140-day session brings positive improvements to public education & water, but fails on Medicaid expansion
AUSTIN − As the 83rd Texas Legislature prepares to adjourn, Representative Chris Turner offered closing thoughts on the final day:
“Some good progress was made this session for Texans and their families. We were able to pass a final budget that restores the majority of public education funding that was slashed two years ago and makes a serious investment in water infrastructure for our state. We will finally use the System Benefit Fund as it was originally intended − to help low-income Texans with high electric utility bills and at the same time, eventually end the fee for good. I am also pleased that several measures I authored are headed to Governor Perry’s desk for his signature.
“Public education got a much-needed boost this session. The Arlington Independent School District and the Mansfield Independent School District both stand to gain significantly in per-student funding over the next two years. We also passed a cost-of-living adjustment increase for retired teachers, the first they have received in more than a decade. Equally important, I was proud to co-author legislation that dramatically reduces standardized testing and improves curriculum options for public school students.
“Although I was successful in passing several pieces of legislation, there were far too many critical issues the Legislature failed to address. My greatest disappointment from this session is that the Legislature failed to take any steps to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. This short-sighted decision is fiscally irresponsible and denies affordable health care to millions of uninsured Texans. Nonetheless, I will continue to advocate for increased access to affordable health care.”
Topics covered by Turner’s bills that are headed to the Governor’s desk include:
- ·Tenant protections: In Arlington and elsewhere, there have been instances of landlords of “all bills paid” apartment complexes failing to pay the utility bill, leaving tenants high and dry and cities faced with a potential public health crisis because they have citizens who are displaced or suffering from heat or cold exposure. To ensure that tenants receive notification and cities are prepared for a possible service disconnection, Turner passed HB 1772, which requires that tenants have advanced notice if gas or electric service is about to be disconnected due to non-payment by the landlord.
- Waterway safety: A priority for the City of Grand Prairie, the passage of HB 1222 will improve the ability of municipal law enforcement agencies to patrol Texas lakes to make them safer for families and allows citations issued on waterways to be heard in municipal court. With summer quickly approaching, activity at both Joe Pool Lake and Lake Arlington will increase, and this bill will provide law enforcement with another tool to improve public safety on these and other Texas lakes and rivers.
- Protecting children: Revisiting an issue of strong importance to Turner during his first term, HB 2539, updates “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 represents an important step that the state can take to protect its most vulnerable citizens − our children.
- Helping our veterans: Turner continued his work on behalf of those who have served our nation in uniform. Three measures passed and are now headed to the Governor. Two, HB 2028 and HB 2029, will help service members find employment faster when transitioning from active duty to civilian life. Another bill, HJR 62, will allow Texans to vote on a constitutional amendment, that if approved, will give a 100 percent property tax exemption to surviving spouses of service members killed in action.
This session, Turner was named chair of the House Democratic Caucus. He also served on the House Committee on Environmental Regulation and the House Committee on Insurance, and was an active member of the Veterans’ Caucus, the Tourism Caucus, and the Women’s Health Caucus.