June 22, 2009

Senate Bill 1440: Weakens Families’ Rights During CPS Investigations

Sen. Kirk Watson

Senate Bill 1440 would have allowed state officials to bypass constitutional processes when conducting an investigation of child abuse or neglect. If it had become law, it would have given a court the authority to order access to a child and his or her records on the basis of an affidavit and without prior notice or a hearing.

3/6/2009(Senate) Filed
4/16/2009(Senate) Passed the Senate
5/27/2009(House) Passed the House
6/2/2009(Senate) Signed in the Senate
6/3/2009(House) Signed in the House
6/3/2009Sent to the Governor
6/21/2009Governor vetoed the bill

HSLDA’s Position:

Action Requested:
We now ask that you send Governor Perry emails or letters thanking him for his decision to veto the bill. Governor Perry will most likely be attacked by the media for his stance on this issue, so we need to encourage him in any way we can. You can send your notes of appreciation and thanks at the governor’s website.

Pursuant to Article IV, Section 14, of the Texas Constitution, I, Rick Perry, Governor of Texas, do hereby disapprove of and veto Senate Bill No. 1440 of the 81st Texas Legislature, Regular Session, due to the following objections:

As a result of Gates v. Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services, Senate Bill No. 1440 would establish guidelines for Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) caseworkers to follow when making entry and transport-for-interview decisions in alleged child abuse and neglect cases. The court's decision in Gates is extremely narrow in its articulation of the standards that must be met for transporting a child to conduct an interview. The decision also creates uncertainty about how court orders allowing such transport are to be obtained by DFPS under existing law. This court-created uncertainty must be addressed. Senate Bill No. 1440, however, overreaches and may not give due consideration to the Fourth Amendment rights of a parent or guardian.

DFPS is charged with protecting the unprotected, and all parties involved benefit when procedures are clear and easily understood. Texas law should provide a clearly delineated investigative process that not only supports the rights of parents and guardians, but also provides DFPS with the proper authority and flexibility to protect the most vulnerable Texans.

I am directing DFPS, through its parental advisory committee, to study the effect of the Gates decision on the ability of the department to appropriately enter a residence and, if necessary for the protection of the child, to transport the child for interviews in a neutral location. I am also directing DFPS, through its parental advisory committee, to develop and recommend statewide procedures to follow when seeking court orders to aid investigations, while protecting the rights of parents and families.

IN TESTIMONY WHEREOF, I have signed my name officially and caused the Seal of the State to be affixed hereto at Austin, this the 19th day of June, 2009.

Governor of Texas

 Other Resources

E-lert: Your Calls Helped Work to Defeat Harmful CPS Investigation Bill!

E-lert: More Calls Needed To Defeat Bill That Takes Away Constitutional Rights

E-lert: More Calls Needed To Defeat Bill That Takes Away Constitutional Rights

Bill Text

Bill History