Texas Catholic Voice May 22, 2023
In this issue of the Texas Catholic Voice:
- Life-affirming services for women and their families ...
- HB 7 opposed ...
- A doctor in the TCCB ...
- And more!
A Message from Jennifer Allmon, Executive Director
Sine Die is one week away, and I know everyone is looking forward to enjoying some much-needed downtime. Last week I testified on SB 8 along with Pamela Jarvis, the learning specialist coordinator for Catholic schools in the Diocese of Fort Worth. We made a cogent and persuasive case for parental choice when questioned by the committee, and after the hearing I was somewhat surprised by the positive feedback from strong opponents of school choice.
Like all hot button issues, it’s difficult to wade through the political nonsense and absurd sound bites and this hearing provided an opportunity to engage in a legitimate debate. Unfortunately, SB 8 was not voted out of committee, but we have made a great deal of progress in clarifying the benefits of parental choice. The bill may be dead, but the issue is not. The governor is likely to call a special session and we will continue our advocacy efforts and calls to action.
Life affirming care
We are grateful SB 24 passed to third reading in the House on Friday. SB 24 is an attempt to provide better care for the unborn, infants, children, youth, parents, siblings, relative caregivers, and foster and adoptive families. This continuum of care for families is essential pro-life policy. SB 24 was drafted to improve the responsiveness of services for at-risk children and their families by facilitating greater coordination and flexibility in the use of funds by state and local service providers.
The bill also narrows the focus of the Department of Family and Protective Services to investigating abuse and neglect and caring for the children in the state’s conservatorship. This change will remove non-mission critical functions from DFPS to allow the agency a laser focus on improving its investigations.
The Alternatives to Abortion program, otherwise known as A2A, until now implemented through a budget rider, will be codified into law when the bill lands on the governor’s desk.
The need for life-affirming services for women and their families is just as critical now as it was before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. We look forward to the bill’s passage on Monday and are enormously grateful to Sen. Lois Kolkhorst and Rep. James Frank for their hard work on this legislation.
In other good news, HB 12 passed the Senate unanimously just before 11 pm last night. HB 12 extends Medicaid eligibility to new mothers in Texas for a year after the delivery of their child, significantly increasing the length of time moms can access critical postpartum health coverage. The TCCB supports this bill to provide mothers with extended post-partum care. In 2019, 118 women died of causes related to pregnancy and childbirth in our state. Data indicates 90% of those deaths were preventable. Those 118 women left behind close to 200 children. This bill will save lives and preserve families. We are grateful to Sen. Kolkhorst and Rep. Toni Rose for their hard work to pass this bill with broad bipartisan support.
When HB 7 passed out of the House, it was a combination of the grant programs from HB 7 and a limited version of HB 20’s Border Protection Unit. When it was heard in the Senate committee, Sen. Birdwell laid out a drastically different version of HB 7. Most notably, the Senate committee substitute to HB 7 establishes the Texas Border Force in the Texas Rangers Division of DPS, with no limitation on Border Force authority by local governments. It creates a state crime for unlawful entry from a foreign nation, making a crime of a person's presence in the US while pursuing legal federal processes. It establishes a 10-year minimum for smuggling, and adds "foreign terrorist organization" to laws on gangs and organized crime. It creates a landowner compensation program for property damage caused by illegal activity, an interagency workgroup on border issues, and provides financial assistance for infrastructure, facilities, equipment, and services in the border region.
The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops opposes HB 7 because it creates a state crime of a person’s presence in the United States while pursuing legal federal processes, including the years-long asylum process. Additionally, the scale and scope of the Texas Border Force is overly broad with little oversight and significant due process concerns. HB 7 was placed on the Senate calendar for debate today, but even if the bill passes from the Senate in this form, the House can still reject it and go to conference committee, or even kill the bill. We will remain in dialogue with the bill authors to try to reduce the harm of the bill as it is drafted.
The provision of HB 7 that creates a state crime of a person's presence in the United States while pursuing legal federal processes is also a stand alone bill: SB 2424. This bill will be debated by the House tomorrow. The TCCB opposes SB 2424 because it creates a new offense of improper entry from a foreign nation, including those seeking asylum or brought here as minors by their parents.
House Calendar – Monday
SB 24 by Sen. Kolkhorst transfers prevention and early intervention services from DFPS to HHSC and expands the Alternative to Abortion program in order assist families in choosing life or who need support services. The TCCB supports this bill which creates a continuum of care for families to promote safety and stability.
SB 129 by Sen. Springer increases the criminal penalties for prosecution and punishment for the possession of child pornography. The penalties would vary in severity depending upon the amount of visual material that depicts child pornography. There would also be penalty enhancements if the children depicted are younger than 10 years of age. The TCCB supports this bill to increase penalties for possession of child pornography.
SB 694 by Sen. Hughes ensures that 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 better enable religious organizations to protect themselves from security threats.
SB 26 by Sen. Kolkhorst 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.
House Items Eligible - Monday
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 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.
House Calendar - Tuesday
SB 2424 by Sen. Birdwell creates a new offense of improper entry from a foreign nation, including those seeking asylum or brought here as minors by their parents. The TCCB opposes this bill which fails to account for the years long asylum and DACA processes and makes a state crimes of a person’s presence in the United States while pursuing legal federal processes.
