Victories in the Texas Legislature – 2017 Texas Legislative session

During the 2017 Texas Legislative session, important CPS reform bills SB 999 and SB 11 passed through the second legislative chamber and are on their way to becoming law.

SB 999 and SB 11 were both heard on the House floor after THSC worked to amend these bills to include several important provisions of the Parent-Child Protection Act. THSC also worked to prevent any threats to parental rights from being included in the bills.

Four Notable Amendments to SB 999

SB 999, by Sen. Royce West, underwent several revisions during the legislative process. Most notably, these provisions from the Parent-Child Protection Act were amended onto the bill:

  1. On the Senate floor, Sen. Bryan Hughes, author of the Parent-Child Protection Act in the Senate, added a provision to allow a court—for good cause shown—to postpone a show cause hearing for up to one week when it is requested by the parent or the parent’s attorney. This allows a parent adequate time to prepare for a situation when they or their attorney does not receive needed information from CPS until shortly before the hearing.
  2. On the House floor, Rep. Dustin Burrows, author of the Parent-Child Protection Act in the House, added a provision preventing CPS from suing both parents when they only have evidence against one parent. The language also requires CPS to have evidence for each specific allegation made against a parent. This would force a change to their current practice of using a broad set of facts and making a template list of allegations.
  3. On the House floor, Rep. Mike Schofield, House sponsor of SB 738, added a provision to require that all cases related to the same children and same CPS incident be heard by the same judge/court. Currently, a family may have to defend themselves in multiple courts at the same time for the exact same CPS investigation—one court for each child.
  4. In the Senate committee, THSC was victorious by negotiating a change to the bill that requires CPS to find actual risk of harm to a child before removing the child in a non-emergency situation. Currently, CPS can remove a child in a non-emergency without needing proof that there was any risk of harm to the child.

Two Major Victories with SB 11

SB 11 is commonly known as community-based foster care redesign. Although the bill primarily focuses on how foster care is structured, there are several sections relevant to parental rights. There were two major victories on this bill through the legislative process:

  1. On the Senate floor, Senator Hughes added a provision from the Parent-Child Protection Act to enforce the current one-year deadline on CPS cases, which is THSC’s top CPS reform priority this session.
  2. On the House floor, Rep. Stephanie Klick added a provision to prevent CPS from conducting the required medical examination of a child before the judge determines if the removal was justified—with the exception of emergency cases.

Now that the Senate bills have passed the House, the Senate will vote on whether to concur with changes made in the House.

If the Senate votes to concur on a bill, it will be sent on to the governor’s desk. If the Senate votes not to concur, the bill will go to a conference committee of both Senators and Representatives to work out changes before reaching the governor’s desk.

Critical Time for CPS Reform

Only one week remains in the 2017 Texas Legislative session and House and Senate deadlines are quickly approaching.

It is critical that the remaining provisions of the Parent-Child Protection Act pass out of the legislature.

Please consider donating to the THSC Watchmen as they continue fighting to protect home schooling and parental rights in Austin.

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