Serving the Church in Texas

Sine Die report for the 85th Legislature

The 2017 legislative session was marked by discord, but our priority bills fared better than average. While the legislative process is designed for bills to fail, a remarkably small percentage of bills (12 percent) passed this session — the lowest percentage since 1891. However, 56 percent of our priority bills passed and only one bill (SB 4) we opposed passed. This results from the direct involvement of Texas Catholics and bishops, and the TCCB’s legislative relationships. This report summarizes the impact of the Catholic church on Texas politics during the 85th Legislature.

Pro-Life

Win: HB 35 / SB 258. We supported this bill to require the burial of the victims of abortion and remove the option of disposing victims in a landfill or grinding and flushing them into the sewer. It was included in SB 8, a large pro-life bill, which passed both the Senate and House.

Win: HB 3771. We supported this bill to provide a uniform definition of abortion in state law so treatment for ectopic pregnancies is not included in the legal definition of abortion. It was included in SB 8, a large pro-life bill, which passed both the Senate and House.

Win: SB 8 / HB 200. We supported this bill to ban partial-birth abortion in state law and ban the research or sale of victims of abortion. At final passage, it included HB 35 / SB 258 and HB 3771 and measures to ban dismemberment abortions. Both the Senate and House passed this bill.

Win: HB 2858 / SB 1377. We supported this bill to increase punishment for coerced abortions in the course of human trafficking, and require human trafficking hotline signs be posted in abortion facilities. This bill was included in HB 2552, and passed both the House and Senate.

Loss: SB 25 / HB 434. We supported this bill which prohibited wrongful birth lawsuits against doctors, through which people can allege they would have had an abortion if they had known the unborn child was disabled. The Senate passed this bill; the House did not.

Loss: HB 2962 / SB 1602. We supported this bill requiring accurate reporting for abortion complications to provide critical information for future policymaking. Both the House and the Senate passed this bill, but it died on a technicality during the final days of session.
Children and Families

Win: HB 4. We supported this bill to increase funding for kinship foster care. Both the House and Senate passed this bill, and the Governor signed it.

Win: HB 5. We supported this bill to establish the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) as its own agency. The House and Senate passed this bill, and the Governor signed it.

Win: SB 11 / HB 6. We supported this bill to establish community-based foster care, which will allow for local organizations and faith-based groups to take a more active role in recruiting foster families and providing temporary homes for foster children. Both the Senate and House passed this bill, and the Governor signed it.

Win: HB 3859 / SB 892. We supported this bill to protect religious liberty for faith-based organizations who provide direct services to foster children. Both the Senate and the House passed this bill.

Loss: SB 542 / HB 1184. We supported this bill to establish parental choice for low-income public-school students through a tax credit scholarship. Neither the Senate nor the House passed this bill.

Loss: HB 21. As written and passed by the House, this bill reformed school finance; as amended and passed by the Senate, it also established parental choice through an ESA for special needs students. We supported the bill as amended but the House and Senate could not come to agreement on the final content of the bill, and it died.

Health and Human Services

Win: HB 10. We supported this bill to establish greater access to mental healthcare and substance abuse treatment. Both the House and the Senate passed the bill.

Win: HB 13. We supported this bill to establish a grant to match donations to mental health programs. Both the House and the Senate passed this bill.

Immigration

Loss: SB 4. We opposed this bill to increase cooperation between federal ICE agents and local police. SB 4 requires police honor ICE detainer requests for arrested persons, and it allows police to work with ICE to enforce immigration law. Both the House and Senate passed this bill, and the Governor signed it.

Loss: SB 1054. We supported this bill to increase punishment for undocumented migrants committing violent crimes in a way that maintained targeted enforcement of immigration law. Neither the House nor the Senate passed this bill.

Win: SB 1018 / HB 2225. We opposed this bill to waive state licensing requirements for migrant family detention centers, which would have allowed them to increase the number of detainees. The Senate passed this bill, but the House did not.

Poor and Vulnerable

Win: HB 2008. We supported this bill to ensure the state has the ability to enforce the federal military lending act of 2006 so members of the military are not targeted by payday lenders. Both the House and the Senate passed this bill.

Win: Floor Amendments. We opposed several amendments proposed on the House floor, which could have been quickly attached to bills at the last minute, and would have voided the 42 payday ordinances we have worked so hard to establish. We stopped these through timely advocacy.

Loss: HB 1134. We supported this bill to establish regulations upon predatory payday lending throughout Texas. Neither the House, nor the Senate passed this bill.

Win: HB 31. We opposed this bill to speed up an individual property owner’s timeframe to obtain a groundwater permit because it also impeded a local community’s control over groundwater exports. The House passed this bill, but the Senate did not.

Win: SB 1628. We opposed this bill to repeal the hearing process for environmental quality permits because it limited public participation in environmental decisions. Neither the House nor the Senate passed this bill.

Criminal Justice

Win: HB 2552. We supported this bill to combat the establishment of massage parlors, which front for prostitution and human trafficking. This bill was also amended with pro-life bill HB 2858. Both the House and Senate passed this bill.

