Protecting children and other vulnerable Texans is one of the state's most critical responsibilities, and Joe has put a major focus on improving Child Protective Services and the state’s foster care system. He has also led the House is passing a number of bills to combat human trafficking. Joe has received the Children’s Champion Award from the Texas Association for the Protection of Children and the Angel of the Shelter Award from the Children’s Shelter in San Antonio. He has also received the Joe M. Kilgore Award for Public Service from the Austin Crime Commission.
Here are a few of the ways Joe has made the safety of Texans a priority:
Protecting our most vulnerable children: After too many high-profile and tragic incidents put a spotlight on problems at Child Protective Services (CPS), Joe and his colleagues took action in 2017 to reduce unacceptably high turnover among caseworkers tasked with protecting children from abuse. Legislators approved the hiring of more than 1,400 additional caseworkers and authorized higher salaries in order to reduce turnover and bring stability to the workforce. The Legislature also passed a two-year budget that provides an additional $85.4 million to enhance foster care provider rates and $32.5 million in additional support for family members who take in abused children, which is also known as kinship care.
Combating human trafficking: Under Joe's leadership, the House has passed numerous bills that strengthen penalties for those who take part in the horrible crime of human trafficking. This crime is a major concern in the border area, which is why the House has given law enforcement and prosecutors new and strengthened tools to combat and prosecute it. In 2017, the Legislature passed House Bill 2552, which bolstered anti-human trafficking efforts through enhanced enforcement, data collection and training. This legislation built on the successes of House Bill 10, an omnibus anti-human trafficking bill that was approved in 2015 and provided additional resources for children who are the victims of human trafficking. This legislation also made it easier to prosecute human trafficking and forced prostitution.
Preventing wrongful convictions: In 2015, the Texas Legislature passed House Bill 48, which created the Timothy Cole Exoneration Review Commission. The purpose of the new commission was to study wrongful convictions in Texas and to recommend reforms to prevent more people from being incarcerated in our state for crimes they did not commit.
Protecting public safety: Joe has helped ensure that law enforcement agencies have the tools they need to keep the Texas-Mexico border safe. In 2015, the Texas House approved the border-security package championed by Governor Greg Abbott, providing funding for the hiring of an additional 250 state troopers to patrol near the Texas-Mexico border. The presence of these full-time troopers near the border reduces the need for occasional "surges" that draw law enforcement away from other areas of the state. Through House Bill 11, the Legislature also gave the Department of Public Safety the authority to expedite the hiring of military veterans who have been honorably discharged and want to become state troopers. House Bill 12, which the Legislature approved and Governor Abbott signed into law in 2015, provided additional funding and new resources for the state's Border Prosecution Unit. The unit helps border-area authorities prosecute crimes such as human smuggling, money laundering and drug trafficking.