We've been awfully busy at the Capitol in recent days. Here's a quick recap of key bills for Texas children.
The most important bill for children is the state budget. You'll recall that the introduced Senate budget contained much deeper cuts than the House version. Budget-writers in both chambers are now updating their proposals, and apparently considering deeper cuts! Adequate funding for key priorities, such as foster care and pre-k quality, is still in doubt. House leaders are also wisely evaluating options to free up additional revenue to avoid cuts, such as limiting the new funding carve out for roads. Stay tuned for more budget details soon -- including at Wednesday's Senate Finance hearing.
Both chambers have also filed "supplemental" budgets to finish out the current fiscal year. We're glad to see the House propose using a small portion of the state's $10 billion Rainy Day Fund to start to restore Medicaid funding for children with disabilities and make other critical investments. We're disappointed to say that the Senate, on the other hand, has shown no interest in restoring funding for children with disabilities or using the Rainy Day Fund to avoid deep cuts.
CPS bills already passed one chamber
The children's bills that are moving fastest this year are related to CPS. The Senate passed SB 11, which would implement a number of important changes and expand the community-based foster care model in which a non-profit manages the local foster care service providers. We support moving in that direction, although we're working to add additional protections to the bill. For example, we were successful working with Senators on a few amendments, including one to make it more likely that the state would select a non-profit that's already based in the local community. Meanwhile, the House passed HB 5 to make DFPS a stand-alone agency and an important bill, HB 4, to provide greater support to grandparents and other "kinship care" providers who take in young relatives.
Recent hearings on good children's bills
We recently testified for several good bills that are still in committee, including legislation to raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction, support mothers who choose to breastfeed their babies, and strengthen mental health parity protections.
This week we'll be working on several bills that have hearings scheduled. Today the House Human Services Committee is holding a hearing on legislation to establish 12-month continuous eligibility for children's Medicaid, improving efficiency in the program and helping children stay insured. On Tuesday, we will be in the House Public Education hearing to support three pre-k bills: one to limit class size, one to expand eligibility to include children of fallen first responders, and another to expand the program to full-day.
Priority bills filed
We're very excited about a few new ideas we've been working on that have now been filed as legislation. Sen. Joan Huffman and Rep. Sarah Davis filed legislation to increase access to maternal depression screening. Sen. Kirk Watson and Rep. Rick Miller filed a bipartisan bill to improve nutrition and active play standards in child care centers.
On the mental health front, Rep. Four Price introduced legislation taking a number of important steps to better equip schools to address student mental health. Sen. Lucio also filed multiple bills -- including SB 1687 and SB 1688 -- to support student mental health. Additionally, Sen. Watson and Rep. Coleman introduced helpful legislation on peer support services for families of children with mental health challenges and Rep. James White filed a bill to strengthen the support CRCGs provide children with complex challenges.
Raise your voice through our online Action Center
You can email your Senator and Representative about these and other children's issues through our Action Center. We appreciate your support for Texas kids!