State Senator Carlos I. Uresti - Texas Senate District 19 - Session Watch for April 2, 2011
San Antonio District Office
Falcon International Bank
2530 SW Military Drive
Suite 103
San Antonio, Texas 78224
210.932.2568
Toll Free 1.800.459.0119
Fax 210.932.2572
Eagle Pass District Office
Maverick County Courthouse
501 Main Street
Suite 114
Eagle Pass, Texas 78852
830.758.0294
Fax 830.758.0402
Pecos District Office
312 S. Cedar Street
Suite 100
Pecos, Texas 79772
432.447.0270
Fax 432.447.0275
Capitol Office
P.O. Box 12068
Capitol Station
Austin, Texas 78711
512.463.0119
Fax 512.463.1017
April 2, 2011 - Session Watch

Child abuse and distracted driving: two important issues to focus on in April

By Sen. Carlos Uresti

Imagine filling up Cowboys Stadium almost three times — 288,080 people. That's how many Texas children were reported for abuse or neglect last year.

After conducting their investigations, Child Protective Services confirmed almost 67,000 cases of child abuse, resulting in more than 12,000 children being removed from their homes. A total of 227 kids died at the hands of their parents or other caregivers in 2010.

While that's a decrease from 280 deaths in 2009 — which shows progress in our prevention efforts — it is still far too many for our state to sustain.

Unfortunately for at-risk kids across Texas, that progress could be halted by the state's budget crisis. Cuts are looming for a wide array of services for children — including child abuse caseworkers, Prevention and Early Intervention, the Nurse Family Partnership program, foster care rates and adoption subsidies.

With these programs in jeopardy of being underfunded, and in some cases eliminated, Child Abuse Prevention Month is more important than ever. State agencies, non-profits, service providers and child advocates must look at every turn for ways to do more with less.

Child Abuse Prevention Month, which occurs each April, is a time to reenergize ourselves and focus the public's attention on the scourge of child abuse and neglect. And since it coincides with the legislative session, it gives me a chance to educate my colleagues on the issue and urge their support for adequate funding.

Child advocates will help me do just that on Wednesday, April 6, at the state Capitol for a Go Blue! Day rally and news conference for my Blue Ribbon Task Force on child abuse awareness and prevention.

Task force members and volunteers will also join me on Saturday, April 2, for a neighborhood walk in South San Antonio, where we will hand out information on community resources for working families. On April 9, I'll be greeting parents and children at Kids Day in the Park at San Pedro Park in San Antonio.

I urge everyone to participate in local Child Abuse Prevention Month events in communities across Senate District 19. Every individual has a role to play in protecting children from harm, and now is the time to get involved.

April is also National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and this week I helped the Texas Department of Transportation launch its "Talk. Text. Crash." campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of distracted driving.

According to TxDOT, nearly one in four crashes in Texas involves a distracted driver. In 2009 alone, more than 100,000 vehicles were involved in crashes where distraction in vehicle, driver inattention or cell phone use was cited. Of those crashes, 408 were fatal.

At a Capitol rally on Wednesday, I had an opportunity to meet Jennifer Smith of Chicago, whose mother was killed by a young driver using a cell phone. Jennifer travels across the country for a group called Focus Driven to encourage laws against distracted driving.

Jennifer's story — and those of others who have lost loved ones in distracted driving accidents — gives impetus to legislation that I am co-sponsoring to end this dangerous practice, which has been compared to driving while intoxicated.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, at any given moment during daylight hours 672,000 vehicles are being driven by someone using a hand-held cell phone. I want to make sure that in Texas, those vehicles are being steered by people with both eyes on the road and both hands on the wheel.

April is a month to focus on two great causes. For more information on each, go to www.blueribbontaskforce.com and info@focusdriven.org.

Visit Senator Uresti's News page and Calendar
to keep up to date with Senate District 19.

©2011 Carlos Uresti Campaign  •  A.M. Hernandez, Treasurer  •  P.O. Box 240431  •  San Antonio, Texas  •  78224
www.carlosuresti.com

San Antonio District Office
Falcon International Bank
2530 SW Military Drive
Suite 103
San Antonio, Texas 78224
210.932.2568
Toll Free 1.800.459.0119
Fax 210.932.2572
Eagle Pass District Office
Maverick County Courthouse
501 Main Street
Suite 114
Eagle Pass, Texas 78852
830.758.0294
Fax 830.758.0402
Pecos District Office
312 S. Cedar Street
Suite 100
Pecos, Texas 79772
432.447.0270
Fax 432.447.0275
Capitol Office
P.O. Box 12068
Capitol Station
Austin, Texas 78711
512.463.0119
Fax 512.463.1017
March 25, 2011 - Session Watch

Session Watch: A Weekly Column on the 82nd Texas Legislature

By Sen. Carlos Uresti

The House Appropriations Committee finished the first phase of its work this week, and the spending plan it produced for the 2012-13 biennium should be of great concern to all Texans — regardless of their political persuasions or economic philosophies.

Austere, lean, bare bones. None of these terms goes far enough in describing the level of cuts this bill would impose on public education and fundamental health and human service programs.

The bill is based on the notion that cuts alone can close a budget deficit of $27 billion and still adequately provide for school kids, special needs children, child abuse prevention, seniors, and mentally and physically handicapped Texans who can't entirely fend for themselves.

The Foundation School Program, which provides the lion's share of state funds to public schools, is underfunded by almost $8 billion, while Medicaid would have to do with $6 billion less. Health providers under Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Plan, CHIP, would suffer an across the board 10 percent cut.

Some of these Medicaid cuts would be magnified because the state will lose federal matching funds as well.

This bill ignores the increased demand for education and health services over the next two years brought by Texas' growing population. It does not anticipate that lawmakers will come up with any additional tax revenues, and incredibly, it does not use one dime of the state's Rainy Day Fund.

The result: teacher layoffs, increased class-size ratios, school closings, fewer loans for college students, rollbacks in Child Protective Services programs, and drastic reductions in reimbursements for foster care families, nursing homes, and doctors who serve children and the elderly through Medicaid.

On Monday I attended a Capitol rally organized by the parents and caregivers of children with severe disabilities. If the proposed cuts for home health care programs are enacted, many of these children can no longer be cared for at home and fewer institutions will be able to accept them.

The stories these families have to tell are touching. Many of these kids are immobile; some are unable to communicate effectively with others; some are barely aware of their surroundings. But they all have something in common — their parents' love and commitment to keeping their families together.

Without the support of home health care providers, the future of these families is uncertain.

Sadly, many other Texas children are at great risk of death and injury because of their parents. The programs designed to protect them — the foster care system, Prevention and Early Intervention, kinship assistance, family based services, adoption subsidies, the Nurse-Family Partnership and the relative caregiver program — are all in store for debilitating cuts.

Make no mistake. Under budget reductions of this magnitude, children will suffer, along with our ability to give them a proper education.

I do not believe that's the message voters sent in the last election. Yes, they want the Legislature to spend wisely and efficiently. They want government and those who receive government services to be responsible. I support those goals as well.

But most people — whether Democrat, Republican, or independent; liberal, moderate or conservative — know we cannot move Texas forward by regarding education, sick children and infirm adults as money-wasting line items in the state budget.

Lean, not mean. That's what Texans voted for in November.

Visit Senator Uresti's News page and Calendar
to keep up to date with Senate District 19.

©2011 Carlos Uresti Campaign  •  A.M. Hernandez, Treasurer  •  P.O. Box 240431  •  San Antonio, Texas  •  78224
www.carlosuresti.com