The 85th Texas Legislative Session began the second Tuesday in January and will adjourn today sine die. While there were many challenges this session there were also many great victories, some of which I mentioned in my newsletters. During this legislative session it was my goal to keep constituents, such as yourself, up to date on what's happening at your Texas State Capitol. I hope I was successful in doing so. I truly appreciate your support during this process. Many of you contacted me and my office regarding legislation this session and I value each one of your input and recommendations. I especially would like to thank my wonderful wife, Cheryl, and my family. If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be able to have the honor and privilege to serve you. If you have any questions or comments that you would like to share you can contact my office via this <a href="http://www.house.state.tx.us/members/member-page/?district=23" track="on" >link</a>.
2018-2019 State Budget
The Texas House gave final and overwhelming approval Saturday to a budget proposal that keeps state spending flat while making significant investments in child protection and mental health care. While with less than projected revenues collected by the state, mainly due to the decline of oil and gas prices over the last couple years, funding transfers to the Economic Stabilization and State Highway Funds, and reduction of funds going forward from the last biennium, we started with a sizable shortfall, but we are ending this session with a balanced budget.
The Legislature and Governor Greg Abbott made it a priority during this year's legislative session to improve Child Protective Services and the state's foster care system. The budget provides an additional $508 million for child protection, including $88 million in new funding for almost 600 CPS caseworkers, $85.4 million to enhance foster care provider rates and $32.5 million in additional support for family members who take in abused children, which is also known as kinship care. Another top priority for the Texas House has been mental health care. The budget provides $300 million for new construction, significant repairs and increased capacity at state mental health hospitals. It also appropriates $62.7 million to eliminate projected waiting lists for community mental health services for adults and children and $37.5 million for a new mental health jail diversion program.
The budget also appropriates $350 million to increase the contribution rate and address a projected shortfall in TRS-Care, the health care program for retired teachers. Without that funding, retired educators would have faced significant increases in their health care premiums and deductibles. In addition, the budget avoids the severe cuts to higher education that were discussed earlier in the legislative session.
The final version of Senate Bill 1 also includes:
* $75 million in education funding to offset share declines in property values in some school districts.
* An additional $71.5 million for Texas Grant scholarships, allowing the program to reach 92 percent of eligible students.
* More than $100 million to address critical cybersecurity and IT needs across state agencies.
* $160 million for deferred maintenance at state schools and hospitals.
* $90 million for critical life and safety repairs across state facilities.
* A 25 percent restoration of rates for Medicaid therapy services.
My Legislative Staff
Meet the people who helped run my office here in Austin during the 85th Legislative Session. We were honored to meet Governor Greg Abbott and have our picture taken with him. Pictured here is Wesley Starnes - Chief of Staff, Jackson Griffon - Administrative Aide, Jessica Eaton - Legislative Director, and Bianca Beronio - Legislative Intern. Not pictured is McKellar Karr - Legislative Intern. I'd also like to thank the folks who run my district office back home, Lesley Bruemmer - District Director, and Grayson Clarke - District Intern. Thank you for all that you do, I could not have done it without y'all!
Governor Meet and Greet
I was honored to spend a few moments with Governor Greg Abbott this weekend. We chatted about family, legislation, and the great folks back in District 23.