March 10 marked the 60th day of the 88th Legislative Session and the bill filing deadline. Until May 29, bills will continue to be heard in both the House and the Senate as they make their way through the legislative process.
Texas CASA’s Champion Bill has officially been filed by Rep. John Lujan in the House and Senator Nathan Johnson in the Senate. House Bill 2794 and Senate Bill 2109 are identical and amend the Texas Family Code to allow CASA programs to use their current state funding to serve on Court-Ordered Services (COS) cases. Currently, the law limits CASA’s state funding for only cases involving children who are formally in foster care. This prevents CASA from providing critical support to children and families who need help remaining safely together outside of the foster care system. Judges can already appoint CASA volunteers to serve in this role. Both HB 2794 and SB 2109 have been heard in their respective committees and have been voted favorably out of both committees.
The Champion Bill will:
- Clarify that CASA can use state funding to serve on all cases involving children who have been abused or neglected, not just those cases where the child has been formally removed from their home, and
- Allow more judges to appoint CASA volunteers to their Court-Ordered Services cases (currently many CASA programs do not have enough private dollars to open appointments for these kinds of cases).
Right now, 31 of the 73 CASA programs are serving over 90% of the children in care in their area, so many CASA programs are ready to begin using their state funding in this stage of service. This bill will have no fiscal impact and does not require any additional funding. Additionally, this bill does not require that local programs provide volunteers on Court-Ordered Services cases. Instead, this would become an option for judges in areas with CASA programs who have additional volunteer capacity.
Be sure to check the Texas CASA Bill Tracker to stay up to date on the important legislation that Texas CASA is tracking during the 88th Legislative Session!