Texas Catholic Voice April 17, 2023

In this issue of the Texas Catholic Voice:

  • Air conditioning and parental choice ...
  • Dangerous immigration bills ...
  • Payday lending bills ...
  • And more!

A Message from Jennifer Allmon, Executive Director

Last Thursday St. Mary Magdalen Catholic School in San Antonio hosted Governor Greg Abbott for a parental choice in education event. About 300 parents heard Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller, Principal William Daily and Gov. Abbott address the issue of school choice as a natural extension of parents’ rights and responsibilities as the primary and principal educators of their children.

St. Mary Magdalen is in its 80th school year and has been a dual language school for the last 10 years. Some media who are hostile to school choice criticized the fact there was no air conditioning in the school’s gym, where the event was held; I think their discomfort that it defies the narrative that all private schools are wealthy was greater than any minor discomfort of those of us in the gym. What I saw were committed families who literally and figuratively will sweat to provide the best education possible for their children.

Too often opponents complain that exercising their right to choose is going to be difficult for parents, yet time and time again parents prove the sacrifices they will make for their kids. We are proud to support Rep. James Frank’s HB 4340 that creates a pathway to ease the financial burden for parents, including those of this beautiful community. 


Last week we also expressed our opposition to the anti-immigrant bills in committee and on the Senate floor. We support the right and responsibility of the federal government to address immigration, including just border security. Unfortunately, the decades-long failure of Congress and multiple executive administrations to adequately secure our international border has resulted in the state seeking to step in with legislation that also fail to strike a balance of protecting the vulnerable while preventing the entry of those who seek to harm, like cartels and smugglers who should be held accountable for their immoral and inhumane actions.

SB 2424, which passed the Senate, fails to account for the years long asylum and DACA processes and makes state crimes of a person’s presence in the United States while pursuing legal federal processes. Additionally, we are concerned about the impact on the religious liberty of our Catholic Charities ministries on the border.

On the House side, the State Affairs Committee heard three bills – HB 20, HB 7, and HB 82. We registered opposition for all three.

HB 20 by Rep. Matt Schaffer (Tyler) amends the powers and duties of the Department of Public Safety (DPS) to add the defense and security of the Texas air, maritime and land borders. It also adds a new division within DPS called "The Border Protection Unit," with a chief appointed by the governor whose responsibilities would include oversight and governance over civilian enforcement. This type of civilian activity in law enforcement is troubling. While the officers receive training, it does not contain requirements for trauma-informed care.

Additionally, it authorizes the unit to construct a wall. In the event of a “state of invasion,” the unit chief would be authorized to deter and repel persons attempting to enter the state illegally and return all aliens to Mexico, including by use of force. This bill does not recognize the responsibility to morally ascertain the difference among traffickers, victims, and legitimate refugees. The bill also gives immunity from criminal and civil liability for actions taken under the bill, including by the citizens who are employed.

HB 7 by Rep. Ryan Guillen (Rio Grande City) establishes a border court, a compensation fund for property damage at the border, and grants for universities to offer programs to recruit, train, and retain professionals in border safety. It funds border facilities and physical barriers, including walls and fences, and establishes a border safety oversight committee. The Border Protection Court Program has a very vague scope and unclear due process provisions.

HB 82 by Rep. David Spiller (Muenster) gives the governor authority to coordinate, develop, and execute an interstate compact for border security among interested states with or without approval of the US Congress. This bill encroaches on the federal government’s jurisdiction, and it will be very expensive.

In summary, these bills would create a powerful state system of deterrence, surveillance, and punishment for immigrants in Texas with very little oversight or accountability. This could have a terrible impact on immigrants and all people who are minorities and might be profiled as immigrants. Bringing local law enforcement into federal immigration law enforcement destroys trust between immigrant communities and those who are supposed to protect them, thus making the community less safe and less secure. 

High-cost lending abuses

As followers of Jesus Christ, we care for every person who experiences poverty. The Texas bishops support prioritizing the poor and vulnerable when addressing social and economic needs through public policy.

We seek to assist those who are in the greatest need through various means, and that includes opposing usurious loans such as payday and auto title lending, and certain cash advance loans. We support setting reasonable limits on fees and interest rates whenever possible. Our efforts to curtail these predatory loans this session have led us to oppose several broad pre-emption bills that would undo the 49 city and county ordinances that put reasonable limits on payday and auto title lenders.

