Austin, Texas — Speaker of the Texas House Dade Phelan today announced three additional priorities of the chamber for this legislative session that aim to dedicate more dollars toward brain health research, improve the outcomes of youth in the state’s juvenile justice system and address the rising concern among Texas parents over certain content in public school libraries.

The following bills, which are part of the Texas House’s broader legislative priorities package for the 88th Texas Legislature, will be filed today:

House Bill 15 by Representative Senfronia Thompson
House Bill 16 by Representative Joe Moody
House Bill 900 by Representative Jared Patterson

House Bill 15 by Representative Thompson would establish the Mental Health and Brain Research Institute of Texas, dedicating state dollars toward improving brain health research and understanding prevention and treatment measures related to traumatic brain injuries. Representative Thompson has also filed House Joint Resolution 135, which would put House Bill 15 on the Texas ballot if passed by the Legislature, leaving it up to voters to decide whether it is adopted as state law.

House Bill 16 by Representative Moody, also known as the Closer to Home bill, would promote the diversion of youth from confinement in state facilities, returning children closer to their homes and slowing admissions to the Texas Juvenile Justice Department. The legislation, which builds on reforms the Texas Legislature passed in 2015, would enhance the court’s procedural discretion at key intercept points with the goal of keeping children as removed from the juvenile justice system as possible and expand community-based services to foster additional rehabilitative resources and incentivize diversion funding on a regional basis.

House Bill 900 by Representative Patterson, also known as the Restricting Explicit & Adult Designated Educational Resources (READER) Act, would address the rising concern among Texas parents of sexually explicit books and other inappropriate materials in public school libraries by establishing mandatory review standards and additional parental controls to create more oversight over the current book collection process. Under House Bill 900, book vendors would be required to rate and identify books that contain sexually relevant or explicit material before selling copies to public schools, submitting a yearly report of books to the Texas Education Agency that were sold to districts with such ratings for the agency to make available online. Among other things established by House Bill 900, parents would also have to provide written consent before their child could access material with a sexually relevant rating, strengthening the current parental oversight process.

“As lawmakers, it is essential that we do everything we can to support Texas children, which starts with the state creating the best possible trajectory for our most vulnerable kids. That conversation extends to prioritizing more dedication and dollars toward better understanding mental health issues and traumatic brain injuries, and, as a parent myself, ensuring that parental involvement is present when it comes to the types of content in public school libraries,” Speaker Phelan said. “Thank you to Representatives Thompson, Moody and Patterson for filing these important measures, all of which I look forward to our chamber passing during the 88th Texas Legislature.”

Additional legislative priorities of the Texas House will be announced in the coming days.

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