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Adoption - S.B. 34

by Senator Zaffirini, et al.

House Sponsor: Representative Elvira Reyna, et al.

§ Limits collateral and direct attacks on orders terminating parental rights and on adoption orders; promotes judicial efficiency in termination and adoption cases; and requires the DPRS to develop a permanency plan for each child under its conservatorship.

Attacks on termination and adoption orders

§ Limits the time period for attacking the validity of an adoption order to six months after the date the order was signed.

§ Limits the time period for attacking the validity of an order terminating parental rights to six months after the date the order was signed, except in cases of fraud, duress, or coercion.

Judicial efficiency

§ Allows a presiding judge to appoint a master for a court handling child protection cases if the court needs assistance in order to process the cases within a reasonable period of time.

§ Requires the court to inform each parent, in open court, that his or her parental rights and duties may be subject to restriction or termination.

§ Sets forth the issues the court is required to hear during each permanency hearing, such as an evaluation of DPRS' effort to place the child in a home; an evaluation of the parties' compliance with temporary orders and the service plan; and the date for dismissal of the suit under this chapter.

§ Requires a child to attend each permanency hearing unless excused by the court.

§ Limits the time for completing a suit terminating parental rights to one year with a possible 180-day extension.

§ Notwithstanding the time limits, allows DPRS to retain jurisdiction over a child if it is in the best interest of the child and requires the case to be reviewed every six months.

§ Throughout the suit, requires DPRS to keep interested parties informed of hearings and case status, including the child's attorney ad litem and volunteer advocate.

DPRS procedures

§ Requires DPRS to begin locating qualified adoptive parents when DPRS decides to seek termination of parental rights.

§ Allows DPRS to assume the care, control, and custody of an abandoned child. Eliminates a service plan requirement for abandoned children, which should expedite the adoption process for abandoned children.

§ Requires DPRS to develop a permanency plan for each child under its conservatorship.

§ Requires DPRS to maintain, in a central database, information concerning children in DPRS' custody and report once a year on the status of children in its custody.

§ Requires the annual report to analyze the length of time each child has been in substitute care and the barriers to adoption or returning the child to the child's parents.

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Restricting Children's Access to Tobacco - S.B. 55

by Senator Zaffirini, et al.

House Sponsor: Representative Berlanga, et al.

Sale of Tobacco Products

§ Makes it a Class C misdemeanor for a person, with criminal negligence to sell, give, or cause to be sold or given a cigarette or tobacco product to someone who is younger than 18 years of age.

§ Makes an employee criminally responsible for the sale of cigarettes or tobacco products in a store.

§ Pursuant to federal regulations, prohibits selling or giving cigarettes or tobacco products to someone who is younger than 27 years of age, unless the person presents an apparently valid proof of identification.

§ Requires a sign containing a specific warning statement about minors purchasing tobacco products to be posted in a conspicuous location.

§ Requires each permit holder (permits as provided under the cigarette tax portion of the Tax Code) to notify employees engaged in the retail sale of tobacco products about certain provisions of state law affecting the sale or distribution of cigarettes or tobacco products. Requires the employee to sign a form stating that the law has been fully explained, that the individual understands the law, and that the individual, as a condition of employment, agrees to comply with the law.

§ Makes it a Class C misdemeanor if a permit holder fails, on demand of an officer, to provide the notice.

§ Prohibits the sale of cigarettes or tobacco products in a manner that permits a customer direct access to the products. Prohibits installing or maintaining a vending machine containing cigarettes or tobacco products.

§ Excludes a facility or business that is not open to persons younger than 18 years of age at any time, or that part of a facility or business that is a humidor or other enclosure designed to store cigars in a climate-controlled environment from these prohibitions.

§ Authorizes enforcement actions and certain property seizure or forfeiture for a violation of this section, and makes it a Class C misdemeanor for a violation of these prohibitions.

§ Makes it a Class C misdemeanor to distribute a free sample of a cigarette or tobacco product to persons younger than 18 years of age.

§ Authorizes the comptroller of public accounts, in partnership with local law enforcement officials, to enforce these provisions, and ensure the state's compliance with federal law and regulations.

§ Provides that this subchapter does not preempt local regulation of selling or distributing cigarettes or tobacco products, if they are compatible with and equal to or more stringent than state requirements, or relate to an issue that is not specifically addressed.

Advertising

§ Bans outdoor signs containing an advertisement for cigarettes or tobacco products within 1,000 feet of a church or school, except for certain exceptions.