As mentioned in a previous TCV, we were able to reach a compromise with bill authors to protect our ordinances on HB 2127 which will be heard on the House floor this week. We thank Rep. Burrows and Sen. Creighton for recognizing the importance of these ordinances and the good that they do for those seeking credit in a crisis. We are also grateful to Rep. Cody Harris, who has agreed to our compromise language to exempt current ordinances in HB 2350, and to Rep. Jeff Leach, who has agreed to our request to exempt payday ledning and sexually oriented businesses from his pre-emption bill, HB 2266.

Last week we also opposed a bill that creates new loopholes for earned wage access providers because the bill did not include any limitations on the amount or frequency of fees and does not include any minimum or maximum terms for the transaction. These requirements would provide some basic parameters for a transaction and help prevent consumer abuse in the payday and auto-title lending arena. We also testified in support of a bill to limit lenders to 30% APR during disasters and will continue our work of the last decade to curtail high-cost lending abuses in support of human dignity and the common good.  

Bills in Committee April 17-21

Please contact your legislators to indicate your position on these bills. Click on the link below for Who Represents Me to obtain their contact information.

House Higher Education Committee, Monday, 8 A.M.

HB 1361 by Rep. Morales Shaw requires all public colleges and universities to create a liaison officer to provide resources to parenting students on accessing medical and behavioral health coverage, public benefit programs, childcare, and other assistance for parenting and student success. The TCCB supports this bill to assist student parents advance their education and promote healthy families. 

House Public Health Committee, Monday,8 A.M.

HB 3162 by Rep. Klick reforms the Texas Advance Directives Act to improve the balance of the dispute resolution process when there is a dispute between surrogates and healthcare providers on the medical appropriateness of medical procedures and interventions. The TCCB supports this incremental reform bill that makes several substantial improvements to protect the balance of patient and healthcare provider autonomy. 

House Ways and Means Committee, Monday, 10 A.M.

HB 4809 by Rep. Capriglione creates a tax credit for companies donating to non-profit agencies providing family support programs. The TCCB supports this bill to encourage charitable giving to family support programs.  

House Select on Youth Health & Safety Committee, Monday, 11:30 A.M.

HB 1537 by Rep. Howard allows a law enforcement agency to submit a handle-with-care notice to the superintendent or employee of the school for a student who has experienced a traumatic event such as family violence or a school shooting. TEA must establish a handle-with-care notice one-hour training course for school employees who have responsibility for the supervision of students and the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement must establish a similar program for law enforcement officers. The TCCB supports this bill to promote coordination between schools and law enforcement in order to provide a compassionate response to children who experience a traumatic event. 

House Natural Resources Committee, Tuesday, 8 A.M.

HB 585 by Rep. Raymond requires the TCEQ to create a plan to protect water treatment facilities from electrical outages, catastrophic weather events, terrorist attacks, the projected effects of climate change, and other potential disruptions to providing water service. The TCCB supports this bill to promote disaster planning and mitigation and access to water in the event of a disaster.  

House Human Services Committee, Tuesday, 8 A.M.

HB 2645 by Rep. Lujan establishes a pilot program to assist foster youth to achieve financial security and independence as they transition to independent living. The department shall complete an evaluation of the program and submit a report to the State. The TCCB supports this bill to assist foster care children aging out of the system.  

HB 4138 by Rep. Schatzline requires the comptroller to establish and administer the Adoption Assistance Program for the purpose of encouraging adoption of Texas children by providing adoptive parents with financial assistance for adoption-related expenses, from private and public sources by certified non-profits. The TCCB supports this bill to encourage adoption of Texas children in need of a family.  

House Insurance Committee, Tuesday, 8 A.M.

HB 838 by Rep. Gonzalez removes the requirement that fertilization or attempted fertilization of a patient's eggs is made only with the sperm of the patient's spouse in IVF health benefit plan coverage. The TCCB opposes this bill because the underlying artificial reproductive technology separates the creation of life from the marital act.  

HB 1452 by Rep. Anchia requires insurance coverage for the cost of disposition of embryonic and fetal tissue remains with a post-fertilization age of 20 weeks or more that includes interment, cremation, incineration followed by interment, and steam disinfection followed by interment. The TCCB supports this bill to provide insurance coverage of humane disposition for perinatal death.  

