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EDUCATION

Public Education 

House Bill 310 – Compensatory Education Allotment for Counseling Programs

The State’s Compensatory Education Allotment program is designed to supplement basic education programs with either compensatory, intensive, and/or accelerated instruction, dependent upon specific and local needs. If a student is determined to be ‘educationally disadvantaged’ or ‘at-risk,’ the state offers these additional programs with the goal of reducing academic disparity. H.B. 310 will expand this funding to include appropriations for school guidance counseling programs.

House Bill 315 – Grants for Educational Services for Students in Residential/Treatment Facilities

House Bill 315 will require the Commissioner of Education to make grants available to assist certain districts for covering the cost of educating students with disabilities who reside in care and treatment facilities other than state schools, or who are in residential placement facilities, and whose parents or guardians do not reside in the district providing education services.

House Bill 311 – Public School Funding Formula

House Bill 311 will amend the Education Code and increase the public-school funding weight from 4.0 to 5.0 for all students who receive their educational services in a local school district. A special instructional arrangement for students with disabilities residing in state schools will be established under the rules of the State Board of Education with a funding weight of 2.8.

House Bill 136 – Amending the Mission of Public Education

Rep. Cecil Bell’s H.B. 136 (Joint Authored by Rep. Jarvis Johnson) will amend the Public Education mission in Texas to include a focus on Career and Technology Education through the addition of Objective 11. This objective will require the State Board of Education, TEA, and the commissioner to assist both public and charter schools in providing career and technology education, as well as effective workforce training opportunities available to students.

House Bill 374 – Increasing Career and Technology Education Opportunities

House Bill 374 will require the Texas Education Agency to provide information on all CTE partnership opportunities with business, industry, and professional development and learning programs (internships, industry mentorships, summer learning, after-school learning, career-based student leadership) that are available regionally. Instead of generalized classes that teach basic construction, this bill will open the door for programs tailored to the specific industries located in the community — increasing realistic CTE opportunities for students across the state of Texas as well as the incentive for partnerships between school districts and local industry.

House Bill 795 – TEA Appeals

When the Texas Education Agency places an infraction on any school districts, the school district is not allowed to submit any new information during the appeals process — even if this information corrects incorrectly reported data and could potentially change the outcome of the judgment. H.B. 795 would allow districts the right to provide information and data corrections to TEA during the appeal process to ensure fair rulings and ratings.

House Bill 141 – Public School and Charter School Resources

Rep. Harold Dutton’s H.B. 141, joint authored by Rep. Jarvis Johnson, will allow charter schools to request and potentially utilize a school district facility or a portion of a district facility, if the district has been determined to be unused or underutilized by the district.

Higher Education

House Bill 313 – University of Houston & the Permanent University Fund

House Bill 313 will amend the Education Code to allow the University of Houston to participate in the income and other benefits of the Permanent University Fund. Future appropriations from the Higher Education Fund to the University of Houston will be prohibited beginning in fiscal year 2018, and any of those appropriations will then be reallocated to other eligible institutions.

House Bill 430 – Outcomes-Based Funding for Higher Education

Representative Jarvis Johnson believes it is in the state’s highest public interest to evaluate student achievement at institutions of higher education and develop their funding policy based on that evaluation. House Bill 430 will promote post-secondary educational success based on objective indicators of relative performance. Universities would receive 500$ per baccalaureate degree earned and $1,000 per baccalaureate degree earned for at-risk students.

House Bill 1179 – The Contextualized Transcript Act

H.B. 1179 will require each general academic teaching institution to include on a college student’s transcript the average grade awarded in a class for each class attempted by the student. For classes in which a letter grade was awarded, the transcript will include the median grade received in the class will be placed immediately to the right of the student’s individual grade. This will help potential employers determine whether a high grade-point average signifies talent or merely reveals that the student had taken easy courses.

