This Week in the Legislature: April 11-April 19, 2015

Legislative Update #13 | View Archive


This Week in the Legislature
April 11 – April 17, 2015

Days 89-95; 45 days to go

A plethora of bills that touch or affect the operations of religious organizations are receiving hearings in committee, the Senate passes a budget, and the House and Senate are light years apart on Education.

Top Story:  Lots of bills affecting religious organizations

While legislation affecting the lives of Texans should not be reduced to a game, nevertheless, thinking of a game of chess as a metaphor is useful to explain the point at which we have arrived in the 84th Legislature. Leaders of the House and Senate have deployed their pieces according to strategy, and pieces are beginning to be taken. It is not unusual for the agendas of the House and Senate to come into conflict with each other around this time. What is unusual, however, is that some are beginning to speculate that Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick wants a special session. In a special session, the issues are fewer and focused, while media attention is heightened. Many wonder if Lt. Gov. Patrick doesn’t feel he has the advantage in a special session, and would prefer to play a game of “one-on-one” basketball rather than chess. 

Click to read Harvey Kronberg’s analysis from the Quorum Report

Take Action Now! Urgency on Good and Bad Bills

With 42 days left in the legislative session, every minute counts—and this week is critical for Texas Impact’s priority bills. We are supporting bills that would help families get ahead, including payday lending regulation, banking improvements, charitable choice, and insurance for low-income parents. We’re opposing private school vouchers, anti-immigrant bills, religious practice bills, and bills that Texas religious leaders fear would keep them from prohibiting guns on religious property—including religious colleges.

On Wednesday, April 22, the House Committee on Investments and Financial Services will take public testimony on a number of bills that would regulate payday and auto title lenders. Texas Impact supports strengthening payday regulation. We also support bills pending in the committee that would increase access to banking services for low-income communities in Texas.

Read our recent op-ed in the Austin American-Statesman about the need for a holistic approach to improving financial services for all Texans

Video: Texas Impact Board of Directors Press Conference

Leaders from a number of Texas religious communities expressed grave concern at a press conference today regarding legislators’ unprecedented efforts in the current legislative session to influence the affairs of religious organizations.

The press conference video is available below. Click here to read the full press release.


Press Conference - Texas Faith Leaders Call on Legislators to Set Aside Harmful Religious Bills

Texas Faith Leaders Call on Legislators to Set Aside Harmful Religious Bills

For Immediate Release April 16, 2015
CONTACT: Bee Moorhead, Executive Director, Texas Impact • 512-636-3135 • bee@texasimpact.org

Texas Impact Board says lack of stakeholder involvement has led to at least 45 bills with potential dangerous, unintended consequences for denominations, faith-based groups and crucial state services

AUSTIN –Leaders from a number of Texas religious communities expressed grave concern at a press conference today regarding legislators’ unprecedented efforts in the current legislative session to influence the affairs of religious organizations.

Texas Impact leaders, who represent a broad spectrum of Christian, Jewish and Muslim organizations from across the state, raised concerns about at least 45 bills that would have serious ramifications, not only for faith communities, but for state agencies and programs that depend on faith-based partners to deliver crucial services including disaster response, child welfare, nutrition assistance, nursing home care, and others.

Texas Impact Board President Reverend Dr. Whitney Bodman predicted, "If these bills become law, many members of religious organizations will be shocked by the consequences. This narrow-minded legislation would cause harm to people and institutions that Texans hold dear. Texas faith communities deserve better from their legislators."

Several of the bills of concern would limit the ability of congregations and religiously affiliated facilities like seminaries to prohibit guns on their property. United Methodist Reverend Dr. T. Randall Smith said, “Many denominations, including the United Methodist Church, require all their facilities to be gun-free zones. Throwing up regulatory hurdles in state law complicates our task and tramples on our rights as property owners.”

Other high-profile bills are intended to limit the spread of “Sharia law” by restricting the applicability of “foreign law” in Texas courts and increasing disclosures and limits on mediation. “In attacking the freedom of Texas Muslims to practice their faith, legislators could undermine practices in many faith traditions and secular voluntary organizations designed to limit litigation and promote peace and justice,” said Ellen Sable, representing the National Council of Jewish Women in Texas.

Still other bills would disrupt the calibration of Texas’ already robust religious freedom protections. “Texas’ Religious Freedom Restoration Act was passed with broad bipartisan support in 1999 after a broad-based stakeholder process involving more than 50 organizations and 120 diverse faith leaders. Today’s proposed bills and constitutional amendments would undo that historic good work, with possible chilling impacts on faith-based provision of social services,” said Presbyterian Reverend Tom Heger. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Religious leaders have expressed concern throughout the legislative session that stakeholder processes, traditionally a key component of the legislative process, have been largely absent. Lack of stakeholder involvement has led to bills with unintended consequences and in some cases bills working at cross purposes. “Dozens of these bills would impact core religious functions and key services, and the authors have not attempted to address, or in many cases even understand, the faith communities’ needs and concerns,” said Texas Impact board secretary Amanda Quraishi. “Texas Impact has had the same phone number since 1973…if legislators want to work with the faith community, they know where to find us.” 

###

Action Alert: HB 40 Vote on the House Floor Tomorrow, April 14, 2015

On Tuesday, April 14, the Texas House of Representatives will debate House Bill 40, authored by Rep. Drew Darby. Texas Impact opposes HB 40 because, although it includes compromise language intended to allay some fears of local officials, the bill ultimately represents a real threat, not only to the independence of local governments, but to the future of the state’s public health and safety.

The brevity of HB 40 belies the far-reaching effects it would have on local control, essentially stripping cities and county governments of their ability to regulate oil and gas, even in the interests of public health and safety. The bill’s language makes this explicit: “The legislature intends that this Act expressly preempts regulation of oil and gas operations by municipalities and other political subdivisions that is already impliedly preempted by state law.”

Click here to read more.

Action Alert: Contact Texas Senators to Oppose SB 4 and SB 1819

Update #2: Contact information for all Senators now available.

Update: In-State Tuition Fact Sheet available from the Center for Public Policy Priorities (CPPP): English | Spanish


Texas Impact encourages you to consider making and organizing telephone calls this week to help protect public education funding from senators trying to siphon off funding for private schools and to protect in-state tuition for all Texas high school graduates.

Below you will find talking points and toll free numbers to key senators. Please distribute widely so legislators understand that people of faith view these issues as priorities.

People of faith can make a difference in Texas. We hope that you will join friends throughout the state in making your voice heard on these two important issues, and let us know how the calls go!

Downloadable Talking Points available here.

Click here to view the talking points.


Syndicate content