Texas

Choose Life License Plate Bill Passes the Senate, Payday Bills to be Heard Next Week, Advocacy Day is Coming Soon!

Choose Life License Plate Bill Passes the Senate, Payday Bills to be Heard Next Week, Advocacy Day is Coming Soon!


This week the Choose Life License Plate bill (SB 257)passed the Senate, and is now on to the House! This week TCC testified on HB 303 ( Fee on money transfers to Mexico or Central or South America - oppose) and Marie Seale, Director of the Office of Pro-Life Activities and Chaste Living for the Diocese of Austin, testified on HB 561 (Ban on hospital districts from using tax revenue to finance an abortion - support). Both bills were left pending in committee. Click on the bill name to view the testimony, or visit our Letters and Testimony page here.

The Catholic Faith in Action Advocacy Day is less than 20 days away. There are many ways to get involved. Most importantly, please PRAY for the success of the day! You can also participate by attending the day in Austin with your diocese or calling and emailing your legislators prior to our day to let them know that you support the Catholics who will be visiting them on April 6. 
Click here for more information on the Advocacy day and  how to get involved with your diocesan delegation.

Weekly Legislative Update

Final Vote on Access to Sonogram Bill will be on Monday, March 3 This week the House debated HB 15, the Access to Sonogram Bill. The bill was brought up for debate on Wednesday, recommitted to the State Affairs committee that evening, and brought up again on Thursday. During Thursday's debate, we were pleased to see that the confidential informed consent amendment passed. Several weakening amendments were rejected. After several hours of debate, the bill was passed to engrossment, or third reading. The House will meet to debate the bill on Monday, March 3, and will need to pass it one more time for final passage, after which the bill will move to the Senate.  Thank you to all advocates who have responded to our action alerts and contacted their Representatives to ask for support on this important legislation. It is not too late to make calls if you haven't:
 
Find out who your Representative is and his or her contact information 
hereIf you'd like us to automatically insert your name, city, and other personal information into your message, please update your profile with that information here Sample Message: "Hello, my name is  Name  and I am a Catholic in City , Texas and as a constituent I ask that you support House Bill 15 for final passage. This legislation would require a physician to review a woman's sonogram with her prior to her having an abortion. The woman is not required to view the sonogram . I support this bill because it provides the mother with more information about her unborn child and may help the mother realize the humanity of her unborn child and choose life. Thank you for your time. For more information you can contact the Texas Catholic Conference at 512-339-9882." Please act by March 7, 2011. You can find out more information on this bill and the debate on the bill at the Texas Legislature Online bill page here Texas Bishops, along with other senior Texas religious leaders, issued a statement this week in calling for a new and gracious tone in the State immigration debate. Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, said that faith communities support immigration reform but see it as a federal issue outside the control of the Texas Legislature.  "Our nation's immigration system is flawed and results in suffering not only within our borders, but also throughout the rest of the world. Our faith traditions have called strenuously and tirelessly for Congress to reform our federal immigration system, and we will continue to do so," DiNardo said. You can read the full statement online here. We encourage all religious leaders to sign on to the statement, you can do so online here.  We also released a joint statement with the Catholic Health Association of Texas on Catholic Health Care in Texas. You can read it online here, and you can read it in Spanish here.

We testified on several bills this week, including bills relating to immigration law enforcement, affordable housing, the death penalty, smoke-free work environments, and choose life license plates. You can view a list of all of testimony online here. We were pleased to see SB 257 (Choose Life License Plates) voted favorably from committee. We also have a few bills in committee next week which we will be testifying on, you can view these bills below. Next week Most Rev. Gustavo García‚ÄźSiller, Archbishop of the Archdiocese of San Antonio and Most Rev. Joe Vásquez, Bishop of the Diocese of Austin, will be participating in a press conference on the Payday and Auto Title loan issue. Please show your support for closing the loophole in state law that allows payday, auto title, and other consumer loans to carry annual percentage rates upwards of 500% by signing the Texas Faith for Fair Lending's Petition online here. Parishes can download the resolution here or request postcards here. You can read Cardinal DiNardo's letter to his elected officials on this issue here.

