Better Neighbors | May 2015: Energy Efficiency

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Action Alert: Step on the Gas, Hit the Brakes

UPDATED with new information regarding SB 2065.

Now that the deadline has passed for House bills to pass the House, the focus is on bills that already have passed one chamber and just need a little push to get through the second...or a gentle tap on the brakes to keep them from becoming law.

Find legislator phone numbers, bill information and more at texasimpact.org


Religious Freedom

  • SB 2065: Hit the Brakes!

This bill is called “Pastor Protection” but without a key amendment it’s “Denominational Discrimination.” Urge members of the House of Representatives to insist that the bill’s authors accept the Protestant Bishops’ Amendment before they pass it with a floor vote.

  • SB 531: Hit the Brakes!

This bill is part of the “American Law for American Courts” package, more commonly known as “anti-Sharia.” Urge your senator to oppose this bill.

 

Building Family Self-Sufficiency

  • HB 2718: Step on the Gas

This bill would provide new opportunities for congregations and other faith-based groups to help families on public assistance move toward self-sufficiency. Urge the Senate Health and Human Services Committee to report this bill favorably.

  • HB 1267: Step on the Gas

This bill would soften Texas’ lifetime ban on food assistance for individuals convicted of drug felonies. Amendments added on the House floor ensure the bill is not a “free pass.” Urge Lt. Governor Patrick to move the bill quickly.

 

Fairness in the Criminal Justice System

  • HB 48: Step on the Gas

This bill would establish an Innocence Commission to help prevent wrongful convictions. Urge Lt. Governor Patrick to move the bill quickly.

  • SB 158: Step on the Gas

This bill would create a grant program to help local law enforcement agencies equip officers with body cameras. Urge the House Select Committee on Emerging Issues in Law Enforcement to report the bill favorably.

  • HB 1036: Step on the Gas

This bill would create reporting requirements regarding shootings injuries and deaths caused by peace officers. Urge the Senate Criminal Justice Committee to report the bill favorably.

 

Family Financial Stability

  • HB 1626: Step on the Gas

This bill would allow local communities to establish banking development districts to increase access to banking services in underserved areas. Urge Lt. Governor Patrick to move the bill quickly.

  • HB 1628: Step on the Gas

This bill would allow banks and credit unions to offer prizes as incentives to encourage customers to build savings accounts. Urge the Senate Business and Commerce Committee to report the bill favorably.

  • HB 1629: Step on the Gas

This bill would permit “crowd funding” for small business development. Urge the Senate Business and Commerce Committee to report the bill favorably.

 

Water

  • HB 3298: Hit the Brakes!

This bill would require the Water Development Board to study the possibility of establishing a water “grid” to move water from one region to another, essentially treating water as a commodity…like electricity. What’s the difference between water and electricity? 1. We can’t make more water. 2. We can’t live without water. This is a study we don’t need. Urge the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Water, and Rural Affairs to leave this bill pending.

  • SB 551: Step on the Gas

This bill would direct the Water Conservation Advisory Council to make legislative recommendations to improve water conservation in Texas. This is a study we do need! Urge the House Natural Resources Committee to report the bill favorably.

 

Support Community Attendants

Community attendants are the key to making cost-effective community services successful for approximately 150,000 individuals with disabilities and seniors in Texas, but our state is one of the worst in the country when it comes to supporting them. In 2015, the lowest paid attendants will make $7.86 per hour, plus receiving no sick leave, no paid vacation, and no health insurance. This creates a shortage of attendants and makes it hard for individuals with disabilities and seniors to find the good and reliable help that they need. A modest wage increase will improve reliability and service, which correlates to better health, less acute care, fewer ER visits, and fewer unnecessary institutionalizations. 