SB 590 by Sen. Hughes requires a man pay retroactive child support upon any order establishing paternity or in a suit to establish the child support obligation of any man whose paternity has been established. The TCCB supports this bill as it recognizes and promotes the responsibility of fathers to equally share the financial costs of a child before and after birth.
SB 163 by Sen. Campbell repeals the 2024 expiration date for parental "opt-in" to human sexuality instruction. The TCCB supports this bill as it supports parents as the primary educators of their children.
SB 559 by Sen. Hughes prohibits the state bar from discriminating against an applicant's ability to obtain or renew a law license based on a sincerely held religious belief or burden an applicant's free exercise of religion or freedom of expression by a rule or policy unless there is a compelling government purpose, narrowly tailored to accomplish that purpose or restricts expressions of bias or prejudice in connection to an a judicatory proceeding. The TCCB supports this bill to protect religious freedom of attorneys.
SB 595 by Sen. Kolkhorst requires a signed written consent by parents for students to participate in psychological or psychiatric examination or tests in a public school. The TCCB supports this bill to protect parental rights to consent to student testing.
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. It also requires warnings to be posted on the website about the potential damages of watching pornography with resources for seeking help with an addiction. The TCCB supports this bill to protect children from viewing sexual material that is harmful to children.
Senate Intent Calendar
HB 53 by Rep. Ed Thompson allows a vehicle used by a nonprofit disaster relief organization exclusively for emergencies, training, equipment maintenance, transportation of disaster relief supplies, or other activities related to disaster relief from being exempt from registration fees. The TCCB supports this bill to support disaster relief efforts.
HB 400 by Rep. Klick creates a psychiatric specialty innovation grant program to award grants to medical schools for residents specializing in adult and pediatric psychiatric care. The TCCB supports this bill to increase the workforce in Texas for mental health care.
HB 456 by Rep. Craddick allows an organization that qualifies as a charitable organization to be exempt from property taxes of royalty interests owned by the charitable organization. The TCCB supports this bill to assist charitable organizations.
HB 900 by Rep. Patterson requires the TX State Library and Archives Commission, with approval of the State Board of Education, to adopt standards for school library collection development that prohibits the acquisition of harmful material. It also requires parental consent for a student to access certain material in a school library. The TCCB supports this bill to protect children from harmful, sexually explicit material.
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 as it helps student parents advance their education and promotes healthy families.
HB 1883 by Rep. Bhojani ensures that assessment instruments are not administered on religious holy days including All Saints Day, Christmas, Diwali, Eid al-Adha, Eid al-Fitr, Passover, Rosh Hashanah, Vaisakhi, Vesak, and Yom Kippur. The TCCB supports this bill to allow students of faith greater observance of religious holy days.
HB 1905 by Rep. Talarico requires public school districts to make school safety training available at no cost to child care facilities and other organizations providing out of school care. The TCCB supports this bill to increase access to school safety training.
SB 15 by Sen. Middleton prohibits college athletics teams from having students play in competitions designed for the biological sex that is opposite to their biological sex. The TCCB supports this bill to ensure fairness in college sports.
SB 133 by Sen. West prohibits an officer performing law enforcement duties or school security personnel from restraining or using a chemical irritant spray on a student 10 years of age or younger unless the student poses a serious risk of harm to the student or another person. The TCCB supports this bill to ensure children are not needlessly restrained in schools.
SB 629 by Sen Menendez allows a public or private school to develop a policy to administer opioid antagonists to a person experiencing an apparent opioid-related drug overdose. The TCCB supports this bill to allow public and private schools the ability to administer lifesaving medication in cases of opioid related drug overdoses.
HB 7 by Rep. Guillen establishes the Texas Border Force in the Texas Rangers Division of DPS. There is no limitation on Border Force authority by local governments. It creates a state crime for unlawful entry from a foreign nation. It establishes a 10-year minimum for smuggling, and adds "foreign terrorist organization" to laws on gangs and organized crime. It creates a landowner compensation program for property damage caused by illegal activity, an interagency workgroup on border issues, and provides financial assistance for infrastructure, facilities, equipment, and services in the border region. The TCCB opposes HB 7 because it creates a state crime of a person’s presence in the United States while pursuing legal federal processes including the years long asylum process. Additionally, the scale and scope of the Texas Border Force is overly broad with little oversight and significant due process concerns.
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.
HB 890 by Rep. Keith Bell requires the board of trustees of a school district to include in the process through which personnel, students, parents, or the public may obtain a hearing: an initial administrative hearing; an opportunity to appeal the administrative decision following the initial hearing; and provide a resolution of the complaint not later than 120 calendar days after the date the complaint was filed. The TCCB supports this bill as it implements a stronger process for grievances to be heard and resolved.
HB 1743 by Rep. Leach requires coordination between the Health and Human Services Commission and the Corrections Department to prepare incarcerated individuals to apply for SNAP benefits in advance of their release so that they may access their SNAP benefits immediately upon release. The TCCB supports this bill to promote restorative justice.
Congratulations Dr. Allen and Dr. West!
We are brimming with pride that our very own Director of Education, Lisette Allen, and the superintendent of Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of San Antonio, Marti West, received a doctorate in educational leadership from St. Louis University in St. Louis. For the past three years we have witnessed these two remarkable ladies assiduously apply themselves to this doctoral program while continuing full-time in their respective positions at the TCCB and the archdiocese. Congratulations Dr. Allen and Dr. West!
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or call 512-339-9882.