Bills in Committee Next Week
The following bills are in committee next week,  
click here for a full action alert on these bills. Please check the web site for the most up-to-date listing, as some committee agendas have less than a week's notice. 
  • HB 289 - Human Trafficking
  • HB 938 - Access to health care coverage
  • SB 35 - Special education programs
  • SB 228 - Stem cell research
  • HB 710 - Access to food assistance
  • HB 1481 - Person-first, respectful language for people with disabilities
 

Testimony of Bishop Joe Vásquez on PayDay Loan Bill


Bishop Vásquez will be providing the following testimony before the Senate Business and Commerce Committee today.
 
My name is Bishop Joe Vásquez. I am the Bishop of the Diocese of Austin and I am testifying today on behalf of the Texas Catholic Conference, the Roman Catholic Bishops of Texas, in support of SB 253.
In the teachings of our faith, we have many warnings about usury and the exploitation of people. Catholic Social Teaching demands respect for the dignity of persons, preferential concern for the poor and vulnerable, and the pursuit of the common good. These principles, coupled with our teaching on economic justice, lead us to question current payday and auto title lending practices.
A CSO, or Credit Services Organization, should help people clean up bad credit. Instead, the Texas law governing CSOs is being exploited as a loophole. Payday and auto title loan operators use it to charge high fees for loans that trap people in debt. By claiming that they are not lenders, they use this loophole to circumvent Texas laws that cap rates and fees for consumer loans.
Lending models should provide fair and helpful loans for families in need. The growing number of payday and auto title lenders in Texas may be doing more harm than good for persons in need of short-term cash loans. The stated purpose of payday loans is to offer a solution to families who face a short-term crisis. Instead of promoting the financial stability of consumers, however, payday lenders operating in the current system actually benefit more from their consumers' financial failure than their success. These practices are unjust and risk collapsing the stability of the family.
Read more...

Texas Weekly Update



We are very pleased that the Sonogram Bill (SB 16) passed the Senate on Thursday, February 17. Thank you to everyone who contacted your Senator to ask for his or her support. The bill will now go to the House, and we will keep you up-to-date on its progress. Also this week, Texans from across the state, including some TCC staff, participated in a legislative advocacy day as part of the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering, which advocated on behalf of
the poor and vulnerable in our nation and around the world. We'll post a news article with more information on the Gathering next week. 

Bishop Vásquez, Bishop of the Diocese of Austin, will be testifying in support of SB 253 next Tuesday, February 22. This bill closes the loophole that allows payday and auto title lenders to charge extreme interest rates which create a painful cycle of dependence that traps financially vulnerable families throughout Texas. See below for an action alert regarding this bill that contains information on how you can help support our advocacy efforts by making calls to the committee.  Next week we will also be providing testimony regarding budget cuts to the chaplaincy program. 

Please Update your Profile: We are again asking that you please submit your House and Senate district information to us by email or by updating your profile. If you don't know that information, you can look it up online here. Alternatively, you may also provide your address to us via email or update your address in your profile. Providing this information is valuable to you, because we can customize your email alerts to include your legislators' names and contact information. It is also helpful for us because we often need to target specific legislators, and this information lets us know if you are a constituent of these legislators. Thank you to everyone who has provided us with this information.

Action Alert: Support Fair Lending Practices

The payday and auto title loan business model is designed to trap people in debt. More than 75% of payday loans are taken out within 2 weeks of the previous loan in order to fill the financial gap caused by the loan itself. Regulatory standards are already in place for these lenders, but payday and auto title loan operators take advantage of a loophole in Texas law to avoid that regulation.  
SB 253 is a bill that the Texas Catholic Conference supports because it closes the loophole that allows payday and auto title lenders to operate without following the regulations outlined in Chapter 342 of the Finance Code. It will be heard in the Senate Business and Commerce committee hearing on Feb. 22 at 8:00 a.m. Bishop Vásquez, Bishop of the Diocese of Austin, will be testifying on this bill in committee. Calls of support  to committee members are critical.   

