Sine Die, or the last day of the Texas Legislature, is May 29th. After 140 days of the legislative session, expect “out of office” auto-replies from the Hogg policy team promptly after. Here are some highlights:
- The Hogg policy team has provided oral and written testimony on over 25 bills this session, in addition to countless hours of meeting at and around the Texas Capitol with legislative offices, stakeholders, and advocates. Our step counts may be high, but energy levels are low.
- There is some good news! Several bills aligning with Hogg’s policy priorities have moved through the legislative process, including legislation that would address the behavioral health workforce, suicide prevention, and the SHARS program to fund mental health services in schools. However, initial hopes for comprehensive school-based mental health services have not yet been addressed. We are hopeful for a last minute solution to address this… fingers crossed!
- The budget, the only bill required in statute to be passed during the session, contains millions of dollars dedicated to mental health. The budget includes funding for rural health, public schools, property tax cuts, prison condition improvements, pay raises for state employees and teachers, and state parks. An amendment was added to the bill that bans the use of state funds for DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) programs in colleges and universities. More information is available in this Texas Tribune story. Conference committees on both the House and Senate side will continue to work to reconcile their respective chambers’ versions of the budget.
- Several LGBTQIA+ bills remain in play this session. LGBTQIA+ advocates have continuously and tirelessly shown up at the Capitol to have their voices heard. The Hogg Foundation signed onto a letter defending LGBTQ+ Texans, joining over 100+ signatories. Additionally, the Foundation has provided education and background on the documented detrimental mental health impact that discriminatory policies have on the LGBTQIA+ community.
- As the session draws to a close, animosity between the leaders of the House and the Senate has steadily increased due to clashing priorities. House Speaker Dade Phelan and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick attempted (and failed) to squash the beef through a shirtless Twitter war.
Whispers of a special session (or more than one!) over property tax relief and/or school vouchers echo throughout the hallways of the pink dome. The policy team is grateful that these issues are outside of their scope of practice. Nevertheless, the team remains committed to educating on the importance of mental health and well-being regardless of the outcome.