Download the one-pager

Download the 50-state wage comparison

Download the poverty rate comparison

Urge House and Senate budget conferees to fund a $10/hour floor for community attendant wages:

  • Sen. Jane Nelson- 877-784-3393
  • Sen. Chuy Hinojosa- 877-784-3393
  • Sen. Joan Huffman- 877-698-9270
  • Sen. Lois Kolkhorst- 877-843-6463
  • Sen. Charles Schwertner- 877-912-7327
  • Rep. John Otto- 877-248-6301
  • Rep. Trent Ashby- 877-426-7258
  • Rep. Sarah Davis- 877-869-9263
  • Rep. Larry Gonzales- 877-552-2542
  • Rep. Sylvester Turner- 877-617-9681

House Calendars Committee

  • Rep. Todd Hunter- (877) 532-3317
  • Rep. Eddie Lucio III- (877) 589-0523
  • Rep. Roberto Alonzo- (877) 735-8524
  • Rep. Byron Cook- (877) 826-5290
  • Rep. Sarah Davis- (877) 869-9263
  • Rep. Charlie Geren- (877) 842-6584
  • Rep. Helen Giddings- (877) 855-7862
  • Rep. Patricia Harless - (877) 887-8962
  • Rep. Dan Huberty- (877) 589-0531
  • Rep. Eric Johnson- (877) 697-8752
  • Rep. Ken King- (877) 925-3962
  • Rep. Lyle Larson- (877) 841-3467
  • Rep. Four Price- (877) 769-5387
  • Rep. Debbie Riddle- (877) 831-4723
  • Rep. Eddie Rodriguez- (877) 854-6756

      Your Senator

877-899-5027

SEN. BOB HALL

877-722-2392

SEN. BRANDON CREIGHTON

877-728-4023

SEN. BRIAN BIRDWELL

877-429-6532

SEN. CARLOS URESTI

877-763-8258

SEN. CHARLES PERRY

877-912-7327

SEN. CHARLES SCHWERTNER

877-763-3286

SEN. CHUY HINOJOSA

877-738-6753

SEN. DONALD HUFFINES

877-683-5594

SEN. DONNA CAMPBELL

877-982-3348

SEN. DONNA CAMPBELL

877-626-7856

SEN. EDDIE LUCIO, JR.

877-784-3393

SEN. JANE NELSON

877-698-9270

SEN. JOAN HUFFMAN

877-783-7248

SEN. JOHN WHITMIRE

877-723-4102

SEN. JOSE MENENDEZ

877-663-6476

SEN. JOSE RODRIGUEZ

877-356-4103

SEN. JUDITH ZAFFIRINI

877-448-8843

SEN. KEL SELIGER

877-564-9716

SEN. KEVIN ELTIFE

877-848-6058

SEN. KIRK WATSON

877-208-3505

SEN. KONNI BURTON

877-560-4263

SEN. LARRY TAYLOR

877-843-6463

SEN. LOIS KOLKHORST

877-512-0654

SEN. PAUL BETTENCOURT

877-301-3958

SEN. ROBERT NICHOLS

877-847-9374

SEN. RODNEY ELLIS

877-831-3664

SEN. ROYCE WEST

877-619-0723

SEN. SYLVIA GARCIA

877-694-4798

SEN. TROY FRASER

877-975-4637

SEN. VAN TAYLOR

877-653-2183

SEN. CRAIG ESTES

 


Senate Health and Human Services Committee

877-429-6532

SEN. CARLOS URESTI

877-763-8258

SEN. CHARLES PERRY

877-912-7327

SEN. CHARLES SCHWERTNER

877-982-3348

SEN. DONNA CAMPBELL

877-663-6476

SEN. JOSE RODRIGUEZ

877-356-4103

SEN. JUDITH ZAFFIRINI

877-975-4637

SEN. VAN TAYLOR

877-843-6463

SEN. LOIS KOLKHORST

877-653-2183

SEN. CRAIG ESTES


Lt. Governor Patrick

  • 877-682-6536

House Select Committee on Emerging Issues In Texas Law Enforcement

  • Rep. Allen Fletcher – (877) 207-1514
  • Rep. Dawnna Dukes – (877) 861-2859
  • Rep. Dan Flynn – (866) 429-7940
  • Rep. Linda Koop – (877) 901-0614
  • Rep Marisa Márquez – (877) 901-1422
  • Rep. Armando Martinez – (877) 207-1576
  • Rep. James White – (877) 546-0310

