Texas Catholic Voice May 13, 2023

In this issue of the Texas Catholic Voice:

  • Early TCV with a call to action...
  • Immigration carries blessings and challenges...
  • And more!

A Message from Jennifer Allmon, Executive Director

This issue of Texas Catholic Voice is arriving in your inbox early because we need you to take action on parental choice.   

You may have seen the grim news reports last week regarding the failed motion to suspend the rules for House Public Education Committee to meet to vote out SB 8. Rep. Ernest Bailes objected to the meeting because the committee substitute for SB 8 was substantially different from the bill heard in the Senate and he demanded a hearing. Keep in mind, the media rarely covers this issue objectively. A “yes” or “no” vote does not indicate the actual position of the member on the bill but is a vote on the process.  

Some very strong school choice supporters voted against the suspension based on the precedent it sets and their concerns about transparency and process.  

Before the night was over, the committee posted a hearing notice on SB 8 with invited testimony only for Monday at 8 a.m., which indicates the strong push for leadership to get this bill across the finish line.

All Texans can still make their voice heard. You have now until the hearing adjourns to submit comments here. We expect the hearing will adjourn by 11 a.m. Monday so please act now! Please convey your strong support for parental choice in education and for the families who have the least access, the poor and vulnerable, to be first in line.  

Immigration Updates 

The migrant shelter bill, HB 5000, is dead as it was voted on too late to be set on the House calendar and it lacks a Senate companion. This week HB 20 died on a point of order. We opposed HB 20 because it does not recognize the responsibility of the government to morally ascertain the difference among traffickers, victims, and legitimate refugees, and it allows for civilian activity in law enforcement.  

HB 7, the border community support bill on which we were neutral after it was corrected in committee was amended on the floor with some of the provisions of HB 20. The final version of HB 7 that passed the House contained more amendments to lessen the negative impact of the HB 20 amendment. We are still reviewing HB 7 to determine its impact at the border, but are grateful there are provisions included to provide economic assistance to the cities and counties whose resources are strained by the surge of migrants as Title 42 ends.  

Our border bishops reminded us on May 13, “Daily, we witness the human consequences of migration, both its blessings and its challenges. As pastors of border communities, we minister to migrants and native-born persons alike. Our congregations include asylum seekers, enforcement officers, landowners, and elected officials, who come together, not as strangers or adversaries but as sisters and brothers, equal in dignity and worth before the Lord.”  In our evaluation of immigration legislation this session we are mindful of the importance of the duty and responsibility for collaboration for the common good. Our humanitarian ministry will continue in full cooperation with local, state, and federal officials during this challenging time at the border and in our communities. 

Child protection

An important child protection bill passed the House on second reading on Friday after overcoming several attempts to derail its passage. SB 14 by Sen. Campbell prohibits the use of state funds for gender transitioning, reassignment or treatments for children and makes performance of gender transitioning or reassignment treatment or procedure on a child a prohibited act by a physician, subject to loss of license. The bishops support this legislation to prevent the advancement of gender ideology and protect children from harm. As Catholics, we acknowledge and affirm that all human beings are created by God and thereby have an inherent dignity. We also believe that God created each person male or female; therefore, sexual difference is not an accident or a flaw — it is a gift from God that helps draw us closer to each other and to God. What God has created is good.

Protection for mothers

Please call Calendars Committee to ask them to set SB 24 by Sen. Kolkhorst and Rep. James Frank. SB 24 protect the nation’s largest maternal assistance fund in perpetuity. SB 24 ensures that Texas continues to set the bar high when it comes to caring for vulnerable mothers and their families in a post Dobbs world. In addition, it ensures better integration of services for at-risk families.

Please continue to pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance in our advocacy in this final stretch of session and I wish everyone a very Happy Mother’s Day! 

Bills in Committee May 15-19

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 Public Education Committee, Monday, 8 A.M.  

SB 8 by Sen. Creighton improves parental rights in public schools and creates an education savings account program which will allow current public school students to have an $8000 account to use toward private school tuition, tutoring, and educational expenses. The TCCB supports this bill and urges legislators to improve it by prioritizing those with the greatest academic and financial needs.  

House Public Health Committee, Monday, 10 A.M.  

