In this issue of the Texas Catholic Voice:
- Filing deadline this Friday ...
- Protecting children by streamlining registries...
- Bills in hearing this week ...
- And more!
A Message from Jennifer Allmon, Executive Director
With only one week left to get bills filed before the March 10 deadline, the pace at the Capitol has become frenzied! This week we will begin posting positions on bills on our website so that legislative staff and advocates can see the position of the bishops on legislation in our priority areas. With 300 to 500 bills filed per day during the last week, our small staff takes the time to read, review, discuss, and develop positions on bills, based on the bishops' legislative agenda.
We will continue to add bills to our priority list long after bill filing ends this Friday, as we continue to review them and as authors adjust the content. Importantly, we are still awaiting bill filing on our top priorities of parental choice in education and continuum of care for families.
Last Wednesday, another major priority bill package was filed by Rep. Candy Noble and Sen. Paul Bettencourt that, if passed, will significantly close loopholes that currently limit the ability of private schools, childcare and child service providers to protect children.
Many background check databases and resources exist, with various levels of access based on the type of provider an organization is considered. This system creates loopholes where a known abuser is on one list but may not be on others, and some providers have access to one list and not others. The TCCB supports the following bills by Rep. Noble and Sen. Bettencourt to close these loopholes:
HB 3198/SB 1473 Omnibus Bill on Child Protection: This bill provides childcare providers with access to the Texas Education Agency (TEA) Do Not Hire Registry, extends the Department of Family Protective Services (DFPS) Central Registry to all child welfare service organizations, applies the pre-employment affidavit to child welfare or services organizations, and provides equal access to TEA fingerprinted background checks. The TCCB supports this omnibus bill to close loopholes to ensure greater protection for children from predators.
HB 3199/SB 1469 Apply Pre-Employment Affidavit to Child Welfare or Services Organizations: Public and private schools use a pre-employment affidavit which requires applicants to discuss whether they have ever been charged with, adjudicated for, or convicted of, having an inappropriate relationship with a minor. This affidavit does not bar employment but requires disclosure. The TCCB supports expanding access to this effective tool in deterring child predators from employment in child-serving organizations.
HB 3201/SB 1470 Add Child Care Providers to TEA Do Not Hire Access: The Do Not Hire Registry at TEA includes teachers who have been found to be “creepy but not criminal.” These teachers do not show up in law enforcement background checks because they were guilty of grooming or “inappropriate relationships” but not of criminal abuse. TEA, however, held a due process hearing and determined that they are not eligible to be hired in public schools in Texas. Private schools can access the registry and bar employment, but childcare and child welfare centers do not have the same level of access. In addition, these names should appear in DFPS Central Registry searches. The TCCB supports this bill to ensure equal access for childcare providers to the TEA Do Not Hire Registry.
HB 3202/SB 1471 Require Equal Access to TEA Fingerprinted Background Checks: TEA has access to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and national crime databases through fingerprinting background checks. Public schools must use the TEA background checks for all employees and contractors, but private schools do not have access to them. The TCCB supports this bill to ensure that accredited private schools have equal access to background check information.
HB 3204/SB 1472 Extend DFPS Central Registry to all Child Welfare Service Organizations: DFPS does not allow Central Registry access to organizations who are not licensed and have an exemption from licensure. This bill makes the registry available to all child service and education providers and makes it the Central Registry for all records of any state agency related to persons known by the state to have abused or neglected a child. The TCCB supports this bill to provide greater access to child protection background check information.
Bills in Committee March 6-10
House Ways and Means Committee, Monday at 10 a.m.
HB 300 by Rep. Donna Howard makes items for mothers and families (including diapers and wipes) more affordable by making them exempt from sales tax. The TCCB supports this bill.
HB 456 by Rep. Tom Craddick assists charitable organizations by exempting them from property taxes regarding royalty interests of which they are owners. The TCCB supports this bill.
House Human Services, Tuesday at 8 a.m. OR ADJ
HB 54 by Rep. Senfronia Thompson raises the personal needs allowance for certain Medicaid recipients who are residents of long-term care facilities. The TCCB supports this bill.
Senate Business and Commerce, Tuesday at 8 a.m.
SB 105 by Sen. Nathan Johnson allows for the cremation of human remains using alkaline hydrolysis. The TCCB opposes this bill.
House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, Tuesday at 10:30 A.M. OR ADJ
HB 180 by Rep. Joe Moody requires a convicting court to withdraw the order of the court setting a date for execution in a death penalty case on the motion of the attorney representing the state. The TCCB supports this bill to limit the use of the death penalty.
HB 205 by Rep. Joe Moody allows a court to grant a convicted person relief on an application for writ of habeas corpus if the court finds that, had newly discovered scientific evidence been available at the time of the trial, the person would have received a different punishment. The TCCB supports this bill to limit the use of the death penalty.
HB 279 by Rep. Jacey Jetton amends the penal code by treating a disabled individual the same as a child in human trafficking. The TCCB supports this bill.
HB 314 by Rep. Steve Toth removes the use of the death penalty for defendants who are found guilty in a capital felony, if the finding of guilt is based solely on the testimony of a single eyewitness without any corroborating evidence. The TCCB supports this bill.
HB 727 by Rep. Toni 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.
HB 798 by Rep. Nicole Collier removes the requirement that a victim be in their place of residence to be entitled to one-time compensation for relocation and housing rental expenses. The TCCB supports this bill.
House Defense and Veterans' Affairs, Thursday at 10:30 A.M. OR ADJ
HB 671 by Rep. Mary Gonzalez requires the Texas Veterans Commission to conduct a suicide prevention campaign to provide veterans with information regarding suicide prevention. The TCCB supports this bill.
Upcoming Executions in Texas
Gary Green, March 7
Arthur Brown, Jr., March 9
Anibal Canales, Jr., March 29
Thomas Andre, April 5
Ivan Cantu, April 26
The Texas bishops ask for clemency for everyone on death row and pray for the abolition of the death penalty.
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.