House Bill 1705 – American & Texas History Requirement

In an effort to ensure that every college student thoroughly understand United States and Texas history and their respective constitutions, Rep. Jarvis Johnson’s H.B. 1703 will require three of the six higher education American history required hours must be fulfilled by a comprehensive survey course in either American or Texas History. The remaining three hours may be satisfied by any other equivalent credit course currently offered.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

House Bill 567 – Non-Arrest for Non-Jailable Offenses

James White’s House Bill 567 was joint authored by Representative Garnet Coleman and Representative Jarvis Johnson. In honor of Sandra Bland, H.B. 567 will prohibit officers from arresting individuals for minor traffic violations and most Class C Misdemeanors, which are usually punishable only by a written ticket, thereby making traffic stops safer for both officers and drivers, and protecting the rights of all Texans.

House Bill 814 – Consent to Search

House Bill 814 would amend the Code of Criminal Procedure to prohibit the search of a vehicle for an alleged violation of a law or ordinance regulating traffic, unless the Law Enforcement  Officer has probable cause or another legal basis, written consent of the operator of the vehicle, or recorded oral consent of the operator of the vehicle.

House Bill 67 – Repealing the Driver’s Responsibility Program

James White’s House Bill 67 was joint authored by Rep. Jarvis Johnson. H.B. 67 will repeal the failed Driver Responsibility Program that punishes drivers twice for infractions and criminalizes poverty. On top of any criminal fine, drivers must currently pay additional charges to keep their license. Although the program was intended to reduce risky driving, it has actually increased the number of uninsured or unlicensed drivers. Further, during the period since its inception, fatalities from drunk driving have actually increased. The program has raised less than half of what was expected, with many violators indigent and unable to pay – thus placing increased burdens on the county courts.

House Bill 1421 – Independent Ombudsman for TDCJ

Rep. Jarvis Johnson’s H.B. 1421 will provide much needed oversight to our criminal justice system by mandating an independent ombudsman oversee the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. The ombudsman will secure the rights of those in state custody by reviewing complaints against the department, inspecting facilities to ensure they are up to standard, assisting the families of those in state custody, and reviewing systemic issues of service provision within the department. The ombudsman will submit a quarterly report, including any long-term issues that have been identified for rectification. Additionally, they will immediately report allegations of abuse or death, significant administrative failings, and breaches of duty by firms contracted to provide services on behalf of the state.

House Bill 553 – Increasing Academic and Vocational Programming Opportunities

Rep. James White’s H.B. 553, co-authored by Rep. Jarvis Johnson, will create a task force responsible for identifying opportunities for inmates to receive academic credit and industry recognition. The taskforce will bring together representatives from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Windham School District, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, Texas Workforce Commission, and public junior college to review the work and tasks assigned to inmates, and identify opportunities for incarcerated individuals to receive credit toward high-school, college, or industry-recognized certifications. This legislation will ensure we are not wasting an opportunity to allow inmates to exit prison more educated than when they first entered, and will ultimately ease their reentry into the community.

STANDARDS IN LAW ENFORCEMENT

House Bill 603 – Physical Fitness Testing for Law Enforcement Officers

House Bill 603 will require all law enforcement officers to pass a physical fitness test before being issued a license by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement. The commission will be required to adopt a physical fitness test that has standards equivalent to the physical fitness requirements currently adopted by the Texas Department of Public Safety.

House Bill 625 – Bi-Annual Psychological Examination of Police Officers

Despite intense demands on their mind and spirit, the mental health needs of law enforcement officers are often overlooked until a response is necessitated by a significant damaging event. Rather than waiting for problematic symptoms to appear, H.B. 625 will take a proactive approach to stress management and the mental health of public safety employees by requiring biannual psychological testing of law enforcement officers.


