Keeping Our Schools Safe / Upcoming County Affairs Hearing / BUY FLOOD INSURANCE / Virginia’s Medicaid Expansion / To Watch: PBS NewsHour Segment

Keeping Our Schools Safe

On Wednesday, Governor Abbott laid out his “School and Firearm Safety Action Plan.” The plan has 3 sections, one section being “Preventing Threats In Advance,” which calls for improving mental and behavioral health systems in our schools. It’s great to see the Governor taking action on this cause that Representative Garnet Coleman has worked his entire legislative career to advance.

The first recommendation under the section, “Preventing Threats In Advance” is to “Provide Mental Health Evaluations That Identify Students At Risk Of Harming Others And Provide Them The Help They Need.” The Governor specifically highlights how the Texas Tech Health Science Center’s Telemedicine Wellness Intervention Triage & Referral (TWITR) Project is working in the panhandle to intervene early with students who need help. Representative Garnet Coleman joint-authored HB 1878 (84R) with Representative Jodie Laubenberg (R-Parker), which made the project fiscally possible by reimbursing telemedicine services in schools through Medicaid. Additionally, the TWITR program and similar programs received additional state funding through HB 13 (85R) by Representative Four Price (R-Amarillo). This was the bill Representative Garnet Coleman was instrumental in developing during the 84th interim on the Select Committee on Mental Health, and helped it move out of the Public Health Committee during the 85th session.

The next recommendation is to “Increase Mental Health First Aid Training.” The Governor’s plan notes that, “[s]ince 2014, Texas has trained approximately 24,736 public school employees, 875 instructors, 503 university employees and 18,133 community members.” This training was first made possible because of HB 3793 (83R) authored by Representative Garnet Coleman. This training was expanded by companion bills HB 2220/SB 133 (84R), authored by Representative Garnet Coleman and Senator Charles Schwertner (R- Georgetown), which expanded Mental Health First Aid training to all school personnel. Furthermore, companion bills HB 2218/SB 674 (84R) authored by Representative Garnet Coleman and Senator Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels), aligned mental health training for both new and old teachers; and SB 1533 (85R) by Senator Jose Rodriguez (D-El Paso) which Representative Garnet Coleman joint-sponsored, expanded Mental Health First Aid training to university employees.

Moreover, Mental Health First Aid training has been so widespread because of HB 1386 (82R), which Representative Garnet Coleman passed in 2011 that made several approved forms of Mental Health and suicide training for teachers optional. In 2013, Representative Garnet Coleman and Senator Bob Deuell (R-Greenville) passed companion bills SB 460/HB 3224 (83R) that made those several approved forms of Mental Health and suicide prevention training for teachers mandatory. Without these bills, it is likely that many teachers and school personnel would not receive this vital training.

The next recommendation is to “Provide Schools with Behavioral Threat Assessment Programs.Last session Representative Garnet Coleman authored HB 3887 (85R) which would have accomplished this by training teachers, counselors, nurses, administrators, and other staff, as well as law enforcement officers and social workers who regularly interact with students, to recognize children who are going through trauma and refer them to appropriate treatment. This bill passed out of the House, but was left pending in the Senate Committee on Education. Representative Garnet Coleman will re-file this bill in the next session.

The next recommendations are to “Better Utilize and Expand On-Campus Counseling Resources,” and to “Improve Mental Health Crisis Response Infrastructure.”  Last session Representative Garnet Coleman authored HB 3853 (85R) which would have ensured that every student in Texas would have access to a behavioral health professional at school. Unfortunately, this bill was left pending in the House Committee on Public Education. Additionally, Representative Garnet Coleman and Senator Sylvia Garcia (D-Houston) almost passed companion bills SB 196/HB1847 (85R) that would have required schools districts with over 10,000 students to notify parents if their child’s school did not have the equivalent of a full-time counselor. Regrettably, the Governor vetoed this bill. 

The next recommendation is to “Expand Campus Crime Stoppers Programs.”  Crime Stoppers is an effective program that Representative Garnet Coleman helped expand in 2015 by passing HB 3067 (84R), which allows counties of over 1 million people to provide four times as much money (from $25,000 to $100,000) to the program as they had previously allowed to do so.

As in the past, Representative Garnet Coleman will continue to work on these important issues and build upon laws he has already passed. He looks forward to working with the Governor next session on improving mental and behavioral health and keeping our schools safe.

Upcoming County Affairs Hearing

The County Affairs Committee which I chair is holding a hearing in Corpus Christi next Wednesday, June 6th at 10am. Please see below for details.

