Happy New Year! I hope you had a wonderful time with family and friends and enjoyed a safe holiday season.
The new year is cause for celebration, but it is also time to reflect on past achievements and develop our commitments for 2018. I have a number of New Year's resolutions for our state:
1. Ensure all kids in Texas are healthy.
In 2018, we must continue our efforts to pass a long term funding solution for the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which Congress let the expire in September. CHIP covers more than 400,000 low income Texas kids and expecting mothers. Fortunately, after requests from Texas officials the federal agency used its reserves to fund CHIP nationwide. In Texas, that funding will last through the month of February, meaning we must find a long term solution before the program fully expires. No child or expectant mother should find themselves unable to access health care. I will work to make sure all Texas families can be healthy.
2. Ensure foster kids thrive and prevent abuse.
I will also be closely watching and guiding the implementation of legislation to fix our foster care system. I am hopeful that the changes made in the 85th Legislative Session will give foster kids the best chance at life and will help prevent abuse before it begins. Already we have seen that the raises for caseworkers have decreased turnover, meaning that cases are less likely to slip between the cracks. Additionally, prevention and early intervention efforts are ramping up and in the coming year we will see a new program to help families with newborn babies in San Antonio.
3. Ensure Texas kids are well-educated.
In order to have well-educated Texans and compete in our global economy, we must focus on our public schools. I am heartened by the Legislature's efforts to consider equity and funding for our public schools and I hope that these conversations in 2018 lead to an improved system for all kids. As these conversations continue, I will keep the needs of both rural and urban schools in mind to make sure that we find the right balance in state policies and funding.
The state of Texas faced many challenges in 2017, including a tense Legislative Session, Hurricane Harvey, a senseless church attack, and the expiration of CHIP funding. I have been inspired by the responses to these challenges and I know that together, we can overcome them by entering 2018 with a focus on what is important - our children, elderly, veterans and economic future. I look forward to leading the charge for District 19 and to a greater Texas in 2018.