Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

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November 14, 2013

Report: Lt. Gov. supports closing State Home

Corsicana — The Austin American-Statesman is reporting that Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst supports phasing out the Corsicana Residential Treatment Center.

The article, published to the paper’s website Thursday, quotes Dewhurst as saying “I’m prepared to move ahead with a phase down, to phase it out.” The report said Dewhurst gave no timetable for the shutdown.

However, State Rep. Byron Cook (R-Corsicana) insists the fight to keep the Corsicana State Home is far from over, and House Speaker Joe Straus still has concerns about closing the facility.

Last spring, the legislature passed a Texas Juvenile Justice Department budget that called for cutting $23 million from the agency’s budget, and closing one of its six facilities. In June, the agency recommended closing Corsicana’s center. The TJJD facility in Corsicana specializes in housing juvenile offenders with the worst psychological scarring. If it closes, the youth would be moved to another facility.

However, the decision to close or not close was left to the Legislative Budget Board, a 10-member joint committee of the legislature that deals with financial matters for the state. If the LBB doesn’t vote to close the CRTC then it needs to recommend another facility for closure, or face a budget conflict.

Cook, who has fought to keep the facility open, said Dewhurst’s reported statement was not the final word on what the LBB may do.

“It still takes an agreement to (close the facility),” Cook said.

Cook also said the Statesman article contained an inaccuracy about his own position, claiming Cook had advocated closing another youth facility instead of the Corsicana unit.

“I’ve never advocated closing any facility,” Cook said. “As a matter of fact, I advocate just the opposite — they don’t need to be closing any facilities.”

Cook said it still takes the support of House Speaker Straus to finalize any decision of the Legislative Budget Board.

“That (support) hasn’t been forthcoming,” Cook said. “We’re going to continue to fight this battle.”

The Speaker’s office issued a statement in response to the Statesman’s story late Thursday.

“The Speaker’s concerns about closing the Corsicana facility have not changed,” said Jason Embry, a spokesman for Straus. “The House continues to work with the Senate to explore alternatives that will best serve both the youth in that facility and Texas taxpayers.”

Sen. Brian Birdwell’s office said it’s waiting to hear --from the lieutenant governor’s office directly. A conference call was scheduled for Thursday evening to discuss the matter, said Ben Stratmann, chief of staff for Sen. Birdwell.

“I want to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth,” Stratmann said.

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