Sine Die Report on Priority Bills in the 86th Legislative Session

Educate: Throughout the 2019 session, we educated and mobilized the laity to take an active role in supporting the bishops’ agenda. Specifically, we have published online briefs—available here—of the topics on our legislative agenda to explain Church teaching and how to improve state law. We had 21,000 unique visitors to our site during legislative session.

Mobilize: Second, for the first time this legislative session, we provided an online tool to make it easy for Catholics to contact their legislator. We introduced it at rallies, to parishes hosting letter-writing campaigns, and to our coalition partners. We facilitated 5,540 contacts between legislators and Catholics using this tool and had more than 2,000 Catholics attended our Advocacy Day on March 26.

Advocate: Texas’ legislative process is designed for bills to be carefully scrutinized, which prevents many of them from becoming laws. This session, 7,795 bills were filed and 1,272 (16.3 percent) became law. We engaged to publicly support 164 bills, and 67 (40.9 percent) became law.[1] Of the 17 bills we engaged to oppose, 15 (88.2 percent) didn’t pass, 1 passed after the author addressed our concerns by amending the bill, and 1 bill that we opposed passed. A summary of notable 2019 wins and losses by topic is below.

Life and Family

  • Win: Pregnancy Resource Center Funding in HB 1: Biennial funding for pregnancy resource centers increased from $38.3 million in FY 2018-19 to $79.9 million (208 percent) in FY 2020-21.
  • Win: SB 22 / HB 1929: This bill prohibits state and local government subsidies to abortion providers or their affiliates. This bill passed.
  • Win: HB 16 / SB 23: This bill creates a civil penalty and a criminal offense for physicians who fail to render aid to babies born alive despite an attempted abortion. This bill passed.
  • Win: SB 24: This bill amends the Women’s Right to Know law to strengthen informed consent before an abortion. This bill passed.
  • Win: HB 2271: This bill allows the Attorney General’s office to advertise the Choose Life license plates. This bill passed.
  • Progress: HB 3950: This bill would have developed a statewide plan for the continued implementation of community-based foster care and family preservation. This bill passed the House and Senate but failed to reach concurrence on amendments.
  • Loss: HB 4199: This bill would have eliminated “wrongful birth” lawsuits. This bill died.
  • Loss: HB 1685 / SB 2160 / HB 2350: These “trigger ban” bills would have allowed Texas to prohibit abortion immediately if the U.S. Supreme Court allowed that act. These bills died.

Immigration

  • Loss: HB 1765: This bill would have required the state to allow unaccompanied migrant children in state-licensed facilities to be visited by their adult family members. This bill died.
  • Loss: HB 67 / SB 564: These bills would have required the state to record and report data about unaccompanied migrant children who reside in a state-licensed facility. These bills died.
  • Loss: HB 2266 / SB 672: These bills would have repealed certain requirements that local law enforcement work with federal agents. These bills died.

Restorative Justice

  • Win: Jail Diversion Funding in HB 1: Biennial funding for programs to divert defendants away from incarceration through treatment or community supervision was set at $495.4 million.
  • Win: HB 650: This bill establishes excellent rehabilitative care for incarcerated mothers through, among other things, education and frequent contact with their children. This bill passed.
  • Win: HB 1651: This bill allows inmates who are pregnant or have given birth within the previous 12 weeks to not be shackled as they bond with their baby. This bill passed.
  • Win: HB 3227: This bill increases and promotes female inmates’ access to educational, vocational, substance abuse treatment, rehabilitative, life skills, and pre-release programs.  This bill passed.
  • Win: HB 918 / SB 461: This bill requires inmates be released from prison with documents that help them obtain employment, such as an ID, a Social Security card, and a resume. This bill passed.
  • Win: HB 1342 / SB 523: This bill removes barriers to occupational licenses faced by former offenders so that individuals can obtain gainful employment in skilled trades. This bill passed.
  • Win: SB 719 / HB 261: This bill initially expanded capital punishment to include the murder of a child under age 15 (current law is 10). We successfully limited the penalty to life without parole; the bill passed.
  • Progress: HB 1139 / SB 418, HB 1936, and HB 1030 / SB 716: These bills would have improved state laws on capital punishment by respectively ending executions of the intellectually disabled and the mentally ill, as well as clarifying capital sentencing jury instructions. HB 1139 passed both House and Senate but failed in conference committee. The rest passed the House, but not the Senate.
  • Progress: HB 2020 / SB 2241, HB 1323 / SB 628: These bills would have reformed the bail system to allow pretrial incarceration because an accused is dangerous to the community, not because they cannot afford cash bail. HB 2020 passed the House, but not the Senate.
  • Loss: HB 256: This bill would have allowed offenders under age 18 at the time of their offense to be considered for parole after serving 20 calendar years in prison. This bill died.
  • Loss: HB 344: This bill would have raised the age of adult criminal responsibility from 17 to 18 years old. This bill died.

