88th Legislative Session Update

The final day of the 88th Regular Legislative Session in Texas was Monday, May 29. Texas CASA tracked over 438 bills, testified before committees 11 times and registered in support of 76 bills. Texas CASA is very thankful to our local Legislative Advocacy Teams (LATs) for their support and advocacy with their local legislative offices. A considerable amount of Texas CASA’s success in this session was due to the continued support of our network’s LATs. Below is an overview of CASA’s funding for the next biennium, as well as some key legislation that passed. The Public Policy Team will provide regional training opportunities this fall with a more in-depth analysis and discussion of what these new policy changes mean for local CASA programs, as well as the children and families we serve.

Additionally, Texas CASA will update its website with a complete list of child welfare legislation enacted during the 88th legislative session after the veto period. The governor’s 20-day veto period will end on June 18. While the bills and funding discussed below have passed the legislature, we will not know until after the veto period ends whether they will officially become law.

The 88th Legislature finalized the state budget for the fiscal 2024-2025 biennium with the enactment of HB 1, the General Appropriations Act. The significant budget items affecting Texas CASA and our legislative priorities include:

  • Continued CASA funding from the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) of $31.9M for the 2024-2025 biennium.
  • Continued funding for Family Finding/Collaborative Family Engagement under the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) in the amount of $643,600 for the 2024-2025 biennium.
  • Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) funding of $115M added to SB 30, the supplemental appropriations bill, which provides a two-year fix to the VOCA shortfall.

Texas CASA worked diligently to support important child welfare legislation this session. Below is a list of bills we strongly supported that passed during the 88th Regular Legislative Session.

SB 1930 by Senator Lois Kolkhorst will ensure youth in foster care spend more time in loving homes with caring families instead of Residential Treatment Centers (RTCs). This bill is based on the recommendations of Senator Kolkhorst’s SB 1575 report from the 87th Legislative Session and it will:

  • Ensure judges proactively monitor the child’s progress in the RTC and monitor the plan to return the child quickly and successfully to a family.
  • Outline new duties for attorneys and CASA volunteers representing children placed in RTCs.
  • Ensure parents can participate in meetings about their child’s treatment in an RTC.

HB 474 by Representative Lacey Hull will codify current CASA practice by ensuring that all CASA programs have grievance policies in place and requires CASA programs to do some additional reporting to the Health and Human Services Commission each quarter. This bill was signed into law by the governor on May 23 and will go into effect September 1.

SB 1849 by Senator Lois Kolkhorst will direct the Department of Information Resources to develop the Texas Interagency Reportable Conduct Search Engine as a centralized data registry between the Texas Education Agency, the Texas Juvenile Justice Department, the Health and Human Services Commission, and the Department of Family and Protective Services. This new registry will contain the list of individuals who have been determined to have engaged in abuse, neglect, exploitation or misconduct within school, long-term care, child-care or juvenile justice settings. Additionally, this bill will require certain licensed providers that serve vulnerable populations in these settings to conduct a search using the database to determine the eligibility of an applicant seeking employment.

HB 3765 by Representative John Bucy will require the Department of Family and Protective Services to maintain and distribute a supply of luggage for use when transporting the personal belongings of children in foster care and to maintain a record of each time a trash bag is used instead of luggage.

HB 4233 by Representative Erin Zwiener will require each foster parent, prospective adoptive parent and relative or other designated caregiver who provide care for children and youth in the conservatorship of DFPS who are 10 years or older to complete a training program on runaway prevention measures and proper procedures in the event a child or youth runs away from the provider.

SB 593 by Senator Kevin Sparks will require the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) to contract an independent entity to oversee statistical and operational analysis to assess HHSC’s and DFPS’ rules, minimum standards and contract requirements that apply to child-placing agencies, residential child-care facilities including foster homes, relative caregivers and adoptive homes. The individual entity will then be required to submit a report to HHSC and DFPS regarding ways to promote transparency and to address, simplify and update licensing standards. The individual entity will also make recommendations for legislative action, including recommendations for retaining, repealing or modifying existing state laws or rules or adopting new state laws or rules, necessary to implement the entity’s recommendations. This bill was signed into law by the governor on May 19 and is effective immediately.

SB 1379 by Senator Tan Parker establishes a Foster Youth Financial Pilot to assist youth in foster care in achieving financial security and independence as they transition to independent living. The pilot will assist youth in opening savings and checking accounts.

For any questions about these or other newly passed bills from the 88th Legislative Session, please contact the Texas CASA Public Policy Team at publicpolicy@texascasa.org.