Bills out for vote in Texas Legislature

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Below is a list of all bills on our watch-list that are now or will soon be out for vote on the floor of the Texas Legislature. Please take the time to contact your legislators about these bills. We have included notes you can use in your letter, email or phone call. We will soon be posting emails for each bill that you can use, as well.

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SB 115 (Williams)

Caption: Relating to a school choice program for certain students with disabilities.

Status: Placed on Intent Calendar.

Companion: HB 1175. House Public Education committee has not heard the bill.

Stance: Against

Analysis: This is a back-door voucher bill, meant to sneak in vouchers in certain categories while nobody is looking. Voucher / School Choice programs have largely supported religious indoctrination when enacted in other states. The Americans With Disabilities Act already requires that schools pay for students with disabilities that cannot be accommodated by the school to attend a private school that can accommodated the student. This bill will not change the way students with disabilities are treated or cared for, but only further the goal of some to subvert public education in Texas.

Vouchers: To determine the impact of school voucher programs on the future of education in Texas, we must consider the results of similar programs across the nation. A recent study found that in nine states that have enacted voucher programs, many deliver an entirely religious curriculum and at least 310 voucher schools publicly state they are teaching pseudo-science such as Biblical creationism. Our tax money should not fund schools that do not meet evidence-based education standards and cannot fund religious instruction.

HB 2816 (Burkett)

Caption: Relating to requirements for physicians who perform abortions; creating an offense.

Status: Committee report sent to Calendars.

Companion: SB 1198. Placed on Intent Calendar.

Stance: Against

Analysis: This bill is overly restrictive. A physician’s admitting privileges have no bearing on a woman’s ability to get emergency medical care at any appropriate facility. This bill will only serve to further the religious goal to restrict access to abortion services, which studies have shown does not reduce abortion and would only endanger women by forcing them to seek unsafe methods.

SB 1198 (Taylor)

Caption: Relating to requirements for physicians who perform abortions; creating an offense.

Status: Placed on intent calendar.

Companion: HB 2816. Committee report sent to Calendars.

Stance: Against

Analysis: This bill is overly restrictive. A physician’s admitting privileges have no bearing on a woman’s ability to get emergency medical care at any appropriate facility. This bill will only serve to further the religious goal to restrict access to abortion services, which studies have shown does not reduce abortion and would only endanger women by forcing them to seek unsafe methods.

SB 1316 (Whitmire)

Caption: Relating to the prosecution of the offense of indecency with a child.

Status: Placed on intent calendar.

Companion: HB 2403(very similar). Committee reported favorably w/o amendment.

Stance: Support

Analysis: In Texas, teenagers may be sexually active so long as they are over the age of 14, within four years of age of their partner, and the act is consensual. That is, unless you are gay or lesbian. Then it is a felony. In fact, if a doctor learns of a gay or lesbian teenager that is sexually active, that doctor is required to turn the teenager in to the police. These bills would change the law to treat gay and lesbian teenagers by the same rules as straight teenagers.

HB 2403 (Gonzalez)

Caption: Relating to removing gender restrictions in the “Romeo and Juliet” defense.

Status: Committee reported favorably w/o amendment.

Companion: SB 1316 (very similar). Placed on intent calendar.

Stance: Support

Analysis: In Texas, teenagers may be sexually active so long as they are over the age of 14, within four years of age of their partner, and the act is consensual. That is, unless you are gay or lesbian. Then it is a felony. In fact, if a doctor learns of a gay or lesbian teenager that is sexually active, that doctor is required to turn the teenager in to the police. These bills would change the law to treat gay and lesbian teenagers by the same rules as straight teenagers.

SB 521 (Paxton)

Caption: Relating to the provision of and parental approval for a student’s participation in human sexuality and family planning instruction in public schools.

Status: Committee report printed and distributed.

Companion: HB 1057. Committee reported favorably as substituted.

Stance: Against

Analysis: As a group advocating for rational decision making, we believe it is important to provide our youth with a full education and understanding of human sexuality so that they may make the best decisions possible. Over half of parents are not providing meaningful discussions or education to their children about human sex and sexuality. The birth rate among teens in Texas has reached the unenviable status of being the highest in the country, as well as having one of the highest teen sexual activity rates and lowest rate of teens using protection. When we as a state make receiving sex education in school even harder, where do we think these kids are going to learn about sex? We understand if parents have personal or religious reasons to keep their children from attending sex education in schools, however, let’s not make this personal and religious conviction the default for all parents throughout the state.

