Texas Lawmakers, Here Are the Top Priorities for Your Mad Dash to May 29

Texas legislators, each of you needs to dig deep the next couple of weeks.We feel your pain as you try to navigate hundreds of bills, overstuffed calendars and fraying nerves.But you've only got until May 29, the session's end date, to get critical work accomplished for your constituents. Keep them front of mind as you consider how to spend each of those precious days.From our perspective, you can make the most profound difference in these four areas:Child Protective Services and the foster care system: Lawmakers have advanced a number of bills that would revamp a chaotic system that puts hundreds of Texas' most vulnerable kids at risk of serious injury or death.For example, the House approved HB 4, which boosts funding for relatives who care for abused children, and HB 5, which aims to make the Department of Family and Protective Services a standalone agency.Both chambers continue to work through additional bills. Most important — and still to be resolved in budget talks — is exactly how to fund the much-needed improvements, particularly adding more quality case workers and providing raises to retain them.Mental health help for Texans: House lawmakers have approved a strong slate of upgrades designed to tackle a pervasive challenge that swamps available resources in the state.Now it's the Senate's turn to step up on this legislation: HB 10 would give the Texas Department of Insurance more power to enforce insurers' promises of parity on mental health benefits. HB 12 would improve justice system dealings with the mentally ill. HB 13 would create matching grants for mental health community partnerships.School finance reform: The House took a first step toward fixing the funding formula when it passed HB 21 last month. No cure-all by a long shot, but it's a conversation starter.The situation in the Senate is far murkier. Some reports are that its SB 2145 funding reform still has signs of life; other Capitol watchers say the legislation is going nowhere.At the least, we hope that constructive ideas from both chambers will pave the way to serious problem-solving during the interim.Funding for quality pre-K: No issue has been more maddening than this one. Given the documented evidence of these programs' positive impact, it's stunning that Gov. Greg Abbott and the Legislature seem to have let sheer stubbornness and pride get in the way.Abbott successfully pushed lawmakers last session to add $118 million in grants to improve prekindergarten education. This year, he wanted double the amount.The House and Senate response? Not a penny. That must change.Lawmakers, we suggest that amid Austin's mad May dash you approach these issues, as well as those in the list below, by putting people, not politics, first. Your constituents deserve no less.  Continue reading...

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