JUVENILE JUSTICE 

House Bill 314 – Juvenile Justice Department Alternative Education Program

House Bill 314 seeks to ensure that the Juvenile Justice Alternative Education Program (JJAEP) prioritizes reading at grade level and preparation for the general education development test by creating an accountability system of tracking and monitoring both student academic and behavioral success. The Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD) will be required to distribute grant funds to maintain a mechanism for tracking youth served by the diversion programs in order to determine the long-term success for diverting youth from state juvenile correctional incarceration and the adult criminal justice system.

House Bill 637 – Mental Illness in the Juvenile Justice System

Texan children with mental illnesses need targeted, professional support that is often outside the resources available within the juvenile justice system. Representative White’s H.B. 637, co-authored by Rep. Jarvis Johnson, will form a committee to investigate the presence of mental illness in the juvenile justice system, and develop methods to improve outcomes for mentally ill youth. The committee will identify the population of youth with a mental illness, and a measurable goal to reduce that number within two year and place their focus on diversion strategies for future criminal justice involvement. The committee will also develop recommendations to extend community supervision programs; improve the access of mentally ill, indigent youth to legal advice; and dismantle the harmful juvenile detention to adult prison pipeline that fails to rehabilitate youths and imposes heavy long-term costs on the state.

 House Bill 122 – “Raise the Age”

Rep. Harold Dutton Jr.’s H.B. 122, joint authored by Rep. Jarvis Johnson,  will  raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction from 17 to 18. If the Legislature approves this crucial legislation, it will remove incarcerated Texas youth from the current vulnerable position they are in, mitigate threats of expensive litigation to local counties, and finally recognize what every parent in the state of Texas already knows:  17 year olds are still children and should be treated as such.

House Bill 1949 – Juvenile Justice Alternative Education Program

In an effort to keep children in their own communities, decrease recidivism rates of juvenile offenders, and create a new alternative to incarceration, Rep. Jarvis Johnson has filed H.B. 1949. This legislation will establish pilot programs in two  public high schools, where students referred to either disciplinary or juvenile justice alternative education will instead be placed in the Junior Reserves Officer Training Corp (JROTC).

MENTAL HEALTH

House Bill 309 – Home and Community-Based Services for Severe and Persistent Mental Illness

Texas currently lacks an intermediate level of care for persons with severe and persistent mental illness. Without the appropriate level of services and support, this population can be easily destabilized and continue to cycle through the criminal justice, emergency services, and state mental hospital systems. By providing a mechanism to serve this population through the establishment of a Medicaid waiver, H.B. 309 will save state and county dollars by providing an appropriate level of service for those who commonly use more expensive services, while also allowing the state to maximize current federal funding for this population.

House Bill 562 – Mental Health in Texas Department of Criminal Justice

Many mentally ill Texans find themselves in county jails across the state. Rep. James White’s House Bill 561, coauthored by Rep. Jarvis Johnson, will create a committee that will develop a plan to address mental health needs within the criminal justice system. Bringing together expertise from both county and state agencies, local mental health committees will conduct a survey of the county jail inmate population experiencing mental illness, and establish a measurable goal to reduce that population within two years. By determining ways to identify and divert mentally ill offenders, and focus on community supervision instead of criminal incarceration, the plan will provide both more targeted services to mentally ill offenders, and improve community safety by decreasing the likelihood of recidivism. Additionally, the committee will specifically focus on mentally ill veterans, and indigent offenders with a mental illness, to ensure they receive fair and just treatment.

CHILD WELFARE

House Bill 287 – Consolidation of Abuse & Neglect Definitions

There are currently two definitions of Child Abuse/Neglect utilized in the State of Texas. Representative Johnson’s H.B. 287 will require all Department of Family and Protective Service agencies to utilize the comprehensive definition currently employed by Child Protective Services. To protect Texas’ most vulnerable children, H.B. 287 seeks to strengthen protections for children in the care of state or paid providers.

