News Roundup: Advocacy Group Says Texas Legislators Need To Boost Spending On Child Welfare

Our daily look at Texas headlines.

By Becky FogelJanuary 17, 2019 12:27 pm

The Standard’s news roundup gives you a quick hit of interesting, sometimes irreverent, and breaking news stories from all over the state.

Advocacy groups are taking stock of the budget proposals the Texas House and Senate released this week. And one statewide nonprofit says both chambers need to up their spending on child welfare.

Stephanie Rubin, CEO of Texans Care for Children, praises lawmakers for wanting to boost state funding for public education by billions. Still, she says the Senate budget proposal is missing something crucial: $54 million the Texas Education Agency requested for a new student mental health initiative that helps address school safety concerns.

“If the goal of legislators this session is to improve student outcomes, which seems to be their priority, it’s got to be more than just funding for classrooms. We really have to think about our kids arriving at school on day one healthy – are they getting the supports they need to address their mental health and other challenges?”

The Texas House budget proposal does include funding for this program. But one item neither budget draft includes is tens of millions of dollars the Texas Health and Human Services Commission requested for early childhood intervention programs for babies and toddlers with disabilities. And Rubin points out that state budget cuts over the last eight years have already led to the closing of 18 programs.

“We’re disappointed to see that funding request by the health agency of $71 million missing from both the House and Senate side, but we’re actually optimistic given ongoing discussions, that funding will get added and that legislators will step up for the littlest Texans who need the support to be successful in school.”

The one bill Texas lawmakers are required to pass during the 2019 legislative session is a state budget.

If the U.S. oil-and-gas boom continues as projected, it will spell disaster for the planet. That’s the conclusion from a new report by a coalition of environmental groups.

The analysis finds that continued growth in U.S. fossil-fuel extraction – much of it here in Texas – would derail global efforts to curb greenhouse-gas emissions. Kelly Trout is with Oil Change International and the lead author of the report. She spoke with KUT News about its findings.

“Our analysis shows that if unchecked, this drilling expansion could unleash as much carbon pollution as the lifetime emissions of nearly 1,000 coal plants between now and 2050. This would equate to the biggest burst of new carbon emissions in the world over the next three decades, which is when we need to be decarbonizing to avoid runaway climate disaster,” Trout said.

Trout says U.S. political leaders need to start working to keep oil and gas in the ground while also encouraging a transition to renewables.

Former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke has embarked on a road trip amid calls he should run for President in 2020. The El Paso Democrat chronicled the first leg of the journey, including a stop at a community college in New Mexico, in a post on the website “Medium.”

O’Rourke had described himself as feeling stuck after the 2018 election, and “in and out of a funk.” He narrowly lost a U.S. Senate seat in Texas to incumbent Republican Ted Cruz. O’Rourke’s last day in Congress was Jan. 2.

Another Texas Democrat has already launched his bid for president.

Former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro made the long-anticipated announcement on Jan. 12 in San Antonio, and has already hit the campaign trail with stops in Puerto Rico and New Hampshire.