Senator Nelson Seeks Reforms to Protect Vulnerable Citizens
November 19, 2010
AUSTIN -- Texas State Senator Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, today filed a package of legislation intended to reform state programs designed to protect children, seniors and Texans with disabilities.
"As we work to balance the state budget, it is critical that we live up to our responsibilities to protect our most vulnerable citizens," Senator Nelson said. "These reforms will help ensure the safety of children, seniors and Texans with disabilities.
Among Senator Nelson's pre-filed bills are the following:
Reforming Child Protective Services: SB 218 redesigns the state's foster care system to help displaced children remain in their home communities where they have access to valuable support networks. SB 219 better coordinates mental health services for abused and neglected children. "Especially at a time when we need to make every penny count, it is vital that our resources are being allocated into systems that truly support children and help them grow up to become responsible adults," Senator Nelson said.
Protecting Vulnerable Texans: SB 220 includes procedural reforms to help families navigate the guardianship system and to protect individuals and their assets while under a guardianship. Key provisions include immediate notification to guardians who are removed by a court and a longer period for them to seek reinstatement. SB 221 strengthens protections against the exploitation of seniors and ensures that law enforcement is notified if a client's home may be left vacant due to the client being removed under a protective order. SB 223 increases efficiencies in long-term care services for seniors and individuals with disabilities, and directs the Department of Aging and Disability Services to ensure that consumers are aware of their options. "I have become extremely concerned by some of the stories I am hearing involving seniors having their lives taken over by third parties, and it is time for us to re-examine the protections that should be in place to protect our graying population from exploitation," Senator Nelson said. "Our guardianship system also needs to be transparent and fair."
Healthy Lifestyles: SB 184 directs the General Land Office to create a plan to make un-leased state land available for cultivating community gardens. SB 185 expands middle school requirement for daily physical activity from four out of six semesters to all six semesters. SB 186 reinstates the half credit of PE and half credit of Health Education that were removed last session. SB 226 increases the usefulness of Fitnessgram assessment data by requiring school districts to report de-identified, individual student performance results to the Texas Education Agency. SB 224 creates an application process for schools to receive Gold, Silver and Bronze Texas Healthy Schools certification for achievements on Fitnessgram assessments and other health indicators. SB 225 increases reporting for schools and School Health Advisory Councils on their compliance with school health requirements. "Our younger generation is at risk of growing up to live shorter lives than older generations, and we have a responsibility to help reverse this trend," she said.
DWI: SB 231 requires permanent license revocation on the second drunk driving conviction. SB 232 requires, as a condition of probation, first-time DWI offenders to abstain from alcohol and wear an alcohol detection monitor for 60 days or term of probation. "We must stop these serial DWI offenders whose illegal behavior is devastating our communities with the needless loss of precious lives. Also, stronger intervention is needed for first-time drunken driving offenders. These are tough measures, but driving while intoxicated is deadly behavior and needs to be treated as such."
Texas Nursing: SB 192 strengthens protections for nurses engaged in patient advocacy activities. SB 193 allows the Board of Nursing to collect data from peer review committees to focus on reducing commonly made errors by nurses. It also clarifies that the nursing board may temporarily suspend the license of a nurse under board order not to use alcohol/drugs who tests positive or refuses to be tested. "The shortage of nurses makes it imperative to protect nurses who report safety issues and to ensure the profession has the proper support framework from the nursing board."
Stem Cell Data: SB 228 directs universities to publicly report all stem cell research projects. "During our interim study of this issue, we encountered difficulty in even attempting to inventory all of the university-supported research projects that involve stem cell research. These are publicly funded institutions, and taxpayers have the right to know how their tax dollars are being spent."
Lawmakers convene in Austin for the 82nd regular session from January 11, 2011, to May 30, 2011. To learn more about bills filed in the pre-filing period, visit www.capitol.state.tx.us.
Senator Nelson represents District 12, including parts of Denton and Tarrant counties. She serves as Chairman of the Senate Health & Human Services Committee.