Senator Lucio's Letterhead

OP-ED FROM SEN. EDDIE LUCIO, JR.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, June 16, 2006
CONTACT: Doris Sanchez , Press Secretary
Phone: (512) 463-0127

Including Fathers in government services and programs

As I contemplate our celebration of Fatherís Day, I think about the role state government plays in the lives of fathers.

Often, we focus on issues of absent or deadbeat dads, or those serving time in prison. Unfortunately, these aspects of society exist and must be addressed. But this Fatherís Day I want to highlight programs and laws that positively assist fathers who work hard for their families despite struggles.

Fatherís Day is an official act of government. The idea originated in 1910 with Mrs. John Dodd after she heard a Motherís Day sermon in a church in Spokane, Washington. Mrs. Dodd had a great affinity for her father, William Smart, who was widowed when his wife died in childbirth, carrying her sixth child. Realizing the sacrifice her father made by raising his six children alone on a farm, she proposed a holiday to honor him on his birthday, June 5. However, the day did not become a permanent national holiday until 1972, when President Richard Nixon signed a law designating that Fatherís Day be celebrated the third Sunday in June. Americans recognized then, as they do now, the importance of fathers in our lives.

On Fatherís day we honor our dads, of course, but also our stepfathers, grandfathers, brothers, uncles, neighbors, teachers, coaches and friends. I am a proud father of two, a proud grandfather of three, and a proud son of a great man.

I try to honor my fatherís contributions to my life and to his countryóhe served in World War IIóby my own public service that includes addressing the needs of men and fathers.

In speaking to many fathers, I am told safe neighborhoods is a high priority. The Life Without Parole bill that I passed last regular session promotes a higher degree of safety in our neighborhoods. The fear that dangerous criminals will be released after 40 years, as our former life sentence allowed, has been greatly alleviated through this legislation.

To assist dads, as well as moms, to provide health care for their children, the restoration of cuts made earlier and that I opposed to the Childrenís Health Insurance Program (CHIP) should help enormously. The increase for 2006-07 of $390.1 million in all funds allows for projected increases in clients and restored vision, dental, hospice and mental health services. These restorations can help hard-working parents who cannot afford private health insurance because their salaries are insufficient.

We passed another bill in 2005 that helps fathers (and applies to mothers as well) who want to petition a change in custody or child support reduction, but have moved to another area away from the original court. This measure allows for the transfer from one court to another and sets a time limit plus requirement that all documents be included in the transfer. While the courtís ultimate decision must be in the best interest of the child, the law assists the parent filing the motion to do so more expediently and cost-effectively.

Another provision of this law also allows a military person deployed outside of the United States and who is the primary or joint managing conservator of a child to designate the primary residence of the child and the person who may take possession of the child in his absence, based on the courtís approval.

We also have a new law that allows students who are dependents of deployed Texas service men and women, and who have graduated from Department of Defense high schools (for dependents of military personnel serving overseas) not earlier than 2002-2003 to be eligible for the Texas B-On-Time no interest student loans for college.

We have also addressed legislation that would permitted employees up to 10 hours of leave in each 12-month period to meet with a school teacher, counselor or principal of the employeeís child upon request. Although the bill didnít pass, it opened the discussion of allowing a parent time off from work without penalty to invest in his childís education and social well-being.

Currently, the Texas Department of State Health Services manages five innovative male involvement/fatherhood projects to help teenage males at risk of becoming fathers, and to give young fathers services that will enable them to function as responsible fathers and young adults. Funding is ending for some of these projects, but we need to support these types of programs to enrich the lives of fathers and their children.

I wish every South Texas father a Happy Fatherís Day and remind you to cherish your valuable role!

As always, if you have any input or questions regarding these or other matters, please do not hesitate to contact Doris Sanchez, my press secretary, 512-463-0385.

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