Senate Criminal Justice Committee

877-722-2392

SEN. BRANDON CREIGHTON

877-763-8258

SEN. CHARLES PERRY

877-763-3286

SEN. CHUY HINOJOSA

877-698-9270

SEN. JOAN HUFFMAN

877-783-7248

SEN. JOHN WHITMIRE

877-723-4102

SEN. JOSE MENENDEZ

877-208-3505

SEN. KONNI BURTON


Senate Business and Commerce Committee

  • Sen. Kevin Eltife- (877) 564-9716

  • Sen. Brandon Creighton- (877) 722-2392

  • Sen. Rodney Ellis- (877) 847-9374

  • Sen. Don Huffines- (877) 738-6753

  • Sen. Charles Schwertner- (877) 912-7327

  • Sen. Kel Seliger- (877) 448-8843

  • Sen. Larry Taylor- (877) 560-4263

  • Sen. Kirk Watson- (877) 848-6058

  • Sen. John Whitmire- (877) 783-7248

Senate Committee on Agriculture, Water, and Rural Affairs

877-899-5027

SEN. BOB HALL

877-722-2392

SEN. BRANDON CREIGHTON

877-763-8258

SEN. CHARLES PERRY

877-763-3286

SEN. CHUY HINOJOSA

877-663-6476

SEN. JOSE RODRIGUEZ

877-356-4103

SEN. JUDITH ZAFFIRINI

877-843-6463

SEN. LOIS KOLKHORST


House Committee on Natural Resources

  • Rep. Jim Keffer – (877) 822-5037
  • Rep. Trent Ashby – (877) 426-7258
  • Rep. Dennis Bonnen – (877) 861-0842
  • Rep. DeWayne Burns – (877) 398-8052
  • Rep. James Frank – (866) 342-4678
  • Rep. Kyle Kacal – (877) 539-3651
  • Rep. Tracy King – (877) 901-0286
  • Rep. Lyle Larson – (877) 901-0630
  • Rep. Eddie Lucio, III. – (877) 589-0523
  • Rep. Poncho Nevárez – (877) 356-1262
  • Rep. Paul Workman – (877) 640-4916

House of Representatives

This Week in the Legislature: May 9–May 15, 2015

Legislative Update #17 | View Archive


This Week in the Legislature
May 9 – May 15, 2015

Days 117-123; 17 days to go

In May of a legislative session, the deadline season arrives, and everyone scrambles to keep bills moving, or hold them up. After each deadline, the search begins for “germane vehicles,” or bills of a similar subject on which to hitch a ride by amendment. This week, the big deadline was 11:59 pm, Thursday, May 7, the deadline for House bills to pass the House.

Top Story: Deadlines & Bill Affecting Minority Religious Traditions

It is not uncommon to have something controversial scheduled on the House Calendar a day or two before the deadline. Depending on the level of controversy, and how many controversial bills are scheduled, every bill behind a controversial item on the House Calendar can be put in jeopardy. That is precisely what happened this session with HB 4105, a bill pertaining to same-sex marriage. Democrats began slowing down the Calendar on Wednesday evening. Using the rules of legislative procedure, Democrats calculated how long must be spent on every bill between where they were at, and the bill they were trying to block, and slowed things down to prevent it from arising.

A developing story over recent weeks involves a murky group called the “American Phoenix Foundation” that has been conducting surveillance of legislators and lobbyists for the past six months. Recently, they began approaching legislators in the halls of the Capitol asking provocative “gotcha” questions with hidden cameras. It is worth mentioning in the weekly update only because such antics affect the content of legislation by creating a chilling effect as lawmakers become reticent to talk to people they do not know or recognize. As Austin becomes more polarized like Washington, D.C., such tactics add to the power of ideology over facts and reduce the information coming to lawmakers from affected stakeholders as lawmakers feel safest talking to an insular circle of trusted advisors.

The Texas Tribune sums up the 84th Legislature thus far using just 14 Emojis.

In other news, please pray for Rep. Sylvester Turner whose sister passed away, for Rep. Ron Reynolds who suffered an appendicitis, and for Rep. Phil Stephenson who was hospitalized this past week.

Other Updates Organized by Texas Impact’s Legislative Agenda

Not all issue areas see new action each week.

1. Financial Security

On Wednesday, May 13, HB 1628 by Rep. Eric Johnson, passed the House on the Local and Consent Calendar. HB 1628 would give credit unions and banks the option to do a raffle prize giveaway for people who make savings deposits as a way to encourage people to save money, especially in low income neighborhoods.

2. Food

On Wednesday, May 13, HB 1267, which would end the permanent disqualification for drug felons for food stamps, passed the House 92 – 49.

