Conservative organizations in Texas once again have been struggling to influence state legislators during the 140 day long 85th legislative session which ends May 29th working to pass common sense laws defending our Judeo-Christian principles as they relate to life, family, and marriage. Organizations such as Texas Right to Life, Concerned Women of America, Texas Eagle Forum, Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, and others have been at the forefront of the battle in Texas.
I talked with some representatives of these organizations to get a reading on how our conservative agenda has advanced this year at the state capitol. According to Emily Horne, Legislative Associate with Texas Right to Life, the oldest state-wide Right to Life organization in Texas, the most substantive pro-life bill, the Dismemberment Abortion Ban, (SB 415) passed the Senate and has been “stuck” in the House State Affairs committee chaired by Byron Cook (R-Corsicana). The House version of the bill was referred to Cook’s committee on February 21st. SB 415 would save thousands of babies from the torturous and inhumane practice of dismemberment abortion ripping bodies apart from limb from limb while still alive.
The Pro-Life Health Insurance Act (SB 20) includes a provision for the state to opt-out of abortion coverage in public, private, and state insurance plans, which 25 states have already approved. Passed by the Senate this year and two years ago, the bill is once again “stuck” in the House State Affairs committee headed by Byron Cook and is headed for the graveyard as the deadline to pass additional legislation this session is looming.
Ms. Horne wrote an excellent article recently about what really goes on with the movers and shakers in Austin’s statehouse as the legislative session draws to a close. Pro-abortion liberals in the Democratic Party start “chubbing” or acting out on the floor, “theatrically asking asinine questions” or seizing valuable time to speak while the “clock inches closer to midnight and bills continue to die.” Their “moderate” or “RINO” (Republican in name only) allies, some in very powerful chairmanship positions strategically placed there by House Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio), “then blame Democrats for the death of these bills.”
Other evidence of cooperation (collusion) between the Democrats and liberal House leadership was apparent with the Texas School Choice bill which did not promote “vouchers” as opponents of the bill continued to misrepresent but modest educational reform measures offering eligible families educational savings accounts, tax credit scholarships, and an educational expense assistance program to allow them to choose alternative schools.
A top priority of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, early in the session, the House Public Education Chairman, Dan Huberty, (R-Houston), appointed by Joe Straus, told the press that the school choice proposal advocated by the Lt. Governor and the majority of senators was dead. A watered down, narrow version in the House (HB 1335) is still in pending status with the deadline bell about to toll.
According to Dana Hodges, State Director for Concerned Women of America, the Senate Bill (SB6) titled the Texas Privacy Act, informally called the “Bathroom Bill”, which intends to safeguard the safety of women and children in public restrooms was passed by the Senate but watered down in the House under HB 2899 with regards to its application to public schools. Speaker Straus ignored SB6 and by all appearances is working through his faithful lieutenant, Byron Cook, to let the bill die “left pending in committee” without allowing a vote.
Ms. Hodges also called attention to House Bill 421, a priority bill advanced by CWA, which appears to be a reasonable, non-controversial bill to allow volunteers to provide security for churches as an exception to the state occupational code. She believes the bill is bottled up by the calendar committee by Straus’ appointed lieutenant out of spite for conservative House Representative Matt Rinaldi who sponsored the bill.
Cindy Asmussen, Ethics & Religious Liberty Advisor for the Southern Baptists of TX Convention, referred to HB 3859 and SB 892, the Senate and House bills seeking to protect the religious liberty rights of employees of child welfare service agencies. She has also been an advocate for the Texas Privacy Act (SB6) which Donna Hodges referred to.
There has been a wild outcry against these bills by homosexual (LGBT) rights organizations. The Texas legislative bill HB 3859 (House Bill) “Freedom to Serve Children Act” (Relating to protection of the rights of conscience for child welfare services providers) and SB 892 (Senate Bill) were attacked by the Human Rights Campaign, the largest homosexual rights activist organization in the nation. HRC’s complaint claims that “HB 3859 would enshrine discrimination into Texas law by allowing discrimination in two directions: against prospective parents, and against children in their care. It would allow state contractors who provide child welfare services to discriminate against qualified same-sex couples who want to adopt.“
Asmussen pointed out that although there is an emotional outcry from the opposition to the common sense, rational basis for the law to protect the conscience rights of adoption agency workers and the rights of children, the law is badly needed. According to her, “adoption agencies and organizations like Catholic Charities have had to stop some of their services, having to put money aside for litigation.” Some Catholic adoption agencies around the country have stopped their adoption services rather than be legally intimidated by local and state agencies forcing their agencies to accept applications from same sex couples.
Mark Regnerus, Professor of Sociology, University of Texas, Austin, conducted an extensive study of children raised in homes with same sex couples. The New Family Structures Study (NFSS) published in Social Science Research found significant adverse effects on children brought up in homes with same sex “parents” compared with children raised in traditional homes.
I asked Cindy her final thoughts about battles in the Texas legislature this year that have been on the front page news. She called to mind SB6, the Texas Privacy Act:
“Texans want women and children protected in intimate public facilities. Across Texas, city ordinances and public school policies are being influenced by radical organizations who are putting political correctness above public safety. Citizens do not have the amount of money or time it takes to overturn these rogue policies which are exceeding state law. This is why we must have a statewide standard like SB6 – The Texas Privacy Act. It passed the Senate two months ago and it’s inexcusable that it’s been sitting over in the House. They still have time to pass this bill if they act now.”
Why are Republican leaders in the House thwarting the will of the people of Texas and the conservative agenda of the Governor and Lt. Governor? It appears to be nothing else than pure treachery.
What can we do as Texas grassroots conservative Christians with the battles in Austin raging around serious moral issues where so-called moderate Republican leaders in the House are thwarting the agenda of the Governor, Lt. Governor, and the aspirations and values of people of faith in Texas?
Dana Hodges of CWA advises folks to “get engaged with the process”, call the Governor’s office and let him know you stand with him. Call Speaker Joe Straus and tell him to work with the Governor and the Senate. For legislators, especially freshmen representatives who fear Speaker Straus, Dana suggests, they learn and know the rules, and use them effectively as the Freedom Caucus has done. Stand up for the conservative agenda that got them elected and don’t compromise!
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