House Bill 862 – Driver’s License Fee Waiver for Homeless Youth

Drivers Licenses are a necessity for various aspects of daily life; e.g. applying for jobs and leases, enrolling to vote, and transporting ourselves around our communities. However, for many vulnerable youth, a driver’s license may seem unobtainable. Rep. Diego Bernal and Rep. Jarvis Johnson hope to extend the current waiver of driver’s license fees for youth in DFPS conservatorship to include all unaccompanied homeless youth across the state of Texas. These young people would be eligible for free drivers licenses, providing them the documentation they need to seek employment, secure housing, and better their futures.

House Bill 1703 – DFPS Court Waiver of Fines and Fees

House Bill 1703 will require that any child or young adult currently under the conservatorship of the Department of Family and Protective Services be given community service hours to satisfy any fines and costs associated with a misdemeanor offense.

House Bill 596 – Rights of PMC Children to Guardian Ad Litem

Children who have been removed from their homes and placed in Temporary Managing Conservatorship through the Department of Family and Protective Services have the right to a Guardian or Attorney Ad Litem to speak on their behalf in court. However, once the child is placed in Permanent Managing Conservatorship while in state custody until adoption or aging out of care, this right to an Ad Litem disappears. H.B. 596 will require the state to appoint an Ad Litem to continue speaking for the best interest of the child for so long as he/she remains in the care of the state.

House Bill 932 – Tracking the Foster Care to Juvenile Justice Pipeline

In an effort to better understand the pipeline from Foster Care to the Juvenile Justice system, House Bill 932 will require that the Department of Juvenile Justice complete an annual report on the number of incoming offenders who are or have ever been in conservatorship of the Department of Family and Protective Services.

ADDITIONAL LEGISLATION 

House Bill 312 – Establishment of a Disaster Recovery Fund

House Bill 312 will amend the Government Code to establish a Disaster Recovery Fund account. This additional assistance funding will be allocated in times of extraordinary burdens to state and local entities, and volunteer fire departments in areas where the Governor has declared a state of disaster. This additional funding will help relieve the fiscal burden placed on local communities during times of disaster.

House Bill 1870 – Shipping Logistics and Coordination

House Bill 870 aims to improve the efficiency of logistics in state agencies by requiring the comptroller to procure the services of a vendor to manage shipping and logistics on behalf of state agencies. In awarding the contract to manage the shipping and logistics, the comptroller must give priority to tenders from companies that employ veterans or people with disabilities.

House Bill 2193 – Candidate Filing Fees

H.B. 2193 will require all filing fees for a district office (accompanying the application for a place on a ballot) filed with the state chair during the regular filing period be remitted to the secretary of state and deposited in the state treasury for the financing of primary election expenses.

CO-AUTHORED LEGISLATION

Rep. Senfronia Thompson’s House Bill 914

Thompson’s H.B. 914 will strengthen our ability to protect Texas children by enhancing investigations to reduce abuse and neglect and ensure child safety, addressing access to appropriate treatment and placement options, improving foster care contract oversight and accountability, and strengthening adoptions.

Rep. Cindy Burkett’s House Bill 4

H.B. 4 aims to lower barriers for kinship care by proposing changes to the initial integration payment for kinship care families – those under 300 percent of the federal poverty level – into a monthly stipend that will be 50 percent of the daily basic care rate for foster care. It will also create another bracket for those between 300 and 500 percent of the federal poverty level, which will give them a one-time integration payment but not monthly support.

Rep. Diego Bernal’s House Bill 367

Recognizing the vast issue of child hunger, Bernal’s H.B. 367 will allow school district employees – including teachers, custodians, principals, etc. – to give extra unopened and unspoiled food to students, rather than throwing it all away. This bill would allow school employees to do so without liability.

Rep. Joe Moody’s House Bill 81

Joe Moody’s House Bill 81 will take a new approach to marijuana policy, by setting the maximum fine for possessing an ounce or less of cannabis at a fine not to exceed $250. Officers would be prohibited from making an arrest solely for possessing less than an ounce. It will also prohibit courts from issuing an arrest warrant over such a matter, or setting bail, except in cases where the person has refused to appear.

