The most important bill, and the only bill that must be passed according to the Texas Constitution each session, is the budget bill, SB1. Our state’s budget totals approximately $217 billion. We were successful in keeping state spending flat while making significant investments in critical priorities for our state.
Additionally, we prioritized Governor Greg Abbott’s statewide Pre-K initiative and placed $1.6 billion in funding to give our little Texans a head start in school. Recognizing the incredibly difficult and important job that our teachers perform, the budget also included $350 million for TRS-Care, to ensure solvency of the program for the next biennium. School districts will be evaluated using the state A-F system, which includes three domains including student achievement, school progress, and closing the gap.
In keeping with the principles of the House we were able to defund Planned Parenthood and add $12.3 million for abortion alternatives. This, coupled with $30.4 million in federal matching dollars for the Healthy Texas Women program, helped the House to meet its obligation in promoting top tier health programs for numerous Texas women and children. We were also successful in passing a partial-abortion ban and prohibited the sale of fetal tissue and organs.
In efforts to strengthen Texas families, I proudly supported Department of Family Protective Services reform, by increasing rates to foster families and providers, reducing caseloads for caseworkers, and funded preventative programs to keep families together.
Border Security/Sanctuary Cities
Border security received a boost of an additional $800 million which includes 250 new troopers to expand operations along the Texas-Mexico border, and 50-hour workweek for all Department of Public Safety (DPS) troopers statewide. The legislature also tasked the Legislative Budget Board and DPS to study available federal resources over the interim.
SB 4 strengthens State sovereignty in enforcing immigration law by creating penalties for local entities and campus police departments who adopt or enforce policy which prohibits enforcement of immigration laws.
To keep elected officials accountable for our actions, and in keeping with the Governor’s priority items, we passed multiple bills to reign in officials who abuse their office, by preventing them from drawing taxpayer funded pensions, expanding financial disclosures, and limiting the use of campaign funds.
Overall, colleges and universities were protected from substantial funding cuts. Public college accessibility was enhanced by the TEXAS Grant funding increase and additional Graduate Medical Education slots were created which helps retain doctors who are trained in Texas to stay in Texas.
Several bills addressed reforming Child Protective Services. Of which, the most notable change, a significant reduction in caseloads for protective services workers. By focusing on strengthening kinship care, prevention services, delivery of medical services, evaluations and a focus on foster care capacity, we can ensure a much better long-term outcome for our state’s most vulnerable ones.