House Public Education Committee, Tuesday, 8 A.M.

HB 1149 by Rep. Swanson requires an employee of a school district to obtain written consent of the child's parent before the employee conducts a psychiatric examination, or psychological or psychiatric treatment. There is an exception for an examination, test, or treatment required under federal law with respect to special education. The TCCB supports this bill as it reinforces parental rights.  

HB 1926 by Rep. Hull repeals the expiration date of the supplemental special education services program. The TCCB supports this bill to provide parents of students with disabilities with more options for educational support.  

HB 3202 by Rep. Noble allows accredited private schools to have equal access to the same background check options available to public schools, including FBI and national crime databases through fingerprinting background checks. The TCCB supports this bill to ensure all schools have equal access to background check information. 

HB 4070 by Rep. Schaefer removes private schools from the entities required to post multiple signs on campus about penalties for human trafficking. The TCCB supports this bill to remove expensive unfunded mandates for private schools. 

House Select on Community Safety Committee, Tuesday, 9 A.M.

HB 236 by Rep. Goodwin prohibits the private sale or transfer of firearms unless the transferor is a licensed firearms dealer, or the transferee is a licensed firearms dealer, or the transferor/transferee are related within the first degree of consanguinity/affinity, or the transferor requests that a licensed firearms dealer conducts a background check on the transferee. The TCCB supports this bill to promote reasonable gun control measures. 

HB 298 by Rep. Goodwin mandates a required waiting period of three days for firearms sales. It would be a criminal offense if a person sells a firearm to any person and delivers it to the transferee before the third day that it was sold to the person. The TCCB supports this bill to create waiting periods for the purchase of firearms.

HB 2744 by Rep. Tracey King raises the age to purchase an assault style semi-automatic rifle from 18 to 21. The TCCB supports this bill to reduce gun violence.

HB 3534 by Rep. Morales Shaw requires DPS to post on its website a printable brochure developed in cooperation with HHSC with information on firearm violence and suicide prevention and requires a licensed firearms dealer to provide a copy of the brochure to a person buying a firearm or to whom a firearm is transferred, unless the transferee has a license to carry a handgun. The TCCB supports this bill to raise awareness of gun violence and suicide prevention. 

Senate Committee on Administration, Tuesday, 2 P.M.

SB 485 by Sen. Johnson designates the second Saturday in October as Hospice and Palliative Care Day. The TCCB supports this bill to raise awareness of the benefits of palliative care. 

Senate Health and Human Services Committee, Wednesday, 8:30 A.M 

SB 1192 by Sen. Zaffirini adds applicants for employment, contract or volunteer positions in the regulatory services division of the Health and Services Commission to the list of those for whom a criminal history record may be obtained. The TCCB supports this bill to increase access to criminal background checks. 

House Juvenile Justice and Family Issues Committee, Wednesday, 10:30 A.M. or ADJ.

HB 3380 by Rep. Cook prohibits unlicensed adoptions and related advertising for unlicensed adoptions. The TCCB supports this bill to improve adoption processes in conformity with federal law. 

House Transportation Committee, Wednesday, 10:30 A.M. or ADJ.

HB 229 by Rep. Cortez creates specialty license plates for Central Catholic High School. The revenue from the fee for the license plates shall be deposited to an account created by the comptroller for use by the Texas Education Agency to make grants to a nonprofit org. for the purpose of providing education services. The TCCB supports this bill to allow drivers to support Catholic education. 

House Public Education Committee, Thursday, 8 A.M.

HB 3708 by Rep. Buckley allows funding to public school districts for the non-enrolled students to play in the district's UIL activities. The TCCB supports this bill to fund more students to engage in extracurricular activities with school districts. 

Daily House Calendar – Monday

HB 1024 by Rep. Senfronia Thompson increases the amount of property (residential dwelling) that may be offered or awarded at a charitable raffle from $250,000 to $1,000,000. The TCCB supports this bill. 

HB 54 by Rep. Senfronia Thompson raises the personal needs allowance for certain Medicaid recipients who are residents of long-term care facilities from the current $60 to $85. The TCCB supports this bill to assist Medicaid recipients with personal needs. 