Click here to see all TCC action alerts.
Sonogram Bill Passed by the Senate

Access to Ultrasound

Testimony in Support of SB 16

Good morning Mr. Chairman and members, my name is Andrew Rivas and I am the executive director of the Texas Catholic Conference. The TCC is the statewide association of the 15 Roman Catholic dioceses in our state and it is our responsibility to advocate for the public policy positions of all the Bishops of Texas.
First, let me begin by thanking you Mr. Chairman, and the committee, for allowing me to testify today on Senate Bill 16. As many of you are aware, the Catholic Church teaches that life is a precious gift given to all of us from our Creator. It is a gift that should be nurtured and protected at all stages.  It is a sad fact that in our society, innocent human life is threatened at its very earliest stage through the widespread use of abortion, which murdered the lives of 80,000 children in Texas in 2008, the most recent year that data is available. This is more than the total population of the city of College Station. 3,000 of these abortions were performed on minors. Laws must be in place that protect the life of the unborn child, and that educate mothers who may not realize that the life in their womb is exactly that – a unique, irreplaceable human life – not a soulless glob of tissues or something akin to a malignant tumor.
The Texas Catholic Conference supports SB 16 as an approach to help reduce abortion rates in Texas by giving mothers access to their ultrasound images, with the hope that these images will help mothers realize the humanity of their unborn children and choose life. SB 16 would require a physician, or the physician’s agent, to provide printed material for a woman to review at least twenty four hours before an abortion can be performed. The bill would also require the physician performing the abortion to review a mother’s ultrasound with her at least two hours prior to her having an abortion. The mother is not required to view the ultrasound.
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Weekly Legislative Update



The Senate Finance committee has started hearing testimony on Senate Bill 1, the General Appropriations Bill, and specifically, Article II, which covers Health and Human Services. TCC Executive Director Andrew Rivas and Associate Director Jennifer Allmon delivered testimony on the concerns of the Texas Bishops. You may read the text of their testimonies
here. You may read our policy paper on the revenue shortfall here, and you can also view a video resource on the budget here. We will also post testimony on other articles in the bill as it is available. 
Weekly Legislative Update

Ultrasound Action Alert: Senate Bill 16, an Access-to-Ultrasound bill, will be heard in the Senate State Affairs committee next Wednesday, February 9, 2011. Please contact the Senators on the Committee and ask them to support the bill. You can find the Senators' contact information and a sample message below.

 

Member


Capitol Phone

Bob Deuell


(512) 463-0102
Robert Duncan
(512) 463-0128
Rodney Ellis
(512) 463-0113
Troy Fraser
(512) 463-0124
Joan Huffman
(512) 463-0117
Mike Jackson
(512) 463-0111
Eddie Lucio
(512) 463-0127
Leticia Van de Putte
(512) 463-0126
Tommy Williams
(512) 463-0104



"Hello, I am a Catholic in  City , Texas and as a constituent I ask that you support Senate Bill 16, which will be heard in the State Affairs committee on Wednesday, February 9. This legislation would require a physician to review a woman's ultrasound with her prior to her having an abortion. The woman is not required to view the ultrasound. I support this bill because it provides the mother with more information about her unborn child and may help the mother realize the humanity of her unborn child and choose life. Thank you for your time. For more information you can contact the Texas Catholic Conference at 512-339-9882."

New Texas Catholic Voice

New Texas Catholic Voice
Read more . .

Texas Bishops React to AZ-Style Immigration Policy

At a press conference today, Texas’ Roman Catholic Bishops rejected Arizona-style immigration policies as a solution in Texas.
“Immigration is good for Texas. Arizona-style policies, on the other hand, have several pitfalls and risk decreasing the very safety of Texans,” said Andrew Rivas, the Executive Director of the Texas Catholic Conference, the official public policy voice of the Bishops of Texas. “We look forward to working with the legislature and our immigration partners to enact state-appropriate laws that recognize the historic and present-day contributions of immigrants in Texas.”
Read more...