Loss: HB 3054 / SB 1616. We supported this bill to allow a judge to give more accurate instructions to sentencing juries. Neither the House nor the Senate passed this bill.

Loss: SB 1859. We supported this bill to establish a human-trafficking team in the Department of Public Safety. Neither the Senate nor the House passed this bill.

Loss: HB 147 / HB 316. We supported these bills to repeal the law of parties for capital offenses. Neither the House nor the Senate passed these bills.

 

Pro-life

HB 35/SB 258 requires the proper burial or cremation of unborn children lost through miscarriage or abortion. The TCCB supports this bill to provide increased respect to the bodies of the unborn.

 

SB 8/HB 200 bans partial birth abortion, and creates a criminal penalty for the physician, and a civil cause of action for the father. This bill also prohibits fetal tissue research from abortion victims. The TCCB supports this bill to allow prosecution and penalty for the crime of partial birth abortion and to prevent the sale of the bodies of children lost to the tragedy of abortion.

SB 25/HB 434 prohibits lawsuits for wrongful birth. The TCCB supports this bill which recognizes that all children deserve to be born.

 

 

HB 2858/SB 1377 increases the penalties for coerced or forced abortion by a human trafficker and requires increased trafficking signage in abortion facilities. The TCCB supports this bill to better rescue trafficked victims and punish traffickers.

 

HB 2962/SB 1602 requires abortion complications to be reported by health care facilities with the highest level of specificity. The TCCB supports this bill which will produce more accurate abortion complication data for sound policy decisions in the future.

Children and Families

Parental Choice

SB 542/HB 1184 establish school choice in Texas by allowing insurance companies to donate part of their taxes to a nonprofit scholarship granting organization. The organization would then offer scholarships to children who wish to enroll in private school. The program prioritizes students with the greatest academic and financial need, and to be eligible, students must be from lower income families, have special needs, be in foster care, or have parents who are active duty military.

Foster Care

HB 4/SB 11 establishes a sliding scale for the levels of monetary assistance for foster caregivers and puts in place penalties for fraud. The TCCB supports this bill which provides greater levels of assistance to foster parents at lower income levels.

 

HB 6/SB 11 creates a regional community-based foster care system for placement of foster care children, rather than maintaining the existing state-agency model. The TCCB supports this bill which respects the value of regional and local communities in developing local solutions for families involved with the protective services system.

SB 892/HB 3859 provides conscience protections to ensure that child welfare providers who act based on sincerely held religious beliefs are not discriminated against in grants or ability to provide child welfare services because they refuse to (1) refer for abortions or (2) place children with same sex couples. The TCCB supports this bill to ensure the that religious providers can serve children and maintain our freedom of religion.

Immigration

Regarding immigration, good government has two duties, both of which must be carried out and neither of which can be ignored. The first duty is to welcome the foreigner out of charity and respect for the human person. The second duty is to secure one’s border and enforce the law for the sake of the common good. Reform of immigration law must be targeted, proportional, and humane.

SB 4 is an anti-sanctuary cities bill which requires compliance with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainers, preempts local law enforcement policies, and punishes cities who refuse to cooperate with ICE. The TCCB opposes this bill because it would effectively sever communication between law enforcement and the migrant community. In addition, it is not targeted or proportional: individuals with criminal convictions are not prioritized for detention and deportation.

SB 1054 requires judges to determine lawful immigration status of individuals on trial for violent offenses. If the convict is an unlawful migrant, punishment for the offense is increased and the convict cannot be released for parole without the guarantee of deportation by federal authorities. The TCCB supports this bill because it is targeted, proportional, and humane.

Criminal Justice

HB 3054/SB 1616 removes directives that require judges and attorneys to lie to jurors about the level of unanimity required for a death sentence. The TCCB supports this bill to improve the rights of jurors serving in death penalty sentencing cases.

 

SB 1859 establishes a unit within the Department of Public Safety (DPS) which would investigate and combat human trafficking and implement a public outreach campaign on this issue. The TCCB supports this bill which seeks to punish and prevent an egregious crime.

 

HB 147 and HB 316 both repeal the law of parities. Under the law of parties, if a person is in a group that is committing a crime, and then one member of the group commits a capital offense, every member of the group can be tried for the capital offense. The TCCB supports this bill which prevents the use of the death penalty against persons who did not commit a capital offense.

Health and Human Services

HB 10 seeks to establish greater parity and access to mental health, and substance abuse treatment. The TCCB supports this bill to provide greater access to mental health and behavioral health treatment.

 

HB 13 establishes a state grant that would match donations to organizations providing mental health programs. The TCCB supports this bill to increase mental health services in the community.

Stewardship of the Environment

HB 31 limits the ability of a local community to control the export of their groundwater to other areas of the state. The TCCB opposes this bill because it violates the principle of subsidiarity.

 

SB 1628 repeals the contested case hearing process for environmental quality permits. The TCCB opposes this bill because it limits the community's ability to protect health considering potential environmental hazards.