Texas Catholic Voice Mar. 27, 2023

In this issue of the Texas Catholic Voice:

  • Join us on Tuesday, 11:30 am ...
  • Bills in committee this week ...
  • And more!

A Message from Jennifer Allmon, Executive Director

Our highly anticipated Catholic Advocacy Day is tomorrow at the Capitol! A few thousand Catholics will be in attendance, including 1300 Catholic school students who will participate in mock hearings on the issue of payday lending. Today at 5 pm at St. Mary Cathedral in Austin, we will pray a rosary followed by Mass at 5:30 pm celebrated by Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller with his brother bishops. All are welcome!  

In meetings with legislators and staff, the bishops and (arch)diocesan delegates will be focusing on parental choice in education, healthcare for pregnant women, mental health, the protection of children, and restorative justice. These issues have been prioritized as legislation is currently moving on them and our collective voice will have greater impact. Advocates will be leaving behind a packet of information about these bills. We encourage those at home to call and email your legislators to let them know you also support the positions expressed by the advocates visiting on Tuesday.  

Speaking of parental choice, the hearing in the Senate Committee on Education last Tuesday was a marathon, ending around midnight. Joining Shannon Jaquette and me in providing testimony were Bishop Michael Olson of Fort Worth; Oscar Ortiz, principal of Nolan Catholic High School in Fort Worth; Robert LeGros, principal of St. Mary Cathedral in Austin; Father Mark Hamlet, pastor at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Austin; the assistant superintendent of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, Dr. Mazie McCoy; and two mothers, Gemma Hernandez of Brownsville and Sonia Diaz of Killeen. They all took off work, arranged for childcare and for substitutes to take over their duties, and crafted thoughtful and persuasive testimony. We are so grateful to them for sacrificing their entire day to advocate for the right of parents to choose the best educational environment for their children.   

HB 727 has been set for the House calendar on Wednesday, March 29. This important bill prohibits the use of the death penalty for persons with severe mental illness and is one of the bills we will be strongly encouraging legislators to support when we visit them on Tuesday. Our goal is the abolition of the death penalty in all cases; this legislation is a meaningful incremental improvement that recognizes severe mental illness as a strong mitigating factor when considering a defendant’s culpability for a capital crime. 

Please pray for our efforts on Tuesday, that we advocate persuasively and with humility. 

Bills in Committee March 27-31 

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

HB 852 by Rep. Thierry increases the number of members of the Texas Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Review Committee from 15 to 19 by adding an ER physician, a cardiologist, an anesthesiologist, and an oncologist. The TCCB supports this bill to reduce maternal mortality and improve maternal outcomes.  

HB 1686 by Rep. Oliverson prohibits gender transitioning, reassignment or treatments for children. The TCCB supports this legislation in opposition to the advancement of gender ideology, and to protect children from harm. 

Senate State Affairs Committee, Monday, 9 A.M.

SB 694 by Sen. Hughes ensures a religious organization or its security personnel is immune from civil liability for any act or omission resulting in death, damage, or injury if the security personnel was acting in the course of employment or volunteer duties or functions to provide security services to the organization, including an intentional act involving possession or use of a firearm. The TCCB supports this bill to enable religious organizations to protect themselves from security threats. 

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

HB 581 by Rep. Raymond allows a property tax exemption for property owned by a charitable organization for the purpose of providing support for persons with disabilities in need of residential care, as well as those providing housing for low-income individuals 62 years of age or older. The TCCB supports this bill to assist charities in providing housing to those with disabilities and the elderly.  

House Select on Youth Health & Safety Committee, Monday, 2:30 P.M., OR ADJ.

HB 13 by Rep. Ken King requires school district employees to complete training on mental health first aid training, makes updates to the school guardian program, and requires and provides grants for active shooter plans. The TCCB supports this bill to improve school safety. 

HB 1905 by Rep. Talarico requires public school districts to make school safety training available at no cost to childcare facilities and other organizations providing out-of-school care. The TCCB supports this bill to increase access to school safety training. 