Capitol Comments: Modern Day Money Changers and Closing the Loophole

My commute to work is blissfully short—just enough time for one or two songs on the radio.  So when I hear a commercial, I am quick to change the station.  Yesterday as I headed out, I heard a peppy woman encouraging me to get $2,500 in fast cash today for an auto title loan.  Annoyed, I tried another station where I was urged to get quick cash now with no credit check.  When my third station offered another payday loan commercial, I was disgusted enough to simply turn off the radio altogether.
The claim of payday lenders is that they offer a solution to families who face short-term crises.  However, instead of promoting financial stability for families, these lenders actually benefit more from a family’s financial struggles.  Payday and auto title loan businesses have tripled in number in Texas since 2006, when they discovered a loophole in Texas law allowing them to charge excessive fees for loans that trap people in debt. Read Full Story >>

Modern Day Money Changers and Closing the Loophole

By Jennifer Carr Allmon, Associate Director, Texas Catholic Conference
My commute to work is blissfully short—just enough time for one or two songs on the radio.  So when I hear a commercial, I am quick to change the station.  Yesterday as I headed out, I heard a peppy woman encouraging me to get $2,500 in fast cash today for an auto title loan.  Annoyed, I tried another station where I was urged to get quick cash now with no credit check.  When my third station offered another payday loan commercial, I was disgusted enough to simply turn off the radio altogether.
The claim of payday lenders is that they offer a solution to families who face short-term crises.  However, instead of promoting financial stability for families, these lenders actually benefit more from a family’s financial struggles.  Payday and auto title loan businesses have tripled in number in Texas since 2006, when they discovered a loophole in Texas law allowing them to charge excessive fees for loans that trap people in debt.
Payday and auto title lenders in Texas often charge upwards of 500% APR for a $300 loan. More than 75% of payday loans are taken out within 2 weeks of the previous loan in order to fill the financial gap caused by the loan itself. Because of the debt trap, in Texas an average payday borrower pays $840 for a $300 loan.  Regulatory standards are already in place for small dollar lenders, but payday and auto title loan operators take advantage of a loophole in Texas law to avoid that regulation.  They use the loophole to get around Texas laws that cap rates and fees for consumer loans by claiming that they are not lenders, but Credit Service Organizations.  Legitimate credit service organizations (CSOs) help people clean up their credit and pay off debt.  Payday and auto title loan operators advertise no credit check for fast cash.
In the teachings of our faith we have many warnings about usury and the exploitation of people.  Lending practices that take unfair advantage of one’s desperate circumstances are unjust.  Such practices risk the stability of the family. Catholic Social Teaching demands respect for the dignity of persons, preferential concern for the poor and vulnerable, and the pursuit of the common good.  The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church tells us, “Usury is a scourge that is also a reality in our time and that has a stranglehold on many peoples' lives. Although the quest for equitable profit is acceptable in economic and financial activity, recourse to usury is to be morally condemned. Those whose usurious and avaricious dealings lead to the hunger and death of their brethren in the human family indirectly commit homicide, which is imputable to them. (341)
These principles, coupled with our teaching on economic justice, compel our questioning of current payday lending practices.  In the upcoming legislative session, the Texas Catholic Conference calls on the legislature to close the loophole in our state law that allows payday, auto title, and other consumer loans to operate as CSOs, and provide a level playing field by requiring that all lenders and brokers of payday, auto title, or other consumer loans be licensed and comply with the same standards and consumer protection laws of licensed lenders in the Texas Finance Code.  In the meantime, my car radio will be off.
 

Texas News


Bill filing started on Monday, and that we now have bills up on our web site. Our bill reports page lists bills that we are supporting and opposing, and is sorted by issue area. You can visit the bill reports page here or you can click the “legislative bill reports” button on our home page at www.TXcatholic.org.  For every bill listed, we include a link to the state web site for that particular bill, as well as a summary of the bill and why TCC is taking a position on it, and any available resources that we have on the bill issue. 