3. Health

4. Immigration

After languishing in the Senate for six weeks, HB 11, the House’s border security bill, was set for public hearing next week. Whether there is agreement between House and Senate on border security, the Senate is simply moving the bill to be in position, or the Senate is preparing to load it up with sanctuary cities (SB 185) or repeal of in-state tuition (SB 1819), is still unknown. Read the Texas Tribune article for more information.

In other immigration-related news, the Republican party still shows itself to be greatly divided over the issue. As reported in Harvey Kronberg’s Quorum Report, a business leader in the Republican party called out Michael Quinn Sullivan for attacking Rep. Byron Cook, Chair of the House Committee on State Affairs. Sullivan has historically been a part of the libertarian wing of the party. Immigration tends to be a social conservative issue. Chairman Cook, one of the original “Cardinals” that were known as “ABC Republicans” (Anybody But Craddick) that elected Speaker Straus in 2009 has been a target of Mr. Sullivan. Click to read Mr. Sullivan’s blog and Mr. Adams’ response.

5. Education

On Thursday, May 14, House Public Education Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock laid out, but ultimately pulled down, his school finance bill, HB 1759. With Speaker Straus thanking the Chairman for his efforts, Chairman Aycock pulled the bill down saying, “we can kill all day with this bill…I don’t think it’s fair to leave this bill pending and kill everything when we know the Senate almost certainly will not consider the measure if it passes.” If Chairman Aycock had not pulled the bill, it would have almost certainly precipitated a school voucher fight as Representatives Dwayne Bohac and Matt Krause had prefiled voucher amendments.

On Friday, May 15, HB 1891 by Rep. Eddie Rodriguez relating to community schools passed the House 69 to 52. However, HB 1892 by Rep. Rodriguez, which would have created a grant program for community schools, failed to pass 60 to 82. Community schools are an alternative to Texas Education Agency takeovers of low-performing schools or privatization, integrating many of the social service issues affecting low-income families into the local school.

6. Budget & Revenue

On Wednesday, May 13, news begin to break of a tax cut deal reached between House and Senate negotiators, but as soon as the story broke, both chambers began to minimize expectations. In question is the mixture of which kind of tax cuts—in other words, how much will be property tax, sales tax, or franchise tax reductions. At this point in a legislative session, deals routinely get cut between the chambers, and failure to reach agreements can mysteriously take down seemingly unrelated legislation.  

7. Criminal Justice

On Friday, May 15, the House finally passed on 3rd reading HB 548, which would eliminate consideration of criminal history information on the initial application for state employment. The state would still check after the agency has determined that the applicant is otherwise qualified, and exceptions apply such as provision of services involving children. The bill passed 67-62.

8. Water

9. Energy

10. Faith

On Thursday, May 14, the House version of the “denomination discrimination” bill, HB 3567, died on the House Calendar. However, its companion, SB 2065, is alive and moving rapidly. The Speaker referred SB 2065 to the State Affairs Committee before adjourning, and the next morning on Friday, May 15, it was voted out of committee and sent to the Calendars Committee. Under the House rules, it could be on the House floor as early as Wednesday of next week. Texas Impact’s employment law concerns could easily be addressed if the Protestant Bishops’ Amendment was added to clarify that a civil court will not be intruding into religious doctrinal issues and impeding our free exercise. For more on this bill, see the weekly updates from May 2-8, and Apr. 25 - May 1.

On Thursday, May 14, anti-Muslim legislation (HB 562 and HB 670) died on the House Calendar. However, the Senate Committee on State Affairs reported favorably to the full Senate SB 531 by Senator Donna Campbell. Readers of past updates will recall, this bill is the so-called “American Law for American Courts” (ALAC) that is aimed at stopping the creep of Sharia law into our court system. Texas Impact opposes such legislation as baseless and anti-Muslim. If Texas courts were actually ignoring state statutes or constitutional law, then a far more serious problem would exist. The appropriate response would be the formation of a legislative committee to conduct investigations and determine if impeachment was warranted.

Update on guns: The bills affecting the ability of houses of worship to prohibit guns on their properties all died in committee or in Calendars. However, nothing is truly dead until Sine Die, and the open carry and campus carry bills are still alive. HB 910 (open carry) that contains a bad provision that would reduce the penalty for carrying a weapon on a prohibited premises, has been scheduled for public hearing on Monday of next week. SB 11 (campus carry) was reported favorably from House Homeland Security, and is on its way to Calendars.

