DFPS to expand life skills assessment to younger foster youth

Under a new law enacted by the Texas Legislature this year, the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) must conduct independent living skills assessments for a wider age range of youth in foster care. The assessment is used to identify the types of assistance youth may need to prepare for adult life outside the foster care system.

SB 1758 by Zaffirini, which took effect September 1, requires the assessment for youth in DFPS permanent managing conservatorship who are 15 years old and for all youth in DFPS conservatorship who are at least 16 years old. Starting September 1, 2018, DFPS also must conduct assessments for 14-year-olds in permanent managing conservatorship. Before the new law took effect,  DFPS conducted the assessment, which is in an online self-reporting format, around a youth’s 16th birthday. Continue reading

Posted in Human Services | Tagged ,

Legislature revises laws to address cyberbullying

Texas lawmakers this year revised state laws on bullying and cyberbullying among youth, and school districts began implementing the changes with the new school year.

A new law, SB 179 by Menéndez, is called “David’s Law” in honor of David Molak, a 16-year-old high school student in San Antonio who committed suicide in 2016. Under the law, for the first time, a definition of cyberbullying is added to the statutes, and school districts must expand their bullying policies to address it. The definition includes incidents occurring off school property or outside of school activities if the cyberbullying interferes with a student’s educational opportunities or substantially disrupts a classroom, school, or school activity. The law also requires that district policies include a way for students to make anonymous reports and a procedure to notify parents of alleged victims within three days of an incident.

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Proposed constitutional amendments to go before voters

Voters will consider seven propositions to amend the Texas Constitution in the Nov. 7 election. The propositions were approved for the ballot by the 85th Legislature earlier this year.

Among the issues to be considered by voters are proposals to:

  • provide a homestead exemption for partially donated homes of disabled veterans;
  • revise home equity loan provisions;
  • limit terms for certain appointees of the governor;
  • require court notice to the attorney general of a constitutional challenge to state laws;
  • amend eligibility requirements for sports team charitable raffles;
  • provide a homestead exemption for surviving spouses of certain first responders; and
  • allow banks to hold raffles promoting savings.

The Texas Legislature proposes amendments to the state constitution in joint resolutions, which must be approved by at least a two-thirds vote of the membership of each house. A joint resolution includes the ballot wording of the proposed amendment and a specific election date. The Texas secretary of state conducted a random drawing to assign a number to each proposition for this year’s election.

Constitutional amendments take effect when the official vote canvass confirms statewide majority approval unless a later date is specified. Some amendments are self-enacting, and others required the Legislature to enact “enabling” legislation. If voters reject the amendment, the enabling legislation dependent on it does not take effect.

More information about the proposed amendments for the upcoming election, including ballot language and arguments for and against each measure, can be found in the HRO’s focus report, Constitutional Amendments Proposed for November 2017 Ballot.

by Janet Elliott

Posted in General Government | Tagged ,

Local governments to identify cost of public notices

Under a new Texas law, political subdivisions other than junior college districts will have to include a line item in their budgets showing how much they spend on notices they are required by law to publish in a newspaper. SB 622 by Burton, enacted this year during the regular session of the 85th Legislature, requires the line item to allow a clear comparison between expenditures on statutorily required notices in the proposed budget and actual expenditures for the notices in the preceding year. The new requirement applies to proposed budgets for fiscal years starting on or after January 1, 2018.

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Texas limits out-of-school suspensions for young students

Texas public school students in prekindergarten through grade 2 no longer may be placed in out-of-school suspension for certain disciplinary infractions under a law enacted this year by the 85th Legislature. HB 674 by E. Johnson, which took effect June 12, applies to school districts and open-enrollment charter schools beginning this school year. Under the new law, out-of-school suspensions for up to three school days are still allowed for young students who, while on school property or attending a school-related activity, engage in certain conduct involving weapons, violent assaults, controlled substances, dangerous drugs, or alcohol. Continue reading

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