Rep. Briscoe Cain’s House Bill 1004 

House Bill 1004 will officially repeal a long-standing prohibition on the use of legislative video in political campaigns.  Prior to a successful lawsuit filed by Cain, it was illegal under Texas law for political candidates and legislative groups to share videos of state legislators debating legislation on the floor.

Rep. Kevin Robert’s House Bill 973

Robert’s House Bill 973 will allow public junior colleges to offer bachelor degrees in the field of applied technology, as long as the service area of the junior college has a population of  more than three million.

Rep. Charles “Doc” Anderson’s House Bill 490

Rep. Anderson’s H.B. 490 seeks to expand the accessibility of hearing aids and cochlear implants to thousands of children with hearing disabilities across the state of Texas. This legislation will require health benefit plans to provide coverage for the cost of a medically necessary hearing aid and related services and supplies for a covered individual 18 years of age or younger.

Rep. Jim Murphy’s House Bill 1059

Rep. Murphy’s H.B. 1059 would let Texas school districts reclaim (reattach) the property taxes lost to poorer districts under the “Robin Hood” finance system, what is referred to as recapture.  Currently, if a district opts not to pay the state, as the Houston Independent School District did last year, TEA can “detach” property and send the associated tax revenue to other districts. HB 1059 will allow school districts to reattach this lost property.

Rep. Scott Sanford’s House Bill 1312

Under current law inspection stations in Brazoria, Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris, Montgomery, Collin, Dallas, Denton, Ellis, Johnson, Kaufman, Parker, Rockwell, and Tarrant counties are limited to the number of inspections they can provide if they are granted a low emissions waiver. Rep. Sanford’s H.B. 1312 seeks to rectify this error by allowing the market to correct itself; allowing all inspection stations to not be hindered by unnecessary bureaucracy.

Rep. Rick Miller’s House Bill 271

Rep. Rick Miller’s H.B. 271 will allow for the utilization of  hyperbaric oxygen treatment to heal Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in the recovery process of Texas’ Veterans. This legislation will maximize the recovery process and potentially save the state millions in unemployment, incarceration, drug and alcohol treatment – as well as better the lives of the men and women who fearlessly protected ours.

Rep. Shawn Thierry’s House Bill 959

Rep. Thierry’s House Bill 959 – the Financial Elder Abuse and Exploitation Prevention Act – will   enact stiff criminal penalties for those who attempt to prey on senior citizens. It will also require financial institutions to report suspected or known financial abuse to Adult Protective Services and law enforcement.

Rep. Travis Clardy’s House Bill 796

Rep. Travis Clardy’s H.B. 796 seeks to improve the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s work-study mentorship program; by pairing eligible college students with local businesses in order to give them practical training and skills. The bill would encourage increased engagement targeting the completion of degrees or certificates by students at participating institutions, deploying a range of programs including advising or supplemental instruction.

Rep. Rafael Anchia’s House Bill 404

Rep. Anchia’s H.B. 404 seeks to ensure that Texas public school students are receiving the education they need to prepare them to enter college. It would establish higher education review teams to review public school curriculums, and make recommendations to the State Board of Education regarding their factual accuracy, alignment with current academic standards, and college readiness.

Rep. Ina Minjarez’s House Bill 132

 Rep. Minjarez’s H.B. 132 recognized the invaluable work done by family members who act as caretakers for dependent children. It seeks to ease their financial burden by assigning them as protective payees for financial assistance payments, thereby allowing them to receive supplemental financial assistance from the state.

Rep. Bohac’s House Bill 1473

Rep. Bohac’s H.B. seeks to reduce the financial burden imposed on elderly citizens by the state. It does so by exempting residents from taxation on the total appraised value of their property if they are 80 years old or older. The exemption also applies to a surviving spouse of somebody who qualified for the exemption so long as the surviving spouse is at least 55 years old, and the property in question remains their place of residence.

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