§ Provides that the purchaser of advertising is liable for a fee of 10 percent of the gross sales price of any outdoor advertising for cigarettes and tobacco products in Texas.

§ Requires a fee to be deposited into a special account and restricts appropriations to certain administrative, enforcement, and education purposes.

§ Authorizes the comptroller to impose an administrative penalty, not to exceed $5,000, against a purchaser of advertising who does not comply with the advertising fee.

Possession of a Tobacco Product

§ Establishes an offense with certain exceptions, for an individual who is younger than 18 years of age, to possess, purchase, consume, or accept a cigarette or tobacco product; or falsely represent himself or herself to be 18 years of age or older by displaying false or fraudulent proof of age.

§ Provides sentencing options for first and subsequent offenses by a minor including requiring the defendant to attend a tobacco awareness program, and perform community service.

Public Awareness Campaign

§ Requires the Commissioner of Health (commissioner) to develop and implement a public awareness campaign designed to reduce tobacco use by minors. Authorizes competitive contracting to develop and implement the public awareness campaign.

§ Requires the commissioner to develop and implement a grant program to support youth groups that include components related to reducing tobacco use.

Retail and Distributor Permits

§ Increases the application fees for permits related to distribution and sale of cigarette or tobacco products.

§ Provides that a retailer is subject to disciplinary action if an employee commits an offense, and the retailer, with criminal negligence, failed to prevent the offense through adequate supervision and training.

§ Authorizes the comptroller to suspend or revoke a permit or assess an administrative fine for certain violations.

§ Establishes an offense for selling cigarettes in quantities less than an individual package containing at least 20 cigarettes.

§ Requires the comptroller to request an exemption from the federal Food and Drug Administration, if necessary, to implement changes in law.

§ Provides that the implementation and execution of programs established by the change in law are contingent on the availability of funds for those programs.

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Coverage for Childhood Immunizations - S.B. 172

by Senator Zaffirini, et al.

House Sponsors: Representatives Stiles and Berlanga

§ Requires certain health benefit plans to cover childhood immunizations without any deductible, copayment, or coinsurance requirement.

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Adoption - S.B. 181

by Senator Shapiro

House Sponsor: Representative Goodman

§ Requires the DPRS to develop a permanency plan for each child under its conservatorship; expedites the adoption process; and promotes judicial efficiency in termination and adoption cases.

§ Requires the court to inform each parent, in open court, that his or her parental rights and duties may be subject to restriction or termination.

§ Requires DPRS to develop a permanency plan for each child under its conservatorship.

§ Requires a child to attend each permanency hearing unless excused by the court.

§ Sets a time limit on the completion of a suit to terminate parental rights. Requires the court to dismiss a suit terminating parental rights the Monday after the first anniversary DPRS was given conservatorship of the child, unless an extension is granted. Limits an extension to 180 days.

§ Notwithstanding the time limits, allows DPRS to retain jurisdiction over the child in the best interest of a child. Allows a final order naming DPRS managing conservator without terminating parental rights. Requires the case to be reviewed every six months.

§ Requires DPRS to keep interested parties informed of hearings and case status, including the child's attorney ad litem and volunteer advocate.

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Council on Early Childhood Intervention/Sunset - S.B. 305

by Senator Zaffirini

House Sponsor: Representative Berlanga

§ Brings existing state statutes into compliance with federal mandates so the Interagency Council on Early Childhood Intervention (council) will remain eligible to receive federal funds for early intervention to children three years of age and younger with developmental delays.

§ Provides that the council is the lead agency designated by the governor under the Americans with Disabilities Act for the administration, supervision, and monitoring of a statewide comprehensive system of early intervention services.

§ Requires certain state agencies to appoint non-voting representatives to the Board of Interagency Council on Early Childhood Intervention and requires the representatives to have authority to make decisions and commit resources, subject to agency approval.

§ Requires the council to develop and implement a strategic plan for a statewide system of early childhood intervention services.

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Guardian Ad Litem - S.B. 349

by Senator Shapiro

House Sponsor: Representative Goodman

§ Requires the court to appoint a guardian ad litem to represent a child in cases in which the DPRS is seeking to be appointed managing conservator or is seeking termination of parental rights.

§ Delineates the rights, powers, and duties of the guardian ad litem, and gives the guardian ad litem immunity from civil damages arising from a recommendation or opinion, unless it is willfully wrongful; given with conscious indifference or reckless disregard for the safety of another; given in bad faith or with malice; or grossly negligent.

