FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 02/07/2017
Texas House Tackles Foster Care Reform
- Weekly Legislative Update 2/6/17 -
(Austin, TX) - This past week the Legislature convened for three days and received updates from the executive and judiciary branches of the Texas government.
On Tuesday, Governor Greg Abbott took the House floor to unveil his emergency items for this session. The Governor highlighted four major issues for the State Legislature to prioritize.
There has been a call for major reform to child protective services and foster care. This interim the Legislature was made aware of many youth in the foster care system who have been neglected by Child Protective Services (CPS). Ultimately, this has led to the deaths and neglect of many of our most vulnerable. This is something that is completely unacceptable and must be handled as an emergency item. I do not plan to return to my district not having resolved this issue. The state saw the need to increase the funding of caseworkers in order to retain and expand access to the children in the foster care system. The funding was approved, but a permanent commonsense conservative fix must be found while we work on the budget for the next fiscal biennium.
The Senate has already been working to expedite foster care reform. The committee on Health & Human Services heard testimony on one proposal (Senate Bill “SB” 11) by Senator Charles Schwertner. The committee faced a long day of testimony that will ultimately shape the legislation proposed before it comes over to the House.
In addition, foster youth were invited to their State Capitol to share their testimony and their experiences within the system. They have the first-hand experience with a system that has been failing many of their peers and I thank and admire them for their perseverance. The bipartisan workgroup of House members appointed by Speaker Joe Straus also met and will be unveiling their proposals in the coming days. Governor Abbott put it best in his address, “if you do nothing else this session, cast a vote to save the life of a child.” I intend on doing just that and have filed House bills (HB) 928, 1204, 1478, and 1521 to facilitate agency communication and challenge our local CPS system to meet the tasks at hand.
Another emergency item for Governor Abbott is outlawing the practice of sanctuary cities in order to maintain safe communities in Texas. Unfortunately, many city and county officials, who have sworn to abide by our Constitution and protect and defend against enemies foreign and domestic, have declared that their communities are sanctuary cities or counties. When they make this unilateral decision, they refuse to detain and hand over people to federal authorities who have violated our immigration and criminal law. This is unacceptable and contributes to a culture of lawlessness. We are a nation of immigrants, but most important, we are a nation of laws. Strong anti-sanctuary city/county legislation will direct local officials to detain those that have broken our immigration laws and endangered the life and property of Texans.
In 1787, the state legislature created the federal government with few and defined powers. However, after decades of federal overreach and willful negligence by the state legislatures, we have an overbearing federal government. Our Constitution gives the legislatures a process to amend or change the Constitution and rein in the power of the federal government. In Article V of our Constitution the state legislatures have the power to propose and amend the Constitution. Because federal actions have adversely impacted the Texas economy and imposed policies that are inconsistent with local, Governor Abbott has identified the Article V convention as an emergency item. Last session, I worked on legislation that would have enabled the Texas Legislature to call for an Article V convention.
Our system of government requires a virtuous citizenry and more important depends upon its public servants to maintain high ethical standards. The governor has emphasized the need for ethics reform. Government can always improve on strengthening its rules on ethical conduct while increasing transparency. I plan to support commonsense legislation that will make it easier for the citizens of Texas to keep their elected officials accountable.
Last session, Chief Justice Hecht made a plea to the legislature in his State of the Judiciary address to reform how the state handles truant children. I was honored to join forces with Senator John Whitmire to pass the legislation that did just that. I may add that despite the apocalyptic claims by critics, the most recent data suggests that the decriminalization of truancy did not destroy public education. In this year’s address, Chief Justice Hecht praised these efforts, but called for reform to the mental health and fines, fees, and costs. All these issues are priorities on my legislative agenda and I look forward to unveiling my legislation to end debtor’s prisons. I have filed HB 50, HB 67, HB 76, HB 567, and HB 1125 addressing the cycle of debt created by fines and fees. I have also filed HB 562 and HB 637 in regards to meeting mental health needs in the juvenile and adult justice systems.
Contact: Saul Mendoza