Education

  • Win: HB 3: This over 300-page bill changes state funding of public education. In sum, the bill will significantly help vulnerable students and improve public education statewide. This bill passed.
  • Win: SB 1230 / HB 2739: This bill expands reporting requirements to require reporting of misconduct by public and private school staff members – not just certified teachers in public schools. This bill passed.
  • Win: SB 1231 / HB 2740: This bill provides all schools, public and private, with access to the results of state investigations into misconduct by school staff. This bill passed.
  • Win: SB 1256 / HB 2738: This bill allows public and private schools to access a TEA do-not-hire registry of any school personnel who have engaged in misconduct with students. These bills advanced because they were amended onto HB 3.
  • Loss: SB 1905, 1906: These bills would have established educational choice, but these bills died.

Healthcare

  • Win: HB 1669: This bill increases access to treatment for mental illness and addiction. This bill passed.
  • Win: SB 1545: This bill allows Bexar County hospitals to trigger matching federal revenue using their own funds in order to receive payment for otherwise uncompensated care. This bill passed.
  • Win: SB 2089 / HB 3158: This bill would have required healthcare providers to inappropriately and indefinitely provide medical interventions if so ordered by a surrogate, thereby violating providers’ conscience and allowing indefinite harmful interventions on patients. This bill died.
  • Win: SB 2129: This bill would have made significant changes to end of life care that would have eliminated reasonable medical judgment from the decision-making process. This bill died.
  • Win: SB 916 / HB 2057: This bill improves education about palliative care to distinguish it from hospice services. This bill passed.

Social Concerns

  • Win: HB 1483 / SB 643: This bill creates a pilot program to help low-income Texans achieve self-sufficiency by slowly reducing (current law requires rapidly reducing) their benefits when their income surpasses current limits while enrolled wrap-around case management. This bill passed.
  • Win: SB 20 / HB 15: This bill combats human trafficking in several ways, including broadening the definition of coercion, providing rehabilitation programs, and protecting victims in trials. This bill passed.
  • Win: HB 3292: This bill would have opened a predatory lending loophole that would have allowed uncapped short-term lending and subverted the Military Lending Act. This bill died.
  • Win: HB 3899: This bill would have pre-empted payday and auto-title lending municipal ordinances. This bill died.
  • Win: HB 4345: This bill encourages non-profit charitable organizations to report allegations of abuse by former staff to prospective employers.  This bill passed.
  • Loss: HB 190: This bill would have required that lenders verify a borrower’s ability to repay before issuing a payday or auto-title loan. This bill died.
  • Loss: HB 1258: This bill would have adopted statewide the local payday and auto-title lending regulations currently enacted in over 40 Texas cities. This bill died.

Religious Liberty

  • Win: SB 1978 / HB 3172: This bill prohibits state or local governments from discriminating against persons due to their membership in, affiliation with, or support for a religious organization. This bill passed.
  • Win: SB 18 / HB 3395: This bill protects free speech at public institutions of higher education, including those of religious students, student organizations, and faculty. This bill passed.
  • Progress: SB 784: This bill would have prohibited public schools from offering sex education unless the school provides parents with the lesson content. This passed the Senate, not the House.

Creation

  • Win: HBs 6, 2340, 2345: These bills improve long-term disaster mitigation, management, response and recovery. All these bills passed.
  • Win: HB 3365, HB 3616, SB 982, and HB 3668 / SB 2334: These bills facilitate the participation of volunteers, faith-based non-profits, and food banks in disaster recovery. These bills passed.
  • Win: HB 723: This bill improves the state’s understanding of available water by updating water availability models for several Texas rivers. This bill passed.
  • Win: HB 807: This bill increases communication and efficiency in drought planning, and it passed.
  • Loss: SB 396: This bill would have established a State Flood Plan similar to the current State Water Plan to plan for natural disasters. This bill died.

[1] The total bills filed in the legislature includes companion bills, which are identical bills filed in both chambers, while the TCCB list excludes companions.