11. Civic Engagement

12. Good Government

On Wednesday, May 13, it was apparent how far apart the House and Senate are on ethics reform. Chairman of the House State Affairs Committee, Rep. Byron Cook, called SB 19 “one of the most superficial efforts I have ever seen.” Chairman Cook made clear that “if the House is going to take this up, we’re going to do it in a meaningful way. We’re gonna have a real ethics bill otherwise there’s no reason to do it.” The House has sent several measures over to the Senate. In addition to Chairman Cook, Representatives Charlie Geren and Sarah Davis have led the House in those efforts and several bills have been sent over to the Senate.

Action Alert: Opportunities and Threats

House bills are facing hard deadlines: Monday is the last day for House committees to report House bills, and Thursday is the last day for House bills to be heard on the House floor on second reading. Two of Texas Impact’s priority bills are subject to those deadlines and need your calls right away. We also are still urging calls to the budget conferees to support a $10/hour floor for community attendants, and we’ve posted more helpful handouts on that issue.

We are still seeking a resolution to denominational concerns regarding HB 3567 and SB 2065, the “pastor protection” bills. Denominational leaders and attorneys say the bills would set a dangerous precedent unless they are amended to remove the threat of internal denominational lawsuits. 

Find legislator phone numbers, bill information and more at texasimpact.org

Religious Freedom Means Everyone

Protestant Bishops' Amendment

NEW! Talking Points on the Protestant Bishops’ Amendment to HB 3567/SB 2065

  1. Bishops of several Protestant denominations and their attorneys have raised concern that unless it is amended, HB 3567 creates an avenue for clergy—and, importantly, other church employees—to bring lawsuits against their church or denomination.  In other words, against their employer. 
  2. In some denominations, such as the Methodist Church, the Episcopal Church, and the Lutheran Church, the pastor is an employee of the denomination and is subject to what is called the “discipline” or “canons” of the church. These rules are doctrine – sincerely held religious beliefs, and the employer denomination can discipline pastors for acting against it.
  3. The right of denominations to discipline pastors is well settled. But HB 3567 would call it into question. Attorneys for the denominations agree, a pastor so disciplined could use this bill to sue the denomination, as could other church employees such as choir directors, custodians and childcare workers.
  4. Without the Protestant Bishops’ Amendment, HB 3567/SB2065 actually would restrict the religious freedom of millions of Texans, and establish a dangerous precedent. It will result in lawsuits that will use precious tithes to litigate—money that would be better spent on the charitable work of the church.

HB 3567 by Sanford and SB 2065 by Estes are called "Pastor Protection" bills, but without clarifying language, they will spell employment law problems for some Christian denominations.

Both of these bills have passed out of committee—SB 2065 is expected to come to the Senate floor on Monday, May 11, and HB 3567 is scheduled to come to the House floor on Tuesday, May 12.

Unless they are amended, these bills would allow clergy and other church employees to sue their denominations based on personal religious beliefs.  

Suggested message for legislators:

I am calling to ask Senator/Representative ______  to oppose SB 2065/ HB 3567 unless and until it is amended to address concerns about denominational governance. The amendment is necessary to ensure Texas is equally respectful of all denominations' First Amendment rights. A law that protects pastors in some churches should not jeopardize other churches' freedom from government interference. Thank you for standing up for all Texans' right to religious freedom.

Read Texas Impact’s press release


This Week in the Legislature: May 2-May 8, 2015

Legislative Update #16 | View Archive


This Week in the Legislature
May 2 – May 8, 2015
Days 110-116; 24 days to go

By this time in a legislative session, action is largely focused on the floors of both chambers while committees meet quickly in formal meetings to vote on pending bills that have already had hearings, or conduct short public hearings on the other chamber’s bills. If the legislative session was compared to a charity "coin vortex funnel," then the month of May is represented by the bottle neck where the speed of the coin is greatest and deadlines are rapidly approaching.