§ Provides that the appointment of an attorney ad litem is not required in a suit in which the dissolution of a marriage is uncontested, or the issues of possession of and access to the child is agreed to by both parents.

§ Requires the attorney general, with the assistance of the statewide volunteer advocate program, to adopt standards for local volunteer advocate programs.

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Adoption Incentives - S.B. 670

by Senator Shapiro

House Sponsor: Representative Staples

§ Provides monetary incentives, subject to the availability of funds, for licensed child-placing agencies, to place children who are in the care of DPRS in adoptive homes.

§ Requires the incentive not to exceed 25 percent of the amount DPRS would have spent to provide one year of foster care for the child.

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Texas Healthy Kids Corporation - H.B. 3

by Representative Berlanga, et al.

Senate Sponsor: Senator Sibley

§ Creates the Texas Healthy Kids Corporation (corporation) as a nonprofit corporation to provide health benefits for primary and preventive health care for certain Texas children.

§ Establishes the Texas Health Kids Fund (fund) as a fund outside the state treasury held by the Texas Treasury Safekeeping Trust Company and composed of money appropriated to the fund and of money appropriated to or deposited in the Premium Stabilization Revolving Account.

§ Requires the health and human services agencies, the Office of the Attorney General (OAG), the Texas Department of Insurance, the board of directors of the Texas Health Insurance Risk Pool (risk pool), and the Comptroller of Public Accounts to cooperate with the corporation to assist the corporation in performing its duties.

§ Requires the corporation to work with the OAG, the Texas Department of Human Services, and the Texas Department of Health (TDH) to facilitate the electronic exchange of information among the corporation and the appropriate agencies.

§ Provides that the corporation is not an insurer and may not self-insure or self-fund the coverage provided through the program.

§ Sets forth provisions regarding the coverage providers.

§ Requires the corporation to:

§ establish a health benefit program (program) to provide, through eligible coverage providers, health benefits for children who are not covered by insurance or another type of health benefit plan; are not covered by insurance or another type of health benefit plan for a specified medical condition; or are not covered by insurance or another type of health benefit plan that provides benefits for primary and preventative care;

§ develop the design and benefits structure of the program;

§ determine eligibility criteria that children and their family members must meet;

§ develop participation criteria for authorized insurers, health service organizations, health maintenance organizations, and other entities eligible to provide coverage;

§ develop and implement a public awareness program;

§ establish participation objectives for the program;

§ negotiate premiums for coverage; and

§ contract for the provision of health benefit coverage.

§ Authorizes TDH to use appropriated funds to purchase coverage under a health benefit plan provided through the program for eligible children if:

§ current health care benefits are received under the chronically ill and disabled children's program or other state or federally funded program, other than Medicaid;

§ the program is more cost-effective; and

§ the children lose no benefits.

§ Provides that services to children under a federally or state-funded program may not be reduced or eliminated because of the program.

§ Requires the corporation to make the applicant's family aware of the availability of coverage from the risk pool.

§ Requires the court to order a person obligated to pay child support:

§ to apply and pay for coverage through the corporation, if health insurance for the child is not available by some other means; or

§ to pay for coverage, if health insurance for the child is not available by some other means, including through the corporation.

§ Requires the court to consider $38 per month per child as a reasonable amount for medical support.

§ Authorizes a nonprofit hospital to provide charity care and community benefits through a donation of money to the corporation, provided that:

§ the money is used for the purpose of benefiting low income families in the donating entity's area; and

§ the donation does not satisfy more than 10 percent of the charity care required of the hospital.

§ Sets forth the definition and scope of the Health Benefit Plans for Children under the Insurance Code.

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Permanency Planning for Children in Substitute Care - H.B. 885

by Representative Maxey, et al.

Senate Sponsor: Senator Zaffirini

§ Requires the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC), and each appropriate health and human services agency, to develop procedures to ensure that a permanency plan is developed for each child residing in an institution in this state on a temporary or long-term basis or for whom institutional care is sought.

§ Requires HHSC to develop four pilot sites to implement permanency plans for all children either currently in institutional care on a temporary or long-term basis, or at-risk of being placed in institutional care.

§ States that it is the policy of the state to strive to ensure that the basic needs for safety, security, and stability are met for each child in Texas.

§ Sets forth reporting and program requirements for the permanency planning projects.

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Paternity Registry and Adoption - H.B. 1091

by Representative Goodman, et al.

Senate Sponsor: Senator Zaffirini

Paternity Registry

§ Requires the Bureau of Vital Statistics to establish a paternity registry.

