Sine Die Report on Priority Bills for Advocacy Day 2023

On March 28, approximately 5,000 Catholics, including approximately 1,500 Catholic school students, gathered at the state Capitol for a day of prayer and advocacy. Students participated in a mock hearing exercise on payday lending, groups of constituents met with their representatives on nearly two dozen pieces of legislation, and we gathered with our bishops for a rally on the south steps of the Capitol. Overall, we were successful in achieving 67% of our goals regarding legislation on our Advocacy Day.  

Parental Choice 

We supported parental choice bills that required accreditation for participating private schools and contained robust religious liberty and autonomy protections (HB 619, HB 4340, SB 176/HB 4807, SB 8/HB 5261, SB 2354/HB 4339, SB 2483, HB 2817, HB 5267). Our advocacy concentrated on those bills that prioritized the poor. All the bill authors whose bills needed improvement accepted our edits to improve their bills.  

Ultimately, SB 8 passed out of the Senate and received a hearing in the House but was not voted out of committee. We are optimistic a parental choice bill will pass in a special session. The language in SB 8 and HB 4340, listed below, is the policy which advanced the farthest and is most likely to be reintroduced in a special session.  

Progress: SB 8/HB 5261: This bill improves parental rights in public schools and creates an education savings account program which will allow $8,000 for current public school students to use toward private school tuition, tutoring, and educational expenses. The TCCB supports this bill and urges improvement by prioritizing those with the greatest academic and financial needs.

Progress: HB 4340: This bill establishes an education savings account program to enable parents to pay for tuition and fees, uniforms, instructional materials, and other approved expenses outside the public school system. The bill prioritizes students with disabilities and families of low and moderate income. The TCCB supports this bill to increase access to educational options, especially for the poor and vulnerable.

Integrated Background Checks

Win: SB 1469 (HB 3199) Passed: This bill allows child serving organizations to use the same pre-employment affidavit public and private schools use, which requires applicants to disclose any charge or conviction for an inappropriate relationship with a minor.

Win: HB 3198/SB 1473 language included in bills which were passed: This bill was provided as an omnibus bill and as a back-up in case other legislation did not pass. The bill was not necessary, since SB 1469, SB 1471 and SB 1849 were all passed, and it contained all of the elements of HB 3198 and SB 1473.

Win: SB 1469 (HB 3199) Passed: This bill allows child serving organizations to use the pre-employment affidavit that is used for applicants for jobs in public and private schools which requires applicants to discuss whether they ever been charged with, adjudicated for, or convicted of having an inappropriate relationship with a minor.

Win: SB 1471 (HB 3202) Passed: This bill allows accredited private schools to have equal access to all background check options that public schools have including access to FBI and national crime databases through fingerprinting background checks.

Win: SB 1849 (HB 4236) Passed: This bill creates an interagency database that combines the do-not-hire databases from each state agency so that schools and child service providers can access one database.

Other Legislation

Win: SB 923 Failed to Pass: This bill prohibits undocumented immigrants from enrolling in Texas public K-12 schools unless the school board has an agreement for the US government to pay the state for the cost of educating the students. The TCCB opposed this bill which would deny access to education to migrant children. It died in the Senate Education Committee.

Win: HB 1743 Passed: This bill requires the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) to ensure incarcerated individuals who are eligible for SNAP benefits can apply before their release so they may access their benefits immediately upon release.

Win: HB 12 Passed: This bill extends Medicaid coverage up to 12 months for postpartum mothers.

Win: SB 26 Passed: This bill seeks to expand mental health capacity, especially for children and adolescents, through the creation of an innovation grant program and requires transition support services for high need patients discharged from facilities.

Progress: HB 213: This bill provides additional considerations for youthful offenders in consideration for parole. It died in the Senate Criminal Justice Committee.

Progress: HB 1599: This bill allows HHSC to use already-verified information from other state programs such as SNAP to move eligible kids to an "express lane" for enrollment in Medicaid or CHIP. It passed the House but did not receive a hearing in the Senate.

Progress: HB 727: This bill prohibits the sentence of death fora defendant who, at the time of the commission of a capital offense, had severe mental illness. It passed the House but did not receive a hearing in the Senate.