AUSTIN – The Texas House adjourned sine die on Monday, wrapping up a 140-day legislative session in which the body took significant action on a number of challenges facing the state.
“The results of this session are going to make a real difference in Texans’ lives,” said House Speaker Joe Straus, San Antonio. “The House prioritized issues such as protecting children from abuse and improving mental health care, and we accomplished what we set out to accomplish.”
Speaker Straus continued, “The issue that is most important to our state’s future is education. I am glad we reformed the A-F school rating system, prevented severe cuts to higher education and saved retired teachers’ health care. I wish the House’s plan to begin fixing education finance had made it into law, but we’ll keep working on it.”
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.
Speaker Straus thanked Members of the House for their work over the last 140 days.
“Members from both parties and across the state came to Austin and got things done for their constituents,” Speaker Straus said. “Members had the chance to deliver results on the issues that really matter to their communities. The House feels very good about where we ended up, and now we look forward to returning home and visiting with our constituents about the work of this year’s session.”