County Affairs Committee Hearing

Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies
at Texas A&M University Corpus Christi
6300 Ocean Drive, Corpus Christi, TX 78412
Room Number: HRI 127

Wednesday, June 6th, at 10am

The Committee will meet to discuss the following interim charges: 
  • Examine how emergency response activities are organized, funded, and coordinated. Review the impact of natural disasters on county finances. Identify any deficiencies in authority for the most populous counties related to infrastructure planning, emergency response, and recovery. Explore ways to improve efficiencies and manage costs while protecting public safety. Additionally, study the relationship between the state, counties, non-governmental organizations, and churches in preparing for and responding to Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath, and determine if preparedness plans are adequate
  • Evaluate whether counties have the necessary ordinance-making and enforcement authority to deal with flood risk in unincorporated rural and suburban areas of Texas. Additionally, examine whether counties have adequate resources and authority to ensure that new development in unincorporated areas is not susceptible to flooding.
There will be a live stream available. More details to follow.


Hurricane season is already upon us as Tropical Storm Alberto hit the Gulf Coast last weekend. Now is the time to buy flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), if you have not already.

Furthermore, FEMA/NFIP will be holding 3 open houses this week in the Greater Houston Region.

Monday, June 4, 2018 from 3:30pm-8pm
NFIP Claims Open House La Marque
Galveston Extension Office
4102-B, Main St, Classroom 1
La Marque, TX 77568

Monday, June 4, 2018 from 2pm-8pm
NFIP Claims Open House Conroe TX
Lone Star Convention & Expo Center
9055 Airport Rd
Conroe, TX 77304

Tuesday, June 5, 2018 from 2pm-8pm
NFIP Claims Open House Cypress TX
Richard and Meg Weekley Community Center
8440 Greenhouse Rd
Cypress, TX 77433

Below is an article from the Washington Post outlining Virginia’s Medicaid expansion. In 2013, 2015, and 2017, I authored legislation that would have expanded Medicaid in Texas, similar to how Virginia just did it. If Virginia can do it, Texas can do it. 

You can read below, or click  here.

The Daily 202: Why Virginia’s Medicaid expansion is a big deal
| May 31, 2018

THE BIG IDEA: As Joe Biden put it a little differently when Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act eight years ago, Virginia’s expansion of Medicaid on Wednesday is a big dang deal. And not just because 400,000 low-income citizens will now have access to government health insurance.

It’s another nail in the coffin for efforts to repeal Obamacare and a fresh reminder of how difficult it is to scale back any entitlement once it’s created. Many Republicans, in purple and red states alike, concluded that Congress is unlikely to get rid of the law, so they’ve become less willing to take political heat for leaving billions in federal money on the table.

Years of obstruction in the commonwealth gave way because key Republicans from rural areas couldn’t bear to deny coverage for their constituents any longer, moderates wanted to cut a deal and, most of all, Democrats made massive gains in November’s off-year elections.

As President Trump steps up efforts to undermine the law, from repealing the individual mandate to watering down requirements for what needs to be covered in “association health plans,” the administration’s willingness to let states impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients has paradoxically given a rationale for Republicans to flip-flop on an issue where they had dug in their heels.

— Effective Jan. 1, Virginia will join 32 other states and the District in expanding Medicaid coverage under the ACA. There are indications that several more will soon follow.

Maine became the first state to expand Medicaid by ballot initiative last fall, but Republican Gov. Paul LePage has blocked funding for its implementation and continues to fight the will of the voters in court. But he’s term limited and deeply unpopular, and it seems more likely than not that his successor will open the door for 70,000 poor Mainers to get insurance.

Utah will vote on a referendum in November to further expand Medicaid to an additional 150,000 residents. The measure officially qualified for the ballot on Tuesday.

Enough signatures have been submitted to qualify a ballot measure in Idaho. They’re now being reviewed by elections officials to make sure they meet that state’s strict requirements.

Nebraska’s governor opposes Medicaid expansion, but there is a grass-roots campaign underway to get enough signatures to put the measure on the November ballot. Organizers say they’re on track to get what they need before the deadline.

In blue states, meanwhile, Democratic governors are taking steps to protect the expansion. Yesterday in New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy (D) signed a law creating an individual mandate for people in his state to offset the repeal of the federal mandate (which was included in the December tax bill). This will help keep insurance markets stable in the Garden State.

What to Watch

PBS NewsHour Airs New Special Report
On Policing in America

Over the weekend, PBS aired a special report on NewsHour. The first segment is called “Has Policing Gone Too Far In America?” which aired on May 26, 2018 (click here). The second segment is called “When is it necessary for police to shoot a person?” which aired on May 27, 2018 (click here).

This special segment is important because it sheds light on criminal justice reform efforts and what still needs to be done.

You can click below to watch Part 1 and Part 2.

Part 1, “Has Policing Gone Too Far In America?”


Part 2, “When is it necessary for police to shoot a person?”


Our song of the week is “Why We Tell the Story” by the Tony Award nominated show, Once On This Island.

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