HB 1057 (Leach)

Caption: Relating to the provision of and parental approval for a student’s participation in human sexuality and family planning instruction in public schools.

Status: Committee reported favorably as substituted.

Companion: SB 521. Committee report printed and distributed.

Stance: Against

Analysis: As a group advocating for rational decision making, we believe it is important to provide our youth with a full education and understanding of human sexuality so that they may make the best decisions possible. Over half of parents are not providing meaningful discussions or education to their children about human sex and sexuality. The birth rate among teens in Texas has reached the unenviable status of being the highest in the country, as well as having one of the highest teen sexual activity rates and lowest rate of teens using protection. When we as a state make receiving sex education in school even harder, where do we think these kids are going to learn about sex? We understand if parents have personal or religious reasons to keep their children from attending sex education in schools, however, let’s not make this personal and religious conviction the default for all parents throughout the state.

SB 23 (Patrick)

Caption: Relating to the establishment of the Texas Equal Opportunity Scholarship Program.

Status: Not again placed on intent calendar.

Companion: No House companion.

Stance: Against

Analysis: This is a back-door voucher program. The especially dubious take of this voucher bill is that instead of taking money out of the Texas budget to pay for vouchers, it intercepts the money before it reaches the Texas budget by letting corporations donate their tax payments to organizations which give “scholarships” for students to attend private schools. According to a ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States, this financing scheme would not allow the State to place restrictions on how the money is spent, meaning it can be spend on religious education and schools that do not meet basic educational standards.

Vouchers: To determine the impact of school voucher programs on the future of education in Texas, we must consider the results of similar programs across the nation. A recent study found that in nine states that have enacted voucher programs, many deliver an entirely religious curriculum and at least 310 voucher schools publicly state they are teaching pseudo-science such as Biblical creationism. Our tax money should not fund schools that do not meet evidence-based education standards and cannot fund religious instruction.

SB 97 (Patrick)

Caption: Relating to distributing or prescribing abortion-inducing drugs; providing penalties.

Status: Committee report printed and distributed.

Companion: No House Companion.

Stance: Against

Analysis: Medical / drug induced abortion is the safest way to terminate a pregnancy. They have been prescribed for many years under the current system and there is no medical reason to not continue this method. The only reason to make a change would be to enforce religious conviction as law, which is not the place of the State.

SB 537 (Deuell)

Caption: Relating to minimum standards for abortion facilities.

Status: Not again placed on intent calendar.

Companion: No House Companion.

Stance: Against

Analysis: Abortions, especially non-surgical procedures, are among the safest of modern medical procedures. Enacting further restrictions will serve only to limit access to abortion services, not improve the safety. Furthermore, this bill targets all abortion-providing facilities as the same. In fact, there are two types of abortion procedures administered in Texas. In the first trimester (accounting for around 98% of abortions in Texas) are medically induced abortions; that is, a pill. The remainder, less than 2% of abortions, are surgical. All surgical abortions in Texas are administered in facilities that already meet the standards in this bill. Holding facilities that do not offer surgical abortions to surgical standards is obviously not a rational attempt at law making, but an attempt to restrict access to abortions based on personal and religious convictions.

HB 997 (Smithee)

Caption: Relating to health plan and health benefit plan coverage for abortions.

Status: Committee report sent to Calendars.

Companion: No Senate Companion.

Stance: Against

Analysis: The State has no place in restrict an insurance companies ability to cover abortions. This is simply an attempt to enforce personal religious convictions with the help of the State.

SB 538 (Rodriguez)

Caption: Relating to the repeal of the offense of homosexual conduct.

Status: Committee report printed and distributed.

Companion: HB 1701. Scheduled for public hearing in House Criminal Jurisprudence committee on April 29.

Stance: Support

Analysis: The Texas law against homosexual activity has been struck down by the Supreme Court of the United States. There is no reason beyond religious motivation not to remove this law from our codes.

HB 1568 (Alonzo)

Caption: Relating to funding under the Foundation School Program for a school district that offers insurance benefits to a person who is not a dependent of a district employee.

Status: Committee report filed with Committee Coordinator.

Companion: No Senate Companion.

Stance: Against

Analysis: A couple progressive local school districts around the state have decided on a local level to provide health insurance coverage to the partners of LGBT employees, making them equals with their colleagues. House conservatives have decided to take away the rights of these school districts by penalizing them for their commitment to the qualities that make America great, equal treatment under the law of all citizens. The attack on school districts that offer equal benefits to homosexual couples as straight couples is an attempt to enforce the religious convictions of some through law. It is simply not the place of the state to make law out of religious conviction.

