As the 88th regular Texas Legislative Session closed May 29, or "sine die," Buckner International has a lot to be proud of and thankful for.
In a particularly divisive and historically significant session - including the dismissal of a house member, the impeachment of the Texas attorney general, and several controversial bills, some of which have already resulted in the governor calling for one or more additional “special legislative sessions” - Buckner established itself as an expert and trusted resource to legislators on issues regarding children, families and seniors.
Pictured below from left: Andrea Sparks, director of government relations for Buckner International, Representative Jacey Jetton and Larissa Plunto, Buckner major gifts officer.
Buckner staff testified in 12 legislative hearings, provided written testimony in several others, and registered support for over 30 bills that help bring the Kingdom closer to those we serve. Notably, Buckner successfully advocated for increases in child and family services, which were ultimately approved and consolidated into a new Thriving Texas Families Program that includes $105 million dollars for grants to community and faith-based service providers ($65 million in prevention and early intervention funding and $40 million in alternatives to abortion funding).
Buckner will be able to apply for these grants and expand and enhance the work we do across Texas. In the past few days, we were able to thank Senator Lois Kolkhorst and Representative Jacey Jetton for their leadership in securing those dollars in the budget and also record-setting levels of funding for foster care, for expanded mental health services, and for support for kinship care.
Pictured at left: Andrea Sparks with Senator Lois Kolkhorst.
On the senior living side, working closely with LeadingAge Texas, we achieved similar funding successes, including an increase to the Medicaid rate for nursing homes.
In addition to the funding priorities mentioned above, there were policy wins as well. Although not all of our priority bills made it to the finish line, below are several that did and will make a real difference for those we serve:
- Senate Bill 25 by Senator Lois Kolkhorst and Rep. Stephanie Klick shores up the nursing workforce, including in senior living programs, by increasing loan repayment, grant and scholarship programs.
- Senate Bill 26 by Senator Lois Kolkhorst and Rep. Jacey Jetton creates a grant program for nonprofit mental health services, improves processes related to in-patient care, and enhances performance and financial audits of local behavioral and mental health authorities.
- Senate Bill 593 by Senator Kevin Sparks and Rep. James Frank will improve minimum standards for foster families and relative caregivers to incentivize quality and loving homes without creating ineffective regulatory burdens that discourage caring for children.
- Senate Bill 1379 by Senator Tan Parker and Rep. John Lujan will help youth in foster care achieve financial literacy and stability by empowering them to open bank accounts before they leave care.
- Senate Bill 1849 by Senator Lois Kolkhorst and Rep. Candy Noble will protect children, families and seniors by creating an interagency database that combines the do-not-hire databases from various agencies so service providers like Buckner can make more informed hiring decisions.
- Senate Bill 1930 by Senator Lois Kolkhorst and Rep. Harold Dutton will enhance protections for children placed in residential treatment centers.
- House Bill 12 by Rep. Toni Rose and Senator Lois Kolkhorst will extend Medicaid benefits to mothers to 12 months after birth.
- House Bill 793 by Rep. Candy Noble and Senator Angela Paxton will empower parents in child protective services cases to choose where they receive court-ordered services to allow for increased buy-in by families, more options, flexibility, and ultimately a larger services array available to families.
Written by Andrea Sparks, director of government relations for Buckner International.