Turn, Turn, Turn…

A couple of weeks ago, I chose the lyrics of The Clash to describe the current legislative session and this week The Byrds classic “Turn! Turn! Turn!” (recorded in 1962 and based on Chapter 3 of the book of Ecclesiastes) seems most fitting as the session comes to an end.

To everything, turn, turn, turn.
There is a season, turn, turn, turn.
And a time to every purpose under heaven.
A time to be born, a time to die.

Today marks the final day of the 140 days of the 84th Texas Legislative Session, otherwise known as Sine Die inside the Capitol. Now we have an opportunity to look back and see what this season meant for all of us in the Harris County Healthcare Alliance. We have been very busy working with the members of the Texas Legislature over the last two years to get to where we are. We have some good things coming and some areas where we did not make as much progress as we had hoped.

A time to be born, a time to die.
A time to plant, a time to reap.
A time to kill, a time to heal.
A time to laugh, a time to weep.

As we have discussed before in this blog, the only constitutionally mandated responsibility for the Texas Legislature is approving a budget for the next two years that funds all activities of the State of Texas. It is with this budget act that the values of the state are represented, and the 84th Legislature maintained the state’s commitment to funding education and health care while accounting for population growth as well as projected increases in the costs of those services. Unlike recent years, there were no cuts to any critical services. In fact, new money was appropriated to help Texans who need mental health services and new money was also appropriated for expanded pre-K. While we were ultimately unsuccessful in our efforts to expand Medicaid or a similar coverage model, we did not lose ground.

A time to build up, a time to break down.
A time to dance, a time to mourn.
A time to cast away stones.
A time to gather stones together.

Although it does not directly relate directly to HCHA priorities, this Legislature will probably be remembered as the one that produced a plan to gather stones and build roads and bridges to move our growing population in Texas. There will be a statewide ballot proposition to let Texans decide whether or not to increase funding for transportation. This process is instructive for those of us who care about health care in that we may need to take our issues directly to the voters of Texas if we expect to make significant progress in improving the access, quality and affordability of health care services. Specific to health and human services concerns, this Legislature did pass a series of reforms to the Health and Human Services Commission that, while not historic, should lead to some improvements relating to coordination between the agencies. We will work throughout the next several seasons on implementing this legislation and will continue to push for all those who need services in our communities.

A time of love, a time of hate.
A time of war, a time of peace.
A time you may embrace.
A time to refrain from embracing.

The 84th Legislature may be remembered for the proverbial train wreck that looked inevitable but never materialized. The cooler heads in both the House and Senate prevailed finding ways to work together (for the most part) and keep some of the worst legislation from passing. In January, there were several bills filed that could have changed the perception of Texas as a state filled with compassion and love to a state filled with bitterness and hate, but those bills made very little progress. Fortunately, our communities can still provide health care to immigrants, and the children of illegal immigrants still have the ability to become “dreamers” by attending college with in-state tuition in Texas.

There is a season, turn, turn, turn.
And a time to every purpose under heaven.
A time to gain, a time to lose.
A time to rend, a time to sew.
A time for love, a time for hate.
A time for peace, I swear it’s not too late.

Finally, please know it is not too late to impact the health and human services in our region and state. The next season starts tomorrow, which will lead to an election season, followed by another legislative season. Turn, turn, turn…

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