§ States that the registry is established to protect the parental rights of fathers who assume responsibility for children they may have fathered, and to expedite adoptions of children whose biological fathers are unwilling to assume parental responsibilities by registering with the registry or otherwise acknowledging paternity.

§ States that the paternity registry does not relieve a mother of the obligation to identify the known father of the child.

§ Delineates guidelines for registration with the paternity registry and notice of intent to claim or deny paternity.

§ Requires the Bureau of Vital Statistics to furnish a certificate attesting to the results of a search of the registry regarding a notice of intent to claim paternity to a person or entity with a legitimate interest.

§ Requires the court to remove the registrant's name if the court determines that the registrant is not the father.

§ Prohibits a fee from being charged to file a notice of intent to claim or deny paternity.

Adoption

§ Authorizes the rights of an alleged biological father to be terminated if due diligent attempts to locate him have been unsuccessful.

§ Authorizes the court to terminate a parent-child relationship if the court finds that the child was conceived as a result of sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, or incest, and the termination is in the best interest of the child.

§ Requires the appointment of an attorney ad litem for an indigent parent, a parent served by citation, or an alleged father cannot be located.

§ Updates provisions regarding a revocable or irrevocable affidavit for voluntary relinquishment of parental rights.

§ Prohibits a biological or adoptive grandparent from requesting possession of or access to a grandchild under certain conditions.

§ Authorizes the mother of a newborn to release the child to a licensed child-placing agency, DPRS, or another designated person.

§ Establishes the rights and duties of an alleged father and of the paternity registry under these circumstances.

§ Requires the court to order an adoptive home screening to evaluate each party who requests an adoption.

§ Authorizes a child to be adopted if the child is at least two years old, the parent-child relationship has been terminated with respect to one parent, the person seeking the adoption is the child's former stepparent and meets certain time criteria.

§ Requires the court to grant a preferential setting motion for a final hearing on adoption over all other civil cases not given preference by other law, if the social study has been filed and the criminal history for a person seeking adoption has been obtained.

§ Transfers the administration of the central voluntary adoption registry from DPRS to the Bureau of Vital Statistics.

§ Requires a couple who has adopted a child to consist of a male and a female. States that this requirement does not prohibit single persons, male or female, from adopting a child.

§ Makes advertising in the public media that a person will place a child for adoption or will provide or obtain a child for adoption a Class A misdemeanor for the first offense and a third degree felony for subsequent offenses.

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Protective Orders for Children - H.B. 1336

by Representative Wise

Senate Sponsor: Senator Zaffirini

§ Includes a child who has been a victim of neglect among the children who can be removed from a home by a governmental entity, under certain circumstances.

§ Requires the court to render an emergency temporary protective order for a child whom the court finds to have been abused or neglected, and in need of protection from family violence.

§ Requires the court, in a full adversary hearing on the welfare of the child, to render a protective order for a child whom the court finds to have been abused or neglected and in need of protection from family violence.

§ Gives the court discretion on whether to grant a legislative continuance in a case involving an application for a protective order authorized by the Family Code.

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DPRS - H.B. 1826

by Representative Goodman, et al.

Senate Sponsor: Senator Harris

Suits affecting the parent-child relationship

§ Increases the penalty for knowingly or intentionally making a false child abuse report or one lacking factual foundation.

§ Adds a foster parent of a child placed by DPRS in the foster parent's home for not less than 18 months to the list of persons allowed to file a suit affecting the parent-child relationship.

§ Authorizes the hearsay statement of a child abuse victim who is 12 years or younger to be admissible as evidence if the court finds sufficient indications of the statement's reliability, and either written or oral testimony is given or is available at the court proceeding.

§ Authorizes the court to render a temporary restraining order without notice and an adversary hearing, if the order is an emergency order sought by a governmental entity with an interest in the child.

§ Expands the grounds upon which parental rights may be terminated to include the following.