Top Story: Tough session for minority denominations and religions

Press Release: SB 2065 and HB 3567 Threaten First Amendment Rights for Some Denominations

Texas Impact: SB 2065 and HB 3567 Threaten First Amendment Rights for Some Denominations

AUSTIN—Texas Impact, Texas’ oldest and largest statewide interfaith advocacy network, remains opposed to SB 2065 and HB 3567 because the bills contain provisions that could increase lawsuits within churches and denominations.

Legal experts from Texas Impact’s member denominations say the bills limit religious freedom by allowing clergy and other employees to sue their employer denomination if their beliefs conflict concerning marriage.

Proponents of SB 2065 and HB 3567 describe the bills as “pastor protection” and say they are necessary to shield members of the clergy from future lawsuits should the U.S. Supreme Court rule that same-sex marriage prohibitions are unconstitutional.

However, as written, the bills would create a cause of action for clergy and other church employees to sue their employers if they are disciplined for disobeying denominational policies regarding marriage.

Attorneys for several mainline Protestant denominations provided the authors of both bills with amendment language to address their concerns, but neither author accepted the language. The amendment language would clarify that the bills are not intended to create a cause of action for lawsuits within denominations.

“No church wants lawsuits—from outside the church or from within. It would be simple to amend these bills to address the concerns of all denominations so that everyone could support them. Instead, lawmakers seem to favor certain church structures over others,” Texas Impact Executive Director Bee Moorhead said.

Dozens of pastors testified for the bill in public hearings in the House and Senate. Supporters were overwhelmingly Baptist, with different accountability structures than “connectional” denominations such as the United Methodist, Episcopal, Presbyterian and Lutheran churches.

“As currently written, both SB 2065 and HB 3567 intrude on denominational management and discipline of clergy, discipline that is fundamental to various denominational structures and freely entered into by pastors in those denominations,” Moorhead said. “We will continue to urge the legislature to adopt language we are offering to correct the bills and prevent the intrusion of the state into religious choice.”

###

This Week in the Legislature: April 25–May 1, 2015

Legislative Update #15 | View Archive


This Week in the Legislature
April 25 – May 1, 2015
Days 103-109; 31 days to go

As deadlines approach, attention in the last 30 days turns to floor action, as professional advocates are working hard to get scheduled or block bills in House Calendars, or to get 19 votes to suspend the rules or get 13 Senators to block consideration of a bill in the Senate. This week saw committee hearings on payday lending reform, death penalty abolition, and a good health bill; the House passed the Innocence Commission bill; and the politics of the “pastor protection” bill has made addressing the employment law concerns of hierarchical denominations difficult.

Top Story: Government interference with religious employment law

Action Alert: Good Health and Bad Medicine

Medicaid expansion is currently stalled, but legislators are considering a number of bills that would keep Texans healthy. Call your legislator and urge support!

On the down side, legislators are considering a host of bills that would encourage inappropriate government involvement in religion. Proponents say the legislation is needed to protect religious freedom...but these bills would create religious winners and losers. Tell lawmakers "religious freedom" means everyone.

Find legislator phone numbers, bill information and more below:

Take Action Now! Support Good Bills

With 35 days left in the legislative session, nerves are starting to fray. It's easy to focus on the negative, but focusing on the positive will benefit Texas more. Here are three steps legislators could take this week for the common good:

  1. Support Community Attendants
  2. Strengthen Payday Lending Regulation
  3. Increase Compassion in Texas' Criminal Justice System

Find legislator phone numbers, bill information and more at texasimpact.org

This Week in the Legislature: April 18-April 24, 2015

Legislative Update #14 | View Archive


This Week in the Legislature
April 18 – April 24, 2015

Days 96-102; 38 days to go

Tensions rise between the House and Senate, between the Legislature and the Governor, and within both chambers’ memberships.  

Top Story: Mounting Tensions Undermine Legislative Process

Many observers feel strongly that interpersonal and ideological conflict is slowing significantly the progress of major and minor legislation, including bills addressing border security, open carry, private school vouchers, tax cuts and pre-K. Nevertheless, budget bills have passed both chambers, clearing the way for House and Senate conferees to put a final budget together.

Play-by-Play

It’s not unusual for tensions to escalate between the House and Senate during late April, and this session is no different. Some will remember that two weeks ago, State Representative Dennis Bonnen took on Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick over the chambers’ competing tax cut plans.

