Our Preliminary Report on the Legislative Session and TX Kids

It’s finally here. Today is the last day of the 2023 Texas legislative session. 

As I begin to take stock of the last 140 days, I’m incredibly proud of what our staff accomplished working with our diverse partners all across the state. I’m thankful for everyone who emailed their legislators, visited the Capitol, shared their personal stories, contributed financially, and helped in other ways. It made a difference. I’m grateful to legislators and their staff for working with us to advance numerous policy reforms this session. But I’m also disappointed that state leaders fell short in so many areas, especially at a time when families are struggling and legislators had $33 billion in additional revenue available to them.

We’ll have all the details for you when we release our full report on the legislative session in a few weeks, after the deadline for the Governor to veto bills, and when we hold our June 21st discussion looking back on the session.


In the meantime, I would like to share our preliminary recap report on the session, outlining which bills passed and which did not in the areas of children’s mental health, early learning, child protection (including foster care and child abuse prevention), and maternal and child health. 


Today I would also like to share with you some of our initial reflections about what we accomplished together during the legislative session for Texas kids and families, where state leaders fell short, and what comes next.


I’m thrilled about the policy and budget wins for kids that our team and partners, including so many of you, helped legislators pass this year.

Just yesterday, in the final hours of the session, the Legislature took a major step forward for healthy moms and healthy babies by passing HB 12! The bill extends Medicaid health insurance for moms to 12 months after their pregnancy rather than removing them after just two months — a goal we’ve been pushing at the Legislature for the last three sessions. We were glad to see that the conference committee revised the recent Senate amendment in a way that should allow Texas to request fast-track approval from the federal government (through a Medicaid “State Plan Amendment” or SPA) and quickly implement the bill. 

Our advocacy helped legislators secure increased funding for Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) for infants and toddlers with disabilities and developmental delays — a $57 million increase in the initial draft of the state budget and an extra $6 million on top of that, thanks to a budget amendment in April. 

Our team also helped spearhead several successful efforts to support youth in foster care. SB 1930 will ensure youth in foster care spend more time in real homes with loving families instead of dreary, impersonal group facilities with a higher risk of abuse. SB 1379 will help youth in foster care set up bank accounts, giving them greater financial independence when they exit foster care. Our staff also worked closely with our partners and lawmakers to help secure a $65 million increase for Prevention and Early Intervention (PEI) and pass a budget rider that ensures more kids can be placed with grandparents or other “kinship care providers” instead of strangers in foster care.

In addition to helping pass bills and budget priorities, I’m proud of other tenacious work by our team this session. We helped get a number of important bills through one chamber before coming up short in the other chamber — laying the groundwork for the future on child care, children’s health coverage, diverting youth in foster care away from the juvenile justice system, and more. We also worked with legislators and their staff to improve bills — or in some cases block legislation that would have a harmful impact on kids. 

We’re grateful to our partners for taking the lead on important victories, too. For example, the Texas Women’s Healthcare Coalition, other advocates, and legislators worked successfully to nearly double funding for the state’s Family Planning Program and to pass HB 916, allowing for year-long prescriptions for contraceptives. The Legislature also took a number of steps on mental health (while leaving out a key strategy described below), including investing over $2 billion in new and existing mental health hospitals and facilities for children and adults, expanding the TCHATT telemedicine program in schools, and making other modest investments in children’s mental health.


The Legislature failed to pass legislation to reduce the state’s uninsured rate for children, the worst rate in the nation. The House passed HB 1599, which would have taken an important step forward by improving health coverage for currently eligible but uninsured children, but the Senate did not hold a hearing on the bill. It was the first time the House passed legislation like HB 1599, giving us a foundation we can build on after this session.

The Legislature did not take any significant steps to address the scale of the child care crisis facing Texas parents, kids, child care providers, and employers. However, we were encouraged to see a discussion in and around the Legislature about a new proposal for the state to make its first significant investment in ensuring that high-quality child care remains open, available, and affordable for working parents. The House budget’s “wish list” included a $2.3 billion proposal to provide bedrock child care funding, but the Legislature did not include it in the final budget bill.

While the Legislature took steps forward on mental health, as described above, it still is not providing dedicated funding to school districts to support student mental health. Providing that funding would have filled a significant gap in the Legislature’s plan, supporting children before they are in crisis and — at a time when children’s mental health challenges have become so widespread — reaching many more children. Mental health advocates urged the Legislature to create and fund a Student Mental Health Allotment to provide the funding and fill that gap, but the Legislature declined. Nonetheless, we’re encouraged that it was the first session the Allotment bill was filed. During debates on school safety legislation, there were also important conversations about the need for policymakers to work during the interim to ensure schools have the necessary resources to support student mental health.


Unfortunately, there were a number of other areas where the Legislature let down Texas kids and families. Legislators failed to accept Medicaid expansion funding — or even hold a hearing on it — to provide a health coverage option for uninsured low-wage adults. Furthermore, as the pandemic Public Health Emergency’s Medicaid rules came to an end, the Legislature did not provide the full funding that the state Health and Human Services Commission says it needs in order to process Medicaid renewals in a timely fashion and take other steps to ensure eligible children can keep their health coverage. 

The Legislature failed to increase funding for school districts to keep up with student enrollment growth and inflation, despite the shortage of teachers in many schools and other challenges. Additionally, after years of bipartisan effort to improve pre-k quality, the Legislature took a step backwards, passing HB 2729 to reduce qualifications for pre-k teachers serving in partnerships with private child care providers. Moreover, despite the Legislature directing the Texas Education Agency and other agencies to work together on a state strategic plan for bilingual education, lawmakers failed to pass any of the agency’s legislative recommendations to increase the number of certified bilingual educators and help more Emergent Bilingual students become strong readers by 3rd grade. 

The Legislature also passed other divisive and harmful bills, such as legislation to prohibit gender-affirming care for minors even when it is supported by parents and medical professionals.


So where do we go from here — besides finding time to recover and spend more time with families and friends?

Over the next few weeks, we’ll further analyze what happened this session, watch for any vetoes from the Governor before his June 18th deadline, and prepare to give you a more thorough recap in our final report on the session and at our June 21st recap event. We’ll watch for opportunities to support kids in any special sessions announced by the Governor. We’ll also quickly get to work with state agencies and partners to make sure the legislation that passed this session to support kids is properly implemented. Additionally, we’ll also closely monitor how the state handles all the new Medicaid renewals coming in for kids and others after the pandemic-era Medicaid rules expired.

We’ll also start looking ahead, especially at the unfinished business from this session. There will be opportunities for conducting more research, collaborating with local communities, building coalitions, crafting policy proposals, working with legislative leaders to identify “interim charge” issues to study before the next session, and developing our big plans for the next legislative session. 

We look forward to working with you to make the most of these opportunities to support Texas kids and families!