Uresti, Senate rescue package of child protection and health bills
AUSTIN — Working to save several child protection and health measures that died in the House, The Texas Senate on Wednesday approved bills by Sen. Carlos Uresti that will expand the state's newborn screening program, toughen reporting requirements on child abuse deaths and require dental insurance in child support orders.
Uresti also accepted an amendment to the newborn screenings bill that will expand the state's Children's Health Insurance Program.
"It was a good day for Texas children and their hard-working advocates," Uresti said. "I congratulate my Senate colleagues for coming to the rescue of these important programs."
The bills will now go back to the House for concurrence with the Senate amendments, then to the governor for approval.
The CHIP expansion amendment, sponsored by Sen. Kip Averitt of Waco, would increase the number of covered children by about 80,000 and allow some families to actually buy into the program.
The measure was attached to the newborn screenings bill, dubbed Greyson's Law, which requires the Department of State Health Services to expanded the state's genetic disease screening program for newborns, from 29 disorders to 49.
The measure was named for Greyson Morris, who died just before his first birthday of Krabbe disease, a degenerative disorder of the central and peripheral nervous system. Early detection could have delayed, and perhaps even prevented Greyson's death.
"Once implemented, newborn children in Texas will be tested for whole new range of genetic defects, for about the same cost of treating just one undiagnosed child," Uresti said.
The Senate also passed a bill by Uresti requiring that dental insurance be included with health insurance in child support orders.
"This simple change to the Family Code will have an enormous impact statewide," Uresti said. "From now on, dental insurance will be a fundamental health care component in court-ordered child support plans."
The Senate also saved a pair of Uresti's bills designed to combat child abuse and neglect.
One of the measures toughens reporting requirements by the Department of Family and Protective Services by mandating the public disclosure of findings and information about children who have died of abuse or neglect.
"From time to time the public is shocked by the horrific details of a child's death, but many of these cases remain in the shadows," Uresti said. "Requiring more public disclosure will promote public scrutiny of these cases, and that will lead to improved child welfare policy and practices."
Also adopted was a bill creating a statewide Blue Ribbon Task Force, which Uresti described as a frontal assault on child abuse and neglect.
It requires the governor, lieutenant governor and speaker of the House to each appoint five members to the task force, which will develop a strategic plan to combat child abuse improve child welfare. The plan could include specific statutory changes, the creation of new programs, and methods to foster cooperation among state agencies and the state and local governments.
The task force must report to the Legislature by Nov. 1, 2010.
"The idea is to put all our government resources to work on this problem," Uresti said. "It will ensure that the agencies most responsible for children get a top-to-bottom review of their policies, procedures and resources.".
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.