SB 26 by Sen. Kolkhorst bill seeks to expand mental health capacity, especially for children and adolescents, through the creation of an innovation grant program and transitioning patients out of State Hospitals. The TCCB supports this bill to increase transparency and accountability for the Texas community-based mental and behavioral health systems.   

SB 52 by Sen. Zaffirini applies the in-person essential caregiver protections to patients in state hospitals. The TCCB supports this bill to ensure that patients in state hospitals can have in-person visits from a family member or essential caregiver.  

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. It may not be construed to affect any other requirement for food preparation that is applicable to a religious institution or nonprofit organization. The TCCB supports this bill to remove obstacles to fundraisers for religious institutions and non-profit organizations.  

House Ways and Means Committee, Monday, 11 A.M. 

SB 719 by Sen. Paxton amends the property tax exemption of property owned by a charitable organization that provides services related to the placement of a child in a foster or adoptive home by adding "children with disabilities in need of residential care" or support or relief to "women who are or may be pregnant and who are considering placing their unborn children for adoption" to the list of covered charitable functions. The TCCB supports this bill to promote care for persons with disabilities and mothers facing an unplanned pregnancy.  

Senate State Affairs Committee, Monday, 12:30 P.M.  

HB 18 by Rep. Slawson prohibits a digital service provider that targets or appeals to minors from collecting their personal identifying information (PII) without parental consent and requires the provision of parental tools to monitor a child's activity. The TCCB supports this bill which attempts to protect children from harm online.   

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

SB 418 by Sen. Paxton allows public school students to transfer between any public school district regardless of whether the sending district approves. The TCCB supports this bill to provide greater access to parental choice in education within the public school system.  

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

HB 844 by Rep. Patterson includes the role of the buyer in the definition of human trafficking by adding "solicit" and "patronize." The TCCB supports this bill to eliminate the requirement of a controlling third party and expand liability to include the role of buyers to identify and assist victims of trafficking.  

HB 2700 by Rep. Guillen amends the penal code regarding the possession or promotion of child pornography to include in the definition of "visual material" any depiction of a child who is recognizable as an actual person by the person's face, likeness or other distinguishing characteristic and whose image was used to create computer-generated visual material using artificial intelligence or other computer software. The TCCB supports this bill to protect children from digital victimization.   

Daily House Calendar – Monday 

SB 14 by Sen. Campbell prohibits the use of state funds for gender transitioning, reassignment or treatments for children and makes performance of gender transitioning or reassignment treatment or procedure on a child a prohibited act by a physician, subject to loss of license. The TCCB supports this legislation which prevents the advancement of gender ideology and protects children from harm. 

SB 182 by Sen. Miles requires each DFPS (Department of Family and Protective Services) or TJJD (Texas Juvenile Justice Board and Texas Juvenile Justice Department) employee or department contractor who becomes aware of a criminal offense of another employee or a contractor against a person receiving services to report the offense to the DPS. The TCCB supports this bill to offer greater protection to vulnerable people.  

SB 780 by Sen. Hughes allows a child to be delivered to a designated emergency infant care provider by placing the child in a newborn safety device equipped with an alarm and located inside the provider's facilities. The TCCB supports this bill to provide an anonymous and safe process for mothers who voluntarily surrender custody of their newborns.  

Daily House Calendar – Tuesday 

SB 728 by Sen. Huffman requires reporting of youthful offenders with intellectual disability or mental health concerns by the juvenile courts to the FBI or DPS for use in the federal firearm background check. The TCCB supports this bill to promote public safety and improve background checks. 

SB 798 by Sen. Middleton states that certificates as a school counselor may not require that a candidate have experience as a classroom teacher. The TCCB supports this bill to improve student access to counseling and mental health resources. 

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.  

Senate Intent Calendar 

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, massage school, massage therapist, or massage therapy instructor. The TCCB supports this bill to protect people from sexual assault. 

HB 1212 by Rep. Jetton allows a note from a parent verifying a student's absence from school to observe a religious holiday sufficient to excuse the absence. The TCCB supports this bill to allow student religious observance. 

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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.  

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Pope Francis' prayer intention for May

For church movements and groups
We pray that Church movements and groups may rediscover their mission of evangelization each day, placing their own charisms at the service of needs in the world.

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.