San Antonio officials focus on homeless, health care and other issues in legislative session
By Liz Hardeway, San Antonio Express-News
was first published by San Antonio Express-News.
An ID is a simple yet crucial piece of paperwork.
Especially for the homeless, identification is needed to unlock many services and benefits that can help them get off the streets.
But to get an ID, you need an ID — a document such as a birth certificate to prove you are who you say you are. And that can cost money that people who are homeless don’t have.
“It is these sorts of simple things that can be tremendous obstacles in people’s recovery in getting back on their feet,” said state Rep. Diego Bernal, D-San Antonio.
So Bernal has filed a bill seeking to make the process easier for homeless individuals to get their birth certificate at no cost.
It’s one of several measures San Antonio city leaders are keeping their eye on this legislative session that were discussed at the City Council’s Intergovernmental Relations Committee meeting last week.
Another is a bill that would establish the Live Well Texas Plan, which would provide health insurance for up to 1.5 million Texans who earn bout $1,500 a month or less, according to state Sen. Nathan Johnson, D-Dallas. The plan would be free for participants and provide a maximum of $500 per year for preventive care services.
San Antonio was one of the first cities to reach out to Johnson in support of his bill, said Jeff Coyle, the city’s government and public affairs director.
“He mentioned that no other cities had talked to him about it,” Coyle said. “We said, ‘This was really a priority for us.’ The pandemic had reinforced the importance of this.”
City officials and Johnson are now collaborating to brief other cities on the issue later this month.
Bernal also filed several bills regarding health benefits, one creating a Medicaid buy-in program for certain low-income individuals by expanding Medicaid that could help underserved San Antonians.
The city also is watching bills that would affect bond and tax elections. One bill Coyle called “concerning” would require at least 25 percent of the area’s registered voters to approve a bond or tax increase. This would also require the elections to be held in November, not in May as they have in the past.
The last bond issue was on the ballot in 2017, asking voters to approve funds to go toward improvements for the city’s neighborhoods; streets; sidewalks; drainage and flood control; parks and recreation; libraries and cultural facilities; and public safety facilities.
That May election had a total voter turnout of 13.3 percent, according to the city’s records. The most popular bond project — drainage and flood control improvements — garnered only 10.2 percent approval from total registered voters, with almost 3 percent voting against and the remaining not voting at all.
Two other worrisome bills, Coyle told the committee, would ban municipalities, counties, school districts and other local entities from spending public funds to hire lobbyists to promote their priorities.
Those bills were filed by state Sen. Bob Hall, R-Edgewood, and state Rep. Mayes Middleton, R-Wallisville.
Officials who oppose those two bills say local entities need to have the flexibility to hire their own lobbyists to level the playing field when up against commercial or state interests that could adversely affect residents at the local level.
This article originally appeared in the San Antonio Express-News at https://www.expressnews.com/news/local/article/San-Antonio-officials-focus-on-homeless-15877181.php#article-comments