We read each bill and determine if the proposed legislation is one that we should support or opposed based on the 
Bishops’ legislative agenda.  If a bill has been filed and is not on our site, it does not mean that we will remain neutral on that bill.  Throughout the pre-filing period and the legislative session, we will continue analyzing bills and our positions will be updated often. We will continue to add new bills to the reports as well as edit reports as we have more information available.

Read More:
Weekly Legislative Update
Texas Catholic Conference Urges Catholics to Be Faithful Citizens During Texas’ 82nd Legislative Session
Click here to read the entire Texas Catholic Voice e-newsletter online. You can sign up for the e-newsletter here.

Still Be Faithful Citizens

The elections are over, bills are being drafted, and before we know it, the 82nd Texas Legislative Session will be here. This year’s Texas House general election results have left Capitol observers and advocates scrambling to rethink their strategy and priorities. As a part of this post-game analysis several people have contacted the Texas Catholic Conference, the public policy voice of the Roman Catholic Bishops of Texas, to ask how the election results affect its approach to the upcoming session.
 
“For us, the answer is simple: we will continue to advocate for the fullness of the Bishops’ legislative agenda,” said Jennifer Carr Allmon, Associate Director of the Texas Catholic Conference. “In the same way that we don’t get involved in recommendations for the election, we also don’t make predictions about the fate of our issues based on the election outcomes. Keeping in mind the instructions of St. Paul to Timothy (2 Tim 4:1-5), we will be persistent in season and out of season, whether convenient or inconvenient, to fulfill our ministry of proclaiming church teaching to the people of Texas. We congratulate all the election winners and we look forward to working with them this session. We thank the legislators who are moving on for their service.”
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Texas Bishops' 82nd Session Legislative Agenda and Policy Papers Now Available

www.TXcatholic.org. The Legislative Agenda includes a statement on the Texas budget shortfall as well as 48 specific priorities in the areas of Life and Family Life Issues, Immigration, Education, Health & Human Services, and Criminal Justice Reform. While the Legislative Agenda is broad and spans a multitude of issues, the Conference will monitor and respond to any relevant matters before the Texas Legislature, even if the issue is not specifically listed on the agenda. The Legislative Agenda can be viewed online here.
The updated Texas Catholic Conference 82nd Legislative Agenda is now available on the Conference web site,

August Capitol Comments: Truth: A Light unto our Path and a Guide in our Actions as Advocates

Read Full Story.
My alma mater, an illustrious public university in Texas, has the following inscription on the front of its main building: "Ye shall know the Truth and the Truth shall make you free."

In case you didn't know (I didn't - my mom pointed it out to me), this is a quote from Jesus (John 8:32). At first I wondered, "How can a public university get away with putting a quote from Jesus on the front of such a prominent building on campus?" But I soon answered it myself: Because it speaks the truth. Regardless of how you felt about the speaker, Jesus, you could not deny the truth in his statement - it reverberated and was affirmed in the very law written on all hearts.

Invaluable Opportunity

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Our eldest child is a senior in high school and our second eldest is in the eighth grade. Both girls go to Catholic schools and both are getting ready to graduate. We know that their experiences in Catholic schools will help them to be strong and faithful in whatever their future holds.

I am a product of Catholic grade schools and always wanted to give my kids the same opportunity my parents gave me. My wife went to public schools all her life and when difficult times came her way, she was not afforded the opportunity to work through problems in the school setting through the eyes of faith. A Catholic school would have been able to give her that support, and so she was determined to place our children in Catholic schools.

March Capitol Comments: St. Patrick: An Unidentified Human Trafficking Victim

As we celebrate Saint Patrick's Day this year you will hear about St. Patrick bringing Christianity to Ireland. You may hear tales of snakes, shamrocks, and the luck of the Irish, although Saint Patrick wasn't Irish. You will probably not hear that St. Patrick was a human trafficking victim who then devoted his life to saving his captors. But he was. Read more >>