Wednesday, May 31, 2017

#TXLEGE: How Straus defines "productive legislative session"....


"Perversity is in his heart,
He devises evil continually,
He sows discord."
Proverbs 6:14

In his own words, on his website:
The issues prioritized this year by the Texas House include:

Child Protection: Leading up to the start of the legislative session, a number of high-profile tragedies had exposed critical problems at Child Protective Services, which was plagued by high turnover among employees entrusted to protect children from abuse. Annual caseworker turnover hovered around 33 percent. In order to bring stability to the CPS workforce, the Legislature passed a pair of funding bills adding more than 1,400 new caseworkers. The Legislature also made a number of other reforms to CPS and foster care, such as providing additional support for relatives who take in children who’ve been removed from their homes and increasing foster care provider rates.

Mental Health: Speaker Straus has made mental health a top priority since 2015, when he created the House Select Committee on Mental Health. This year, the Legislature approved a number of reforms recommended by that committee and directed key resources toward renovating state mental health facilities, reducing waiting lists for services and establishing matching grants to support community initiatives. The Legislature also provided resources for a new jail-diversion grant program and approved the Sandra Bland Act, which will improve treatment for mental health conditions and substance abuse in county jails. “This was a banner year for improving mental health care in Texas,” Speaker Straus said.

Education: The Legislature reformed the A-F school rating system to ensure that schools are evaluated more fairly and accurately. The Legislature also approved “David’s Law” in order to reduce cyberbullying. The House led the way in addressing a sizable shortfall in TRS-Care, the health care program for retired teachers, so that former educators will not face huge increases in their premiums and deductibles. The House also kept the state’s colleges and universities strong despite a sizable budget shortfall, and the Legislature passed two key bills to combat sexual assault on college campuses.

Cybersecurity: The House made cybersecurity a top priority. House Bill 8 will improve the protection of Texans’ private data in the hands of state agencies, while House Bill 9 gives prosecutors tools to fight cybercrimes. The state budget for the next two years provides more than $100 million in funding to address critical cybersecurity and IT needs across state agencies.

Fiscal Discipline: The Legislature closed a budget shortfall and approved a budget that will keep state spending flat over the next two years, despite continued growth in the Texas population. The budget does not require higher taxes and it will leave about $11 billion in the state’s Rainy Day Fund by the end of the upcoming budget cycle.
Here's the thing: With the (partial) exception of the CPS stuff, which probably had to get done this session, nothing on this list was a priority (Note: At least in the way it was presented in the House).

As to these specific issues, here what we had to say about the House's school finance scheme and their alleged "fiscal responsibility" at the time; while we weren't able to cover it, we've also heard credible alarms raised about the 'mental health' stuff.

Bottom Line: Some of these efforts might have been worthwhile, but at best they're a...strange...collection of issues over which to define success.

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