HB 1977 by Rep. Morales Shaw establishes a youth pre-trial intervention program and allows for expunction of a juvenile's record for offenses punishable as a Class B misdemeanor or any higher category of offense (other than those ineligible for community supervision) if he/she successfully completes the youth pre-trial intervention program. The TCCB supports this legislation to provide rehabilitation to juvenile offenders and support reentry of the incarcerated into society.  

HB 2066 by Rep. Cook requires crisis training, and that foster children and those in residential treatment centers and emergency shelters shall be referred to community resource coordination groups, or community juvenile service providers with the goal of limiting law enforcement involvement. The TCCB supports this bill to promote restoration of foster care youth.  

HB 4406 by Rep. Ken King allows the Texas Education Agency commissioner to transfer excess funds appropriated for the Foundation School Program to be transferred to the State School Safety Fund to award grants to school districts to implement a school safety plan. The TCCB supports this bill to increase safety in Texas schools. 

HJR 170 by Rep. Ken King proposes a constitutional amendment to create the State School Safety Fund in the state treasury outside the general revenue fund to be used exclusively to support projects to enhance the safety of schools. The TCCB supports this bill to increase safety in Texas schools. 

House Human Services Committee, Tuesday, 8:00 A.M.

HB 2983 by Rep. Tom Oliverson relates to a pilot project to provide medical nutrition assistance to certain Medicaid recipients. The TCCB supports this bill to allow physicians to write prescriptions for healthy foods for patients with diet-related health conditions to improve health outcomes. 

Senate Criminal Justice Committee, Tuesday, 8:30 A.M.

SB 49 by Sen. Zaffirini 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 restore victims of crime. 

SB 806 by Sen. Paxton requires peace officers to provide victims with written referral to the nearest sexual assault program, information about electronic tracking, offer to request a forensic medical exam, and coordinate with the local response team for continuing care. The TCCB supports this bill to improve the care of sexual assault victims. 

House Corrections Committee, Tuesday, 10:30 A.M. or ADJ.

HB 1355 by Rep. Sherman requires air conditioners in TDCJ facilities. The TCCB supports this bill to provide humane conditions for the incarcerated.  

HB 1705 by Rep. Allen gives defendants credit for time served for each day the defendant was diligently participating in an educational, vocational, treatment or work program. The TCCB supports this bill to promote rehabilitation of non-violent state jail felony offenders.  

HB 1708 by Rep. Canales requires temperatures remain between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit in TDCJ facilities. The TCCB supports this bill to provide humane conditions for the incarcerated.  

HB 3158 by Rep. Leach allows a licensing authority to accept an application from an inmate imprisoned by the Department of Criminal Justice. The TCCB supports this bill to assist offenders with re-entry and rehabilitation.  

House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, Tuesday, 10:30 A.M. OR ADJ.

HB 1362 by Rep. Wu raises the age from 18 to 21 (at the time the crime was committed) for prohibition on the death penalty. The TCCB supports this bill to limit death penalty cases in Texas and provide young offenders the opportunity for restorative justice.  

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

SB 587 by Sen. Hughes prohibits the state or a political subdivision of this state from requiring a religious institution or nonprofit organization to prepare in a commercial kitchen or in a facility that is equipped with commercial kitchen equipment food the institution or organization sells at an event held to raise money for the institution or organization. The TCCB supports this bill to remove obstacles to fundraisers for religious institutions and non-profit organizations. 

SB 1849 by Sen. Kolkhorst creates an interagency database that combines the do-not-hire databases from each state agency so that schools and service providers can access one database. The TCCB supports this bill to improve access to child protection resources. 

Daily House Calendar

HB 727 by Rep. Rose prohibits the sentence of death on a defendant who, at the time of the commission of a capital offense, was a person with severe mental illness. The TCCB supports this bill to abolish the use of the death penalty on persons with mental illness. 

HB 300 by Rep. Howard exempts, among other essential baby items, diapers and wipes, along with feminine hygiene products from the state’s sales tax. The TCCB supports this bill to help to make items for mothers and families in the state more affordable. 

TCCB Advocacy day 2023 Save the date
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Upcoming Executions

Ivan Cantu, April 26

We are grateful a Texas court granted a stay of execution for Anibel Canales this past week. 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 March

For victims of abuse
We pray for those who have suffered harm from members of the Church; may they find within the Church herself a concrete response to their pain and suffering.

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.