In this issue of the Texas Catholic Voice:
- "Sine die" report for 88th Legislature ...
- What "sine die" means for special sessions ...
- And more!
A Message from Jennifer Allmon, Executive Director
The last week of the regular legislative session is always a whirlwind of deadlines and bills dying and then being resurrected in amendments only to die again in conference committees.
It usually takes us a week to fully review the final status of legislation we supported or opposed during the session. Adding an immediate special session to the mix has kept our staff especially busy this last week.
As we do at the end of every session, we have developed a comprehensive report of the outcomes of the most notable bills we supported and opposed. This year, we have added an additional Advocacy Day outcomes report so the 5,000 Catholics who joined us in Austin see the direct impact of their work. Our efforts were very successful – only 16% of bills filed make it to final passage, but our success rate on Advocacy Day was 67%! Great work Texas Catholics!!
I want to especially thank Shannon Jaquette and Jenny Andrews for all of their contributions this legislative session on these bills. Jenny has finished her time with us, as she was temporary session staff; she did great work and was an integral part of our team for the session.
Because it appears we are going to be in multiple special sessions this year, I thought it would be helpful to provide our followers with some basic legislative process related to special sessions.
When the legislature adjourns “Sine Die,” Latin for “without a day,” it essentially means there is not another date set for them to return until the next regular session, which is constitutionally mandated to be in January of odd numbered years. However, the governor has the constitutional authority to “call” the legislature back into session for special topics he alone can determine. Once he announces a called special session, lawmakers are limited to passing bills germane to the call.
This special session has a very narrow call to address property tax reduction through compression, and border security by increased penalties for human smuggling. Each of the chambers has a parliamentarian who assists the lieutenant governor or speaker in determining the germaneness of legislation to the call.
The House and Senate are having disagreements over what is germane to the call of the governor when each chamber has the ability to gavel out sine die for this session (which the House has done over the objection of the Senate).
The bishops are not taking positions on property tax issues, but do have strong concerns about border security issues and this legislation had a Senate committee hearing today. The church supports the right of a sovereign nation to control its borders and we want the federal government to enact effective and humane border management as part of a framework of comprehensive immigration reforms. Immigration enforcement should be exercised in a way that is targeted, proportional, and humane.
We are working with Chairman Guillen and Sen. Chuy Hinojosa on the proportionality of punishments for undocumented families in HB 2 and SB 5 and hope to make improvements to these bills. SB 2 would create a new offense of improper entry from a foreign nation, denying the right to asylum for those legitimately seeking it. This morning I submitted written opposition to SB 2, which fails to account for the years-long asylum process and makes state crimes of a person’s presence in the United States while pursuing legal federal processes. Our concern with this bill is that it is not properly targeted nor is it proportional. It is highly unlikely this bill will pass in this session because the House has ruled it not germane to the governor’s call and the House has also already adjourned "sine die" so they are not in town to pass this Senate bill.
As noted in our last edition of the TCV, we will provide periodic updates throughout the special sessions and return to a once monthly publication of TCV for the interim.
For the abolition of torture
Let us pray that the international community may commit itself concretely to abolish torture, guaranteeing support to victims and their families.
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.
No Upcoming Executions
The Texas bishops ask for clemency for all on death row in our country and pray for the abolition of the death penalty.