News Release from the office of Senator Carlos Uresti

February 25, 2009
CONTACT: Tomas Larralde at 512.463.0119

Senator Files "Children First" Legislative Package

SAN ANTONIO, TX — Senator Carlos I. Uresti filed several bills aimed at enhancing the quality of life of Texas’ children and ensuring they are kept safe. Continuing nearly a decade of legislative efforts focused on public health and youth protection, Senator Uresti unveiled his “Children First” Legislative Agenda. The bills include reform of the State’s Child Protective Service Agency, legislation to develop a foster child bill of rights, and a bill to raise the legal age to purchase tobacco products to age 19, among others.

Senator Uresti stated that, "From protecting the health and rights of children to minimizing the damage caused to young people by tobacco products, these bills represent my ongoing commitment to improving the safety and quality of life for future generations of Texans."

SB 1052 will delineate a foster child’s bill of rights. “The state must ensure that foster children are protected and that their interests are maintained. The state must seek to prevent our future generations of foster children from suffering unnecessarily by providing them help today. This bill is my attempt to highlight our support for a vulnerable population who will be tomorrow’s leadership,” stated Senator Uresti.

The Senator has introduced SB 1050 to reform the State’s Child Protective Services system. According to Senator Uresti, “I filed legislation that will work to create an infrastructure of comprehensive child abuse prevention programs that reduce the incidence of child maltreatment in Texas, and lower the number of new cases entering the Child Protective Services system. We must combat our State's epidemic of child abuse and neglect.”

In addition, SB 1049 will remove the opportunity for underage tobacco consumption by raising the tobacco purchasing age to 19. Uresti stated, "studies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that sixty percent of teen smokers get their cigarettes from older friends and siblings. There are many high school students who are legally able to purchase tobacco products, and these students are in a position to provide tobacco products to their underage peers in school.”

"Ninety percent of all adult smokers begin smoking while they are in their teens. Studies indicate that the longer we keep teens from smoking, the fewer adult smokers we will have in the future. This bill is good public health policy, and it is an excellent health promotion tool for our youth," Uresti said. Senator Uresti noted that tobacco-related illnesses contribute to $5.83 billion dollars in Texas health care costs per year, and $1.6 billion of those costs are borne by the State's Medicaid system.

"The legislation I filed emphasizes prevention, accountability, and openness in our efforts to deal with child maltreatment, foster care safety, and threats to the health and safety of young adults. These bills will yield long-term savings in lives and dollars. “We must start now to build a better Texas for tomorrow. We must focus on our children first.” Uresti said.

Summary of the “Children First” Agenda
SB 1048 – Provides dental support for child support order
SB 1049 – Increases the age to purchase tobacco products to 19.
SB 1050 – Requires CPS to collect and release information on child fatalities from abuse.
SB 1051 – Exempt state employees who volunteer as Court Appointed Special Advocates.
SB 1052 – Foster child bill of rights.
SB 1054 – Allows for the continuation of the bed crisis stabilization unit for mental health care including children.

Carlos Uresti is the senator from State Senate District 19 representing over 750,000 residents throughout a 23 county area stretching along the U.S.-Mexico border, from San Antonio to El Paso County, including all or part of the following: Bandera, Bexar, Brewster, Culberson, Crockett, El Paso, Edwards, Hudspeth, Jeff Davis, Kinney, Loving, Maverick, Medina, Pecos, Presidio, Real, Reeves, Sutton, Terrell, Uvalde, Val Verde, Ward, and Winkler counties. Covering 55,000 square miles, the district contains 62 school districts and spans two time zones.