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the nonprofit Texans Care for Children. “There is also a general feeling among legislators that the problem was fixed.” Not quite. In 2005, legislators gave Child Protective Services $250 million. More than 3,000 new investigative caseworkers were hired, and all caseworkers received $5,000 pay increases. The increase in investigations of abuse and neglect caused a spike in the number of children the state removed from their families and placed in foster care. The state quickly ran out of places to put all those kids. As a result, some children had to sleep in state offices for up to 20 days. It caused a bit of a stir. The Texas Legislature has looked to privatization as a way to fix the foster-home shortage on the cheap. In 2005, Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, carried SB 6, privatizing some oversight and placements. But the deaths of three children in foster care in North Texas under the supervision of a private company called Mesa Family Services spurred a revision of that legislation. In 2007, Nelson passed a bill that scaled back the privatization she’d put in the session before. But the 2007 bill privatized another part of the systemcreating a pilot project for management services normally performed by state caseworkers in 5 percent of cases statewide. Smith expects Nelson to file legislation expanding the pilot project to 10 percent of cases statewide. With an economic crisis and a faltering Texas economy, advocates don’t expect legislators to provide the needed funding for the state’s starving child-welfare system. The nonprofit Center for Public Policy Priorities points out that Texas would have to spend another $451 million per year just to catch up with other Southern states, which spend an average of $206 per will face the tough task of capturing the attention of legislators who have already moved on to other problems. “It’s difficult to sustain their attention:’ she says. “But we have to keep up the investment in the system so that we don’t cycle into crisis again” M.D.B. 8 DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY Bigger Brother t’s been rough sled ! ding lately for the Texas Department of Public Safety. First, the state police largely took the blame for allowing the Governor’s Mansion to get torched last summer. In June, a legislative review panel harshly criticized DPS as a disorganized and antiquated agency. A month later, Col. Thomas Davis resigned after eight years as head of DPS. And as a final blow, the agency’s own consultant issued a scathing report in late October that called for a major overhaul. With DPS undergoing sunset reviewthe process by which the Legislature examines and reauthorizes a state agency, Other Southern states spend an average of $206 per child on child welfare. Texas spends $134. usually every 12 yearsa bill that reforms the agency will certainly pass. What that overhaul will ultimately look like remains anyone’s guess. But big changes seem likely. DPS has suffered from a shortage of officers in recent years as its mission has expanded to include preventing terrorism and illegal immigration, areas of law enforcement that were once the domain of the federal government. Gov . Rick Perry has dispatched teams of DPS troopers to South Texas to guard the border, which further stretched an agency already struggling to replenish its ranks. The short staffing may help explain why only one trooper was guarding the Governor’s Mansion the In its initial report, the Sunset Committee characterized the agency’s auto licensing and inspection divisions as disorganized. Its report recommends taking these nonlaw enforcement duties away from DPS and spinning them off into their own agency. After the harsh sunset assessment last summer, DPS contracted the consulting firm Deloitte and Touche to evaluate the agency. The resulting report, issued last fall, recommended a radical restructuring of the agency to better streamline law enforcement divisions that now work semi-autonomously. The consultants proposed that DPS form a division devoted solely to intelligence gathering and counterterrorism. That may make bureaucratic senseintelligence gathering is now spread among many divisionsbut civil liberties advocates are concerned that a DPS division exclusively devoted to spying on Texans would lead to all kinds of privacy violations. In an era of terrorism and cybercrime, when crooks are as likely to steal money with a computer as with a gun, DPS’s role is clearly changing. And the agency is likely to look very different in five months. D.M. 9 GAMBLING All In? Social conservatives have been nervously pacing the Capitol hallways ever since it was clear Joe Straus would be the new House speaker. Straus, whose family business is horse racing, has conservatives worried that the gambling lobby will go all in this session to legalize casinos in Texas. Suzii Paynter, director of the Texas Baptist Christian Life JANUARY 23, 2009 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 19