Under the strong leadership of Speaker Joe Straus, the Texas House passed a two-year, $218.2 billion budget Thursday night. Unlike the Senate’s version of the budget, the House version includes $2.5 billion from the Economic Stabilization Fund. Here are some of our accomplishments:
-The Texas Enterprise Fund was emptied to fund Child Protective Services and foster care funding, alongside a program that pays for disabled children’s physical, occupational and speech therapy services.
-Foster care funding would receive $21.5 million in the version passed last night that was previously intended to pay for Attorney General Ken Paxton’s legal services.
-The proposal to mirror the Senate Bill 6, also known as the “Bathroom Bill,” was withdrawn.
The budget still has a ways to go until it becomes law. Next up, the House and Senate will begin negotiations to finalize the budget. I am proud to work tirelessly on behalf of my constituents, and I will continue to do so throughout the rest of the 85th Legislative Session.
Breaking The Cycle
Last session, we amended the Human Resources Code to ensure that minors 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 upon release provides seamless health coverage and helps ensure successful reentry into society. This session I authored House Bill 1734 which similarly would suspend State health benefits for adults placed in county jails. This bill would automatically reinstate health benefits for those who are charged with a crime but ultimately are not convicted. However, the bill gives the commission discretion to decide if those convicted of a crime should have their benefits terminated or reinstated upon release. This will allow adults to continue receiving treatment for physical or mental illnesses that may exacerbate the hardships that led to their jailing. Providing seamless health coverage will increase their chances for successful reentry to society and avoid unduly penalizing those who are charged but are not convicted of crimes.
According to the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, several other states already do this. In those states, having Medicaid automatically reinstated at release was associated with up to a 16 percent reduction in the average number of subsequent detentions as well as enhanced community service use after jail release. Lowering the recidivism rate through this method would create a significant cost savings for the state. 34 percent of Texas inmates have a mental health need and most have substance use disorders. This means that a subset of those who are incarcerated are cycling between prison and emergency departments with limited stability and significant difficulty breaking the cycle. Inmates may receive medication for a psychological illness, only to be released without access to that same medication, which then triggers a psychological episode that may lead to jailing, where the cycle repeats itself. House Bill 1734 seek to break this cycle by maintaining a continuity of care for individuals struggling to reintegrate into society.
This week in the House Committee on Public Health, I laid out House Bill 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. I would like to thank Chair Four Price (R-Amarillo) for allowing me a hearing on this important legislation and look forward to working on it with him and the other members of the Public Health Committee.
In the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence, I laid out House Bill 1848, relating to the repeal of 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 law. No LGBT Texan is “unacceptable.” I would like to thank Chair Joe Moody (D-El Paso) for allowing me a hearing on this important legislation and look forward to working on it with him and the other members of the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee.
New University of Houston and United Health Foundation Partnership
On Wednesday April 29th, I introduced House Resolution 1164, which recognizes and honors the newly established partnership between the University of Houston and the United Health Foundation, known as the Preventing and Treating Obesity in Underserved Communities in Houston, or TOUCH.
The TOUCH partnership aims to reduce obesity and improve access to healthy foods for underserved populations in the city of Houston. The $2 million grant will assist those in the Historic Third Ward and East End communities, areas that include the center of Houston’s African-American population and home to two of Houston’s oldest Hispanic neighborhoods. The goal of the initiative is to improve the lives of nearly 5,000 residents and 3,000 families in Houston over the next three years. Read more about the initiative here.
As a Representative and resident of Houston’s Historic Third Ward, I am proud of the initiative displayed by the University of Houston and the United Health Foundation in strengthening and improving our local community. I look forward to the development of this partnership and the positive impact it will bring to our neighborhoods that have the greatest need.
Save the date: Join Houston Southeast and ARVO Realty Advisors for a unique program on how to create generational wealth through community involvement and real estate on April 15th at the The Palm Center. Click here to register or call 713-952-5066.
WHERE: The Palm Center
2330 Griggs Road Houston, TXWHEN: 8:00am-11:30am
15th Annual Disparities in Health in America: Working Toward Social Justice Summer Workshop Registration Form