to abuse drugs than the general population, Republican leaders insisted on passing this unnecessary and mean-spirited bill. Chris and other Democrats successfully ran out the clock on the measure and it failed to pass the House.