HB 308 (Bohac)

Caption: Relating to a school district’s recognition of and education regarding traditional winter celebrations.

Status: Reported favorably w/o amendment.

Companion: SB 665. Senate Education committee has not heard this bill.

Stance: Against

Analysis: This bill provides no rights not already held by all involved and would not serve to expand religious freedom. This is simply the personal crusade of one legislator in a pathetic attempt to gain votes among hyper-religious constituents.

SB 1362 (Schwertner)

Caption: Relating to a requirement that students at an open-enrollment charter school recite the pledges of allegiance to the United States flag and the state flag.

Status: Committee report printed and distributed.

Companion: HB 773. Committee reported engrossed.

Stance: Against

Analysis: Besides the fact that the Supreme Court of the United States has held it s a breach of the First Amendment to force a student to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, we do not support forcing students to acknowledge a god.

HB 773 (Farney)

Caption: Relating to a requirement that students at an open-enrollment charter school recite the pledges of allegiance to the United States flag and the state flag.

Status: Committee reported engrossed.

Companion: SB 1362. Committee report printed and distributed.

Stance: Against

Analysis: Besides the fact that the Supreme Court of the United States has held it s a breach of the First Amendment to force a student to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, we do not support forcing students to acknowledge a god.

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“Come and Take Our Reason!”: A Call to Action

Reason is our only weaponIn the war for Texas independence, there was a famous rallying cry, “Come and Take It“, which referred to the cannon at the battle of Gonzales. In a struggle that will be far less hostile, but hopefully no less successful, the Secular Legislative Action Committee (SLAC) is creating a movement to inject reason into the Texas democratic process.

SLAC is an ad hoc group of Texas citizens seeking a rational state government. We support the Jeffersonian ideal that church and state remain separate as well as the Lone Star State`s long-standing belief in personal liberty and individuality.

Over the last two decades, these ideals have been eroded by a persistent few who wish to replace scientific principals and the First Amendment with their personal beliefs and a de facto state religion. Not only does this campaign of religiosity infringe upon our freedoms and impede progress, it also leads to unsound and wasteful legislation that negatively impacts our educational system, our health care system, and our economy.

The secular community in Texas is a fast growing segment of the population with 22% of Texans considering themselves non-religious, up from 12% just five years ago. That puts Texas above the national average as a home for the non-religious. For the legislators of Texas to truly represent their electorate, the voices of the secular community of Texas must be heard.

SLAC believes that all Texans should be able to compete for the best jobs with a quality education that is not distorted by religious fable and dogma, and all Texans deserve affordable health care and reproductive choice without the interference of religious doctrine. All Texans also deserve equality under the law, not discrimination based upon personal religious belief. We hold that these rights are directly linked to our state’s economic vitality and that Texans deserve effective government policy based on scientific realities that will achieve these goals.

If you agree with these principles, then SLAC is advocating for you. If you are a Texas resident and state endorsed religious doctrine has affected your education, your health, your constitutional rights, or your employment, we would like to hear from you. Please send your stories and comments to slacerstx@gmail.com, or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/SlacSecularLegislativeActionCommittee. Please include a telephone number or email address where you can be reached. Your personal testimony could be an invaluable tool in persuading our legislature.

The current legislative session is considering an array of proposed bills that would remove religious influence in some cases, and increase it in others. HB (house bill) 2014 and SB (senate bill) 197 would require the notorious Texas School Board of Education to have public oversight on all changes made to public school curriculum. HB 51 would require the posting of the Ten Commandments in public school classrooms, but this bill is likely to die a slow death in committee. HB 2364 and SB 25 would make abortion illegal after twenty weeks.

House Bill 1300 would legalize same sex marriage; and for the first time ever, the Texas Legislature held a hearing concerning LGBT discrimination which included testimony from Fortune 500 companies in support of LGBT equality. For a more complete overview of the current legislative session, visit our website at http://www.slactx.org. For daily updates, you can also follow us on Twitter @slac_tx.

We seek and support rational leaders that know time is better spent taking meaningful action than on their knees in prayer. It is time for the secular community of Texas to demonstrate that philosophy. As SLAC-ers, we believe our future depends on it. Join SLAC on April 22nd to make our rallying cry for “Rational State Government” heard loud and clear. We will be in front of the Ten Commandments on the northwest side of the Capitol at 12:30pm. See you there!