HB 1287 by Rep. Guillen adds an annual inflation adjustment to the value of a motor vehicle in determining a person's SNAP eligibility by excluding that vehicle from the resources of an applicant's household. The TCCB supports this bill to address food insecurity. 

HB 473 by Rep. Hull requires a public school threat assessment team conducting a threat assessment of a student to notify the parent prior to the threat assessment and provide the parent the opportunity to participate in the assessment and submit information to the team regarding the student, and provide the findings and conclusions of the team to the parent. The TCCB supports this bill to allow greater engagement by parents in assessments of student safety. 

HB 1323 by Rep. Talarico creates an outreach program to ensure students in grades 9-12 in the care of Department of Family Protective Services (DFPS) are aware of benefits available to them at public institutions of higher education. The TCCB supports this initiative to provide resources to foster care youth who are aging out of foster care. 

HB 1898 by Rep. Jetton establishes a program to provide grants to children's hospitals for the purpose of increasing mental and behavioral health services. The TCCB supports this bill to address the mental health crisis among children. 

Daily House Calendar – Tuesday

HB 2016 by Rep. Hernandez adds sexual assault and aggravated sexual assault to the offenses that make an individual ineligible for a license to operate a massage establishment or a massage school, or be a massage therapist or massage therapy instructor. The TCCB supports this bill to protect people from sexual assault. 

HB 252 by Rep. Ann Johnson allows a person who successfully completes a specialty court program to petition the court for an order of nondisclosure of criminal history record information. The TCCB supports this bill to improve rehabilitation and re-entry for offenders. 

HB 1433 by Rep. Ann Johnson prohibits persons convicted of trafficking or sexual abuse from obtaining a license to operate a massage establishment or massage school, or be a massage therapist or massage therapy instructor. The TCCB supports this bill to combat illicit massage businesses and activities. 

HB 1142 by Rep. Theirry This bill provides prioritization in admission, financial aid applications, on-campus or off-campus housing, food and meal programs and counseling programs for students who are homeless (identical to the benefits provided to those who were in foster care). The TCCB supports this bill to aid homeless youth. 

Senate Intent Calendar

SJR 29 by Sen. Paxton codifies a parent's right to direct a child's education including the right to make reasonable choices within the public school system and choose an alternative to public education. The TCCB supports this bill as it recognizes parents as the primary and principal educators of their children. 

SB 49 by Sen. Zaffarini allows for certain crime victims (e.g., victims of stalking, family violence, or stalking, dependents, a family member or household member of any victim) to receive certain crime victim assistance, including temporary and emergency lodging, expenses for transportation and meals, relocation expenses, and housing rental payments. The TCCB supports this bill to protect and rehabilitate victims of crime. 

SB 68 by Sen. Zaffarini allows students to have excused absences for career visits in addition to college visits. The TCCB supports this bill to assist students in identifying career options as they prepare for their future. 

SB 562 by Sen. Sparks requires a public school threat assessment team conducting a threat assessment of a student to notify the parent prior to the threat assessment and provide the opportunity for the parent to participate in the assessment and submit information to the team regarding the student, and provide the findings and conclusions of the team to the parent. The TCCB supports this bill to allow greater engagement by parents in assessments of student safety. 

SB 2021 by Sen. Paxton provides that a commercial entity that knowingly and intentionally publishes or distributes material on a website, including social media, more than a third of which is sexual material harmful to minors, shall use reasonable age verification methods to verify that an individual attempting to access the information is 18 years or older. The TCCB supports this bill to protect children from viewing sexual material that is harmful to children. 

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Upcoming Executions

Ivan Cantu, April 26

The Texas bishops ask for clemency for everyone on death row and pray for the abolition of the death penalty.  

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Pope Francis' prayer intention for April

For a culture of peace and non-violence
We pray for the spread of peace and non-violence, by decreasing the use of weapons by States and citizens.

Prayer for the Legislature

Please pray for all our public servants and elected officials, including our Governor, Lt. Governor, House Speaker, lawmakers, and their staff, that the Lord may grant them wisdom and prudence to work for the common good of all the people of Texas.

The Texas Catholic Voice is a publication of the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops. For more information, write news@txcatholic.org or call 512-339-9882.