Good -- and Not So Good -- Children's Bills on the Move

With a month left in the legislative session, it's time to focus on the bills that are moving. Here's a rundown of some of the key bills that are on the move. We encourage you to call your State Representative and Senator about the bills that are most important to you.

Threat to Future Funding for Health and Education is Up in the House TOMORROW

HB 28 by Rep. Dennis Bonnen: Tomorrow the House is voting on this bill to phase out the state's business tax without any plan to replace the funding it provides for health, education, and other priorities. The Senate already passed a similar bill, SB 17 by Sen. Nelson.

The 2018-2019 State Budget

SB 1 by Sen. Nelson and Rep. Zerwas: The budget has passed the House and Senate and now goes to a conference committee to finalize the bill for an up-or-down vote in both chambers. The bill makes progress on funding for mental health and the CPS workforce, but it still shortchanges foster care reimbursement rates, pre-k, Early Childhood Intervention, DSHS, and other areas. Additionally, the Senate version excludes funding to restore Medicaid therapy rates for children with disabilities, even as Easter Seals of East Texas announced it will no longer provide ECI services due to state cuts.

Conference committee members are listed here. Sen. Schwertner and Rep. Sarah Davis will focus on health and human services funding. Sen. Kolkhorst and Rep. Ashby will focus on education funding. Sen. Nelson, Rep. Zerwas, Speaker Straus, and Lt. Governor Patrick will be the other key decision-makers on these and other budget issues.

Good Bills on Child Health

  • HB 2466 by Rep. Sarah Davis: The House Public Health Committee approved this bill to provide more opportunities for postpartum depression screening.
  • HB 3151 by Rep. Sheffield: The House Human Services Committee approved this bill to take steps towards allowing parents to renew Medicaid/CHIP benefits for all of their kids at the same time.
  • HB 2664 by Rep. Miller: The House Human Services Committee approved this bill to improve nutrition in child care.

Good Bills on Early Childhood 

  • HB 3788 by Rep. Koop: The House Human Services Committee approved this bill to collect data on child care safety and student-teacher ratios.
  • HB 2039 by Rep. Huberty: The House Public Education Committee approved this bill to establish a teacher certification focused on early childhood through third grade.
  • Additional good bills on early childhood include the child health bills mentioned above and HB 2616 mentioned in the following section on Youth Justice.

Good Bills on Youth Justice

  • HB 2616 by Rep. Giddings: The House Public Education Committee approved this bill to reduce suspensions in early elementary school grades.
  • SB 1857 by Sen Whitmire: The Senate approved this bill to improve coordination between CPS and the juvenile justice system.
  • SB 1304 by Sen. Perry: The Senate approved this bill to improve the handling of juvenile records.
  • HB 122 by Rep. Dutton: The House approved this bill to allow 17-year-olds to go through the juvenile justice system, rather than the adult system, when they get in trouble.

Good Bills on Child Mental Health

  • HB 11 by Rep. Price: The House Public Health Committee approved this omnibus bill on student mental health.
  • HB 2904 by Rep. White: The House Human Services Committee approved this bill to help community-based providers receive information on best practices for serving kids with complex needs in their communities and diverting them from more restrictive service settings.
  • HB 1600 by Rep. Thompson: The House approved this bill to require at least one mental health screening for each child aged 12-18 enrolled in Medicaid Texas Health Steps as part of the child’s annual medical exam.
  • SB 490 by Sen. Lucio: The Senate approved this bill to require each school district to report the number of full-time school counselors providing counseling services at a campus.

A Mixed Bag on Child Protection Bills

We support the following bills:

  • SB 11 by Sen. Schwertner: The Senate approved this bill to expand community-based foster care and enact several reforms. The bill has also had a hearing in the House Human Services Committee. The House Human Services Committee has approved a similar bill, HB 6 by Rep. Frank.
  • HB 4 by Rep. Burkett: The House approved this bill to increase financial support for grandparents and other "kinship" caregivers who take in young relatives from unsafe homes. The bill has also had a hearing in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.
  • HB 7 and HB 39 by Rep. Wu: The House Human Services Committee approved these omnibus CPS bills.

We have significant concerns about the following bills:

  • SB 907 by Sen. Birdwell: The Senate approved this bill to steer more children to "cottage homes" rather than foster families. The House Human Services Committee approved a similar bill, HB 1542 by Rep. Price.
  • HB 3859 by Rep. Frank: The House State Affairs Committee approved this bill, which is intended to protect faith-based foster care providers but goes too far.
  • HB 1620 by Rep. Sanford: The House Human Services Committee approved this bill to allow parents with scant training or screening to establish their homes as "fostels" to temporarily take in children in foster care.
  • HB 205 by Rep. Keough: The House Human Services Committee approved this bill making it harder for courts to order parents to participate in family preservation services.