One clear sign of tension is the slow pace with which chambers are referring each other’s bills to committee. Both chambers are choosing to pass their own bills over the other chamber’s version. For instance, the House passed HB 910, its open carry bill, even though the Senate companion (SB 17) has been received in the House, guaranteeing that one chamber will have to hear the contentious and time-consuming bill all over again if it wants the bill to become law.

On Monday, Rep. Bonnen accused the Lt. Gov. of “playing games” on border security and bringing bad Washington-style politics “to Austin instead of solving problems.” The Senate passed SB 3, the Senate’s companion legislation to HB 11, authored by Rep. Bonnen, which passed the House more than six weeks ago. The rest of the House’s border security package, HB 10 and HB 12, is also immobile in the Senate.

n Tuesday, the Senate voted 18-12 to suspend the rules and bring up SB 4, the Lt. Gov.’s school voucher bill. The bill passed 17-13. Over the weekend, a motorist ran a traffic signal and injured Senator Kel Seliger, who was on a motorcycle. His injuries were not life threatening, but required surgery at Brackenridge in Austin. Many speculate that Senator Seliger, a senator from a rural district without private schools that would benefit from vouchers and only public schools that would have funds diverted to private schools, was the 13th vote blocking SB 4 from coming to the floor.

On Wednesday, that tension boiled over into the public as R.G. Ratcliffe of Texas Monthly reported. Lt. Gov. Patrick declared he was tired of Governor Abbott and Speaker Straus “picking on me.”

On Thursday, the so-called tea party members of the House offered amendments to the Department of State Health Services’ (DSHS) Sunset bill that would further restrict abortions. The debate was less than civil, and after the amendment was adopted and hours had been spent on the bill, Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer called a sustainable point of order, forcing the bill’s author to take the bill back to committee to cure the point of order and strip off the amendments.

With three weeks until the deadline for House bills to clear the House, many speculate as to the timing of these amendments. By complicating the DSHS Sunset legislation, tea party members used up valuable time, diminishing the chances of passage for many other bills.

In other political news, two of the Speaker’s top Chairs have already been “primaried.” The Texas Tribune’s Patrick Svitek reports on the primary challenges coming to Chairman Charlie Geren and Chairman Jim Keffer.

In HD 124, former Bexar county prosecutor Ina Minjarez defeated former City Councilmember Delicia Herrera by a vote of 1,331 – 1,090. Each House District contains roughly 170,000 people, 125,000 of which are usually citizens of voting age. In this race only 2,421 people voted, or 2.77% turnout.

AmeriCorps VISTAs at the Texas Capitol, April 21, 2015

On April 21, as the wrap-up of their Quarterly Training, AmeriCorps VISTAs from around the state gathered at the Texas Capitol to learn about the policy process and be recognized by the Texas House of Representatives. Several VISTAs were also recognized for their service the past year before their term ends at the end of April.

We are honored to partner with so many hard-working and fantastic volunteers. Thank you for your service!


Rep. Naishtat recognizes AmeriCorps VISTAs

Quorum Report Reprint: Moorhead: The real Biblical meaning of charity

Note: This commentary was originally printed in the Quorum Report on April 15, 2015. You can also read the original article in PDF form.


Executive Director of Texas Impact offers an alternative view of how Scripture is used in political discourse
Editor’s note: Last week, Quorum Report’s conservative columnist Eric Bearse made the case that Democrats often, in his opinion, misquote Scripture for their political ends. Bee Moorhead, Executive Director of Texas Interfaith Center for Public Policy/Texas Impact, took exception to that and wished to respond. Her argument is offered here for your consideration – SB

The stories of the Hebrew and Christian Bibles are mainstays of our political discourse. They provide a shared language and common frame of reference for folks of widely disparate worldviews, believers and nonbelievers alike.

But Texas is not a theocracy. Happily, we live in a representative democracy where both believers and nonbelievers get to participate in the establishment of policy priorities.

For some of us, faith informs our policy positions. And since we don’t all believe the same things, we all may not be informed in the same way. Hang around the Capitol long enough, and you’ll hear a lot of different interpretations of Scripture.

On one point, though, you will find broad agreement in the Texas Capitol and other places where the work of politics and policy happen: the Bible does not belong to, apologize for, justify, or in any other way accrue to the benefit of any one political party. As the saying goes, God is not a Republican or a Democrat.

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

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