With 27 freshman lawmakers along for the ride, the 86th Texas Legislative Session began on January 8, 2019, and the regular session ended 140 days later on May 27, 2019. On May 26, 2019, Governor Abbott signed a $250.7 billion budget of for the 2019-2021 biennium. During the 86th, legislators wrestled with topics critically important to Texas children, including school finance, property taxes, child care, and early childhood education, health and human services, disaster recovery, human trafficking, the foster care system, and the juvenile justice system. However, with nearly fifty percent of children living in low-income families, there is still much to be done to ensure all children are safe, healthy and receive a quality education.
CHILDREN AT RISK tracked hundreds of bills over the course of this session and testified or supported over 80 pieces of legislation in committee hearings. Some of CHILDREN AT RISK’s priority bills dealing with early childhood education, public Pre-K, school finance, mental health, and human trafficking became law. These victories represent important steps in the right direction for Texas’ youngest citizens, but myriad other bills, especially those related to healthcare coverage for Texas children and mothers, failed to pass. The following report is a breakdown, by issue area, of this session’s successes and shortcomings with respect to Texas children.
HB 680 (Deshotel/Watson) – Improves transparency, efficiency, and accountability in early childhood education programs at the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC).
SB 568 (Huffman/Bonnen) – Enhances oversight and regulations for child care programs; sets sleep standards, establishes penalties, and creates a safety training account.
HB 3 (Huberty/Taylor) – Reforms Texas’ school finance system, increasing overall funding for early childhood and K – 12 education, while also decreasing property taxes and “recapture.”
HB 2184 (Allen/Huffman) – Improves supports for students transitioning from alternative education programs to regular classrooms.
SB 11 (Taylor/Bonnen) – Allocates funding for school safety initiatives and increases access to mental health services for students.
HB 18 (Price/Watson) – Requires trauma-informed mental health training for teachers and school personnel.
SB 670 (Buckingham/Price) – Increases access to school-based behavioral telemedicine so more districts and students receive mental health services
HB 2335 (Walle/Kolkhorst) – Requires the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) to coordinate with county judges to more rapidly deploy natural disaster benefits (D-SNAP).
SB 20 (Huffman/Thompson) – Enhances criminal penalties for “buyers” of sex, mandates community supervision for “sellers” of sex, and allows victims of trafficking or promotion of prostitution to obtain a court order of nondisclosure of criminal activities.
SB 1801 (Huffman/Hunter) – Reforms the order of nondisclosure process for sex trafficking victims, allowing survivors to more easily obtain employment and housing.
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