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Legislative Session Pre-Briefing: Income

Workforce development, housing and criminal justice reform priorities for the Texas legislative session.

October 12, 2022

In preparation for the 2023 Texas legislative session, which begins Jan. 10, United Way of Metropolitan Dallas recently partnered with the United Ways of Tarrant, West Ellis, Grayson and Denton counties to host a special three-part virtual public policy series. During each event, our panels of experts explored the most pressing state policy issues facing North Texans in the areas of education, health and income.

The Sept. 27 virtual event featured a panel of experts who delivered insights into some of the key income-related topics that are likely to come up this legislative session:

  • Ashley Harris from United Ways of Texas and Texas WORKS, who tackled the topic of workforce development
  • Ben Martin from Texas Housers, who discussed housing stability
  • Elizabeth Henneke from Lone Star Justice Alliance, who explored criminal justice reform

These topics align with our own goals for our community, which center around ensuring more North Texas adults have access to good-paying jobs and can achieve financial security.

View a video recap of the speaker’s remarks, or read on for highlights:

Ashley Harris, United Ways of Texas – Digital Equity


Ben Martin, Texas Housers – Housing Stability


Elizabeth Henneke, Lone Star Justice Alliance – Criminal Justice Reform

To start off the event, Harris stressed the importance of policymakers supporting workforce development policies that specifically focus on low-income and underserved populations.

“We’re going to be asking policymakers next session to ensure that any of our workforce strategies get to the attainment of family-sustaining-wage jobs,” she said. “We want to make sure that’s built into any state-wide workforce goals. We should be investing in education and training opportunities that ultimately get families to those quality, high-wage jobs.”

On the topic of housing stability, Martin explored the role of affordable housing, emphasized the importance of legal representation for tenants in eviction court and called on legislators to pass a law that prohibits landlords from discriminating against Section 8 voucher holders.

“Finally, of the $16 billion in American Rescue Plan Act funds that the state had for discretionary purposes, there’s $3 billion remaining,” Martin said. “We believe that as much of that as possible needs to go to income-restricted housing development and tenant stability, like replenishing our successful state-wide emergency rental assistance program.”

Lastly, Henneke discussed how the “revolving door” of the criminal justice system—which sees recidivism rates of more than 75%—keeps the state from making progress in other areas, such as education, financial security and housing.

“What you’re going to see at the Texas Legislature is a real focus on criminal justice,” she said. Some of the key topics Henneke expects for policymakers to tackle this session include the role of police in our communities, the use of force on citizens, cash bail and sentencing reform.


Advocate with United Way

As you can see from our All Eyes on Austin income event, the upcoming legislative session is poised to have a significant impact on North Texans. We invite you to join us in advocating for our key income-related priorities:

  • Ensuring access to safe, quality, affordable housing stability for all
  • Enhancing innovative solutions for moving workers into good jobs and ensuring employers have a pipeline of skilled, ready-to-work employees
  • Expanding access to financial products that will allow Texans to build and grow savings and assets

Throughout the 140 days of the 2023 legislative session, United Way of Metropolitan Dallas will work with advocates like you to demonstrate community-wide support for key policy issues that impact education, income and health in North Texas. No one organization or person can successfully create significant change on any given issue; rather, we are most successful when we can rally the entire community—individuals, corporate partners, nonprofits and more—and make it a true movement.

We make it easy to advocate for lasting change. Sign up for our Advocacy Alerts, and we’ll let you know when and how to contact your elected officials to make the biggest possible impact.

Interested in learning more? Read our blog about how and why we advocate.


We make it easy to advocate for lasting change.

Sign up for our Advocacy Alerts, and we’ll let you know when and how to contact your elected officials to make the biggest possible impact.