That's a wrap! The 2019 Texas legislative session ends today. There were big wins for kids on pre-k funding and other issues, big disappointments on health coverage for moms and kids, and a lot of reasons that I'm beaming with pride at what our team accomplished for Texas children.
After years of working with our partners to lay the groundwork for progress on pre-k, child care, and student mental health — and after some smart maneuvering by our staff over the last few months — we saw tremendous victories in these areas this session!
In an historic move, the Legislature provided funding for full-day pre-k as part of a significant new infusion of funding into public education. Along with other important child care safety legislation, lawmakers passed the bills that our team championed to improve nutrition and active play opportunities in child care and collect the data necessary to understand how better child-caregiver ratios in child care can improve kids’ safety and school readiness. And the Legislature passed several of the proposals we crafted with our partners to ensure that more schools are effectively supporting student mental health, recognizing childhood trauma, establishing positive school climates, and preventing youth suicide. We appreciate state leaders’ great work on these issues this session.
In other areas — particularly maternal and children’s health as well as foster care — we are disappointed with the Legislature but proud of the targeted improvements our staff pushed through for kids.
State leaders put the needs of foster care children on the back burner this session and failed to address the fact that Texas has the nation’s worst uninsured rate for kids, women of childbearing age, and adults. The Texas Senate failed to take up the bill to implement the Maternal Mortality Task Force’s first recommendation after it passed the House 87-43 and failed to pass the provisions of the Children’s Health Coverage bill that the House attached to SB 1105.
Nonetheless, our staff developed and successfully worked to pass a bill to ensure that more moms have transportation to prenatal care and postpartum appointments. And we led the way in passing legislation to ensure that more teen parents in foster care receive basic parenting education to keep their kids healthy and safe and their young family together.
Additionally, legislators took modest but incomplete steps forward on other children's issues where there were high expectations and dire need, such as boosting Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) funding for toddlers with disabilities, reforming Medicaid managed care, investing $7 million in maternal health initiatives, and increasing funding for substance use treatment for parents and other Texans. Our work together with you and other Texans on ECI was particularly important in securing an additional $31 million (of the $72.6 million requested by state health officials) for this critical kids program.
Of course, we couldn't have made progress on any of these issues without you, our other partners and supporters, and the many legislators who worked hard to pass these bills.
And now — what comes next?
It's important to note that the Governor has until June 16 to veto legislation, so there's still a chance that some bills that passed the Legislature will not become law.
After the veto deadline passes, and we complete our analysis of the bills that passed, we'll publish a comprehensive recap of what happened on these issues during the legislative session.
Our staff will also discuss the session at our June 24th recap event:
In the meantime, if you want to know more about what happened this session, take a look at our list of what passed and what didn't:
Finally, it's important to note that there is great deal of unfinished business.
For healthy babies, healthy pregnancies, and healthy moms, Texas should provide 12 months of health coverage to new moms. In fact, Texas should go further and accept federal Medicaid expansion funding to cover all uninsured adults in low-wage jobs. The state should establish limits on pre-k class size and student-teacher ratios. We need to do more to ensure that all working parents — not just those with the highest incomes — have access to high-quality child care that is safe and helps children develop the social, emotional, and learning tools they will need in school. And Texas must recommit to ensuring kids in foster care are safe, healing, and thriving.
But for today we're celebrating the victories, thanking our partners and supporters, and trying to see if we can squeeze in a few hours to finally relax after a grueling session fighting side by side with you for Texas kids.