§ A case in which the parent has been convicted or has been placed on community supervision for being criminally responsible for the death or serious injury to a child under the offenses of, or conduct that constitutes, murder, capital murder, indecency with a child, injury to a child, abandoning or endangering a child, prohibited sexual conduct, sexual performance by a child, or possession or promotion of child pornography;

§ A case in which the parent has had the parent-child relationship terminated with respect to another child based on a finding under Texas law or substantially equivalent law in other states, that the parent's conduct knowingly placed or allowed the child to remain in conditions which endanger the physical or emotional well-being of the child, or knowingly placed or allowed the child to be with a person who endangered the child;

§ Constructively abandoning a child in DPRS conservatorship for not less than six months, rather than one year;

§ Failure, for not less than nine months, to comply with the provisions of a court order that specifically established the actions necessary for reunification of the child with the parent;

§ Using a controlled substance in a manner that endangers the health and safety of the child, and failing to complete a court-ordered drug treatment program; or repeatedly using a controlled substance, after treatment, in a manner that endangers the child;

§ Knowingly engaging in criminal conduct that results in the parent's imprisonment and inability to care for the child for not less than two years from the filing date of the termination suit; and

§ Causing the child to be born addicted to alcohol or a controlled substance, other than a controlled substance legally obtained by prescription.

Child Protective Services

§ Authorizes photographs to be taken in an examination of a child in cases of suspected abuse or neglect.

§ Adds audiotapes and videotapes to the list of items held confidential in an abuse and neglect investigation. Authorizes the court to disclose confidential items under certain circumstances.

§ Authorizes an interview and examination with a child to include transporting the child.

§ Requires an interview with a child alleged to be a victim of physical abuse or sexual abuse to be audiotaped or videotaped, unless good cause exists otherwise.

§ Requires the court to order removal of the alleged perpetrator of abuse from the home, if the child is not in danger of abuse from the other parent or other adult in the home and that:

§ the presence of the alleged perpetrator in the home constitutes a continuing danger to the physical health or safety of the child; or

§ the child has been the victim of sexual abuse and there is a substantial risk of continued abuse.

§ Expands the grounds upon which an authorized person may take possession of a child without a court order to include corroborated evidence that the possessor of the child is currently using a controlled substance and the use constitutes an immediate danger to the physical health or safety of the child.

Foster care, children's advocacy centers, and child-placing agencies

§ Updates provisions regarding the use of funds for children in foster care, and foster care payments.

§ Authorizes DPRS to pay for foster care services for a child in its care up to the age of 22, if the child is regularly attending high school, an institution of higher education, or a vocational or technical program.

§ Prohibits DPRS from providing early youth intervention services to a child who has been found to have engaged in delinquent conduct.

§ Updates provisions regarding children's advocacy centers and child placing agencies.

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Child Support Statement on a Marriage License - H.B. 2069

by Representative Denny

Senate Sponsor: Senator Ellis

§ Prohibits the county clerk from refusing to issue a marriage license because either party has indicated on the application form that he or she is delinquent in the court-ordered child support.

§ Requires a marriage license application form to include information on whether either party is presently delinquent in the payment of court-ordered child support.

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Medically Fragile Children Pilot Program - H.B. 2984

by Representative Hunter, et al.

Senate Sponsor: Senator Zaffirini

§ States that it is the policy of this state to develop and maintain a cost-efficient, quality system to provide care, continuity, maintenance, rehabilitation, and education for chronically ill and disabled children and their families.

§ Requires the Texas Board of Health (board) to establish a pilot program to study and research the unique health care, maintenance, education, social, and related needs of medically fragile children and their families in this state. Sets forth criteria for the pilot program. Requires the board to monitor and review the pilot program and deliver a report to the Sunset Advisory Commission.

§ Requires the board to select a nonprofit private entity (entity) to operate the pilot program. Sets for criteria for selecting the entity. Establishes a five-year time period for the selected entity to operate the pilot program.

§ Allows the board to provide the entity with a grant in an amount not to exceed $400,000 during each fiscal year to cover program costs.

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Creation of an Immunization Registry - H.B. 3054

by Representative Berlanga

Senate Sponsor: Senator Zaffirini

§ Requires the TDH to establish and maintain a childhood immunization registry (registry) and requires TDH to adopt guidelines for obtaining information and protecting its confidentiality.

§ Requires an insurance company, a health maintenance organization, or another organization that pays or reimburses a claim for an immunization of a person young than 18 years of age to provide an immunization history to TDH. Requires a health care provider who administers an immunization to provide an immunization history unless it has already been submitted.

§ Authorizes TDH to use the registry to provide notices for a child who is due or overdue for a particular type of immunization according to TDH's immunization schedule. Requires TDH to consult with health care providers to determine the most efficient and cost-effective manner of using the registry to provide notice.

§ Establishes penalties for disclosing registry information.

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Investigation of a Report of Child Abuse - H.B. 3345

by Representative Smith

Senate Sponsor: Senator Harris

§ Requires the DPRS to investigate a report of child abuse without regard to any pending suit affecting the parent-child relationship.