We’re Halfway There

Thank you to Senator John Whitmire, who filed Senate Bill 1849 as the Senate companion to The Sandra Bland Act today, March 10th, 2017.

Thank you to the Austin Chronicle for naming the Sandra Bland Act, that I authored, as Bill of the Week. They wrote, “The bill represents first steps toward major criminal justice reforms that would protect all Texans from the fate of Sandra Bland.” Click here for more info.

Flush SB6
     This week, the Senate State Affairs Committee held its first public hearing on Senate Bill 6, otherwise known as “The Bathroom Bill.”Despite the hundreds of people that came out in opposition of this discriminatory bill, the Senate Committee voted 8-1 in favor of it. I do not support SB6 as it blatantly targets the transgender community. I will continue to champion the rights of those in the LGBT community rather than discriminate against them.

     Those who support SB6 are doing so under the guise of “safety” and in 2007, I passed legislation that actually did make public restrooms safer.My amendment strengthened HB 1804 that made it a state felony to record an individual in a bathroom or dressing room after a series of incidents involving criminals filming women in public restrooms and posting the content online. Bills like the Sandra Bland Actthat I filed last week will truly make the public safer, and I will continue to work to make Texas safer for everyone.

We’re Halfway There

     Today, Friday March 10th, marks the first deadline of the 85th Texas Legislature. I am authoring a variety of bills this session, from healthcare to education, which you can read more about below. I am dedicated to improving the lives of not only my constituents in District 147, but all Texans.

HB 1629: relating to the development of a quality-based outcome measure for the child health plan program and Medicaid regarding certain persons with HIV.
I have spent many years advocating for people with HIV in Texas and working hard to improve the quality and accessibility of healthcare services they receive. This bill will require HHSC to implement a quality measure in Medicaid and CHIP to improve the lives of people with HIV and AIDS in Texas.HB 2135: relating to coverage for certain services and the provision of certain information relating to postpartum depression under the medical assistance and CHIP perinatal programs.
Postpartum depression refers to moderate to severe depression a woman experiences after giving birth, and when undetected or left untreated, symptoms of postpartum depression can persist for many months or even years.  In Texas, pregnant women may be eligible for perinatal coverage through CHIP and women enrolled are covered for two postpartum doctor visits within the first 60 days of giving birth, however, mental health treatment for the mother is not covered. This bill would expand CHIP Perinatal services to include screening and treatment for postpartum depression for the 12-month period after the date the enrolled woman gives birth to the child.

Criminal Justice 
HB 1734:relating to the continuation of certain public benefits, including medical assistance, for individuals after release from confinement in a county jail.
Last session we amended the Human Resources Code to ensure that children with State health benefits do not lose those benefits when they are placed in a State run “juvenile facility.” Suspending those benefits and automatically reinstating them after release provides seamless health coverage and helps ensure successful reentry into society. This bill similarly suspends State health benefits for adults placed in county jails and would automatically reinstate health benefits for those who are charged with a crime but ultimately are not convicted. This bill will allow adults to continue receiving treatment for physical or mental illnesses that may exacerbate the hardships that led to their jailing and increase their chances for successful reentry to society. 

HB 2702:relating to interactions between law enforcement and individuals detained or arrested on suspicion of the commission of criminal offenses and the confinement or release of those individuals prior to prosecution.
Otherwise known as The Sandra Bland Act, I am introducing this bill in memory of Sandra Bland, and to address the harmful policies that ultimately led to her tragic death. The Sandra Bland Act aims to improve our criminal justice system and prevent future tragedies.The Act’s goal is to decrease racial disparities in traffic stops and searches, strengthen Texas’ Racial Discrimination law, and increase the use of personal recognizance bonds—just to name a few of the important policies in the Act. Issues regarding pretrial diversion for individuals suffering from a mental health crisis who do not need to be in jail, the constitutionality of equal protection claims, de-escalation tactics, and diversion before booking for those pulled over for non-violent offenses will all be addressed in The Sandra Bland Act. The goal is that The Sandra Bland Act, combined with a focus on building relationships between law enforcement and citizens, will be able to make Texas safer for everyone.Read more about it here.

HB 1845:relating to the availability of free prekindergarten programs in public schools.
Education is the Great Equalizer and our state must ensure that all Texas children have access to quality, affordable education from prekindergarten throughout college. This bill ensures all Texas children receive access to early childhood education by requiring school districts to offer tuition-free prekindergarten classes if the district identifies at least 15 children who are at least four-years-old.
HB 1848: relating to the repeal of the offense of homosexual conduct. 
Texas’ Penal Code still lists “homosexual conduct” as a misdemeanor crime, even though the U.S. Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional in 2003. Texas is one of only two states to keep a law against “homosexual conduct” preserved and this bill would repeal this morally reprehensible and factually inaccurate requirement. No LGBT Texan is “unacceptable.”HB 1849: relating to an offense committed against a person because of bias or prejudice on the basis of gender identity or expression. 
This bill adds gender identity or expression to the current list of attributes that allow courts to impose stiffer penalties for crimes committed due to bias under the James Byrd Hate Crimes Act. The list currently includes “race, religion, color, sex, disability, sexual preference, age, or national origin.” Like the other attributes currently listed, gender identity or expression is a universal trait with a historical basis for discrimination and violence. Expanding the hate crimes statute to include transgender people is necessary and this bill gives transgender Texans the protection they both need and deserve.

HB 2860: relating to a change of name and vital statistics information for an adult. 
Right now, the laws vary throughout Texas for name changes, making a name change difficult and sometimes simply inaccessible. Transgender individuals deserve the right to change their name to one that represents who they truly are. This bill would amend Texas’ Family Code to make it easier for a name and gender change for transgender individuals.

The song of the week is “Higher Ground” by Stevie Wonder.

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