TCC Members Uphold Religious Liberty

TCC members authored and passed an important bill regarding a core constitutional right: Senate Bill 2065 protects the fundamental First Amendment right to freedom of religion. Under the bill (which is now effective), a religious organization or an individual employed by a religious organization, or a clergy member/minister, may not be required to solemnize any marriage or provide services related to marriage if the action would cause the organization or individual to violate a sincerely held religious belief. Current sustained assaults nationwide on religious freedom and conscience indicate that religious liberty is in danger of becoming a “second-class right . . . one that can be easily overridden by other rights, claims and interests.”[i]

The billsafeguards religious liberty by protecting clergy and employees of religious organizations from claims of homosexual discrimination in the event they choose, as required by the tenets of their faith, not to recognize same-sex “marriages.” The protection is one small effort at ensuring that religion is not further marginalized from the public square and that the moral culture that undergirds and nourishes democracy is further protected, especially in light of the United States Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges.

Religious Liberty graphic

[i] Mary Ann Glendon, “First of Freedoms?”, America, March 5, 2012, available online at http://americamagazine.org/issue/5131/article/first-freedoms.

Pro-Life Measures Enacted by TCC Members

The 2015 legislative session produced a number of pro-life victories that were advanced by TCC members:

HB 3994 (Morrison et al./Perry):  Requires a woman seeking an elective abortion to provide a valid government photo ID to confirm she is not a minor.

Since 2000, the state of Texas has required that minors seeking abortions do so with parental consent, or else must be granted judicial bypass from this requirement.  House Bill 3994 (Morrison et al./Perry) tightens this process by requiring that a woman seeking an abortion present to the abortion provider a valid government-issued photo ID to confirm that she is of-age to legally seek an elective abortion without parental consent or judicial bypass.  If a physician is unable to see such an ID but chooses to perform the abortion, the physician must document to the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) that such information was not obtained, and DSHS will report the number of abortions performed each year for which age and proof of identity are not provided.  The bill also amends and strengthens the judicial bypass procedure.

HB 416 (Riddle et al./Campbell): Requires employees and volunteers at abortion facilities to complete human trafficking training. 

Under the provisions of HB 416 (Riddle et.al./ Campbell), any employee, volunteer, or contractor of a licensed abortion facility or ambulatory surgical center that performs 50 or more abortions per year must undergo a human trafficking education and training program as prescribed by the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC).   The hope is that such a curriculum will train individuals working in these facilities to identify victims of human trafficking so that intervention and assistance can be provided, and no woman is forced to undergo an abortion against her will.

Floor Amendment #3 (Morrison) to HB 1891: Prohibiting community schools from using or providing referrals to abortion providers and their affiliates. 

House Bill 1891 establishes a model for community schools which, according to the bill author’s analysis, are “public schools open throughout the year to students, families, and community members before, during, and after school hours.”   Supporters contended that while these schools provide quality education and engage the community, prior to legislation there was no definition or model to follow.  The legislation also allows certain eligible underperforming campuses to adopt a community school reform option in lieu of full scale reconstitution.

A floor amendment by Rep. Geanie Morrison was added to the bill that statutorily prohibits community schools from:

  • Providing abortion-related services
  • Providing referrals to abortion providers or their affiliates
  • Partnering with an abortion provider or affiliate in transitioning to a community school
  • Hiring an employee of an abortion provider or affiliate as the community school coordinator

Budgetary Provisions in the 2016-2017 General Appropriations Act

DSHS Rider 72: Prohibits abortion providers and affiliates from participating in the Breast and Cervical Cancer Services (BCCS) Program.  This prohibition currently applies to providers in the Texas Women’s Health Program and will be extended to the BCCS program when the new budget becomes effective on September 1, 2105.

HHSC Rider 31: Prohibits the use of any state-funded human sexuality or family planning instruction or materials provided or produced by abortion providers or their affiliates.

HHSC Rider 85:

  • Prohibits the use of any state funds to pay direct or indirect costs associated with abortion procedures provided by any state contractors
  • Prohibits the distribution of any Women’s Health Services for Family Planning funds to elective abortion providers or any entities that contract with or provide funds to elective abortion providers
  • Requires HHSC to include in its financial audit a review of the use of these funds to ensure compliance with these provisions

HHSC Rider 87: Lays out the requirements that must be met in order for the affiliate of any elective abortion provider to receive family planning funds.  Any affiliate must prove: legal separation; easily distinguishable names; separate boards of directors and governing bodies; no direct or indirect transfer of family planning funds to the abortion-services affiliate; detailed employee timekeeping; clear signage; and separate financial books.

HB 3074 (Springer et al./Schwertner): Required provision of artificially administered nutrition and hydration to sustain life.

Under the provisions of HB 3074, artificially administered nutrition and hydration must be provided to patients under the Texas Advance Directives Act unless, based on reasonable medical judgment, providing artificially administered nutrition and hydration would:

(1)  hasten the patient’s death;
(2)  be medically contraindicated such that the provision of the treatment seriously exacerbates life-threatening medical problems not outweighed by the benefit of the provision of the treatment;
(3)  result in substantial irremediable physical pain not outweighed by the benefit of the provision of the treatment;
(4)  be medically ineffective in prolonging life; or
(5)  be contrary to the patient’s or surrogate’s clearly documented desire not to receive artificially administered nutrition or hydration.

Prior to enactment of this legislation, Texas law relating to advance directives lacked clarity and potentially allowed for the withdrawal of food, water and pain medication without medical standards for doing so. HB 3074 clarifies that prolonging life is the default priority.

 

PWT Pro Life edit

TCC Members Voted to End State Investments in Iran

Companies and investors dealing with Iran aid a threatening foreign regime that is pursuing nuclear- weapons capability, brutally repressing its citizens while knowingly violating human rights, and sponsoring insidious forms of terrorism. Based on these dangerous actions antithetical to American security and prosperity, U.S. state governments, which manage trillions of dollars of taxpayer money through pension funds[1], should divest from and deny contracts to companies that do business in Iran, as is expressly allowed for by federal law.[2]

In the 83rd Texas legislative session, state lawmakers enacted SB 200 to do precisely that.  Under the bill, all “state governmental entities”, including the Employees Retirement System, the Teacher Retirement System, and all municipal, county, and local retirement systems, are required to divest from companies that are engaged in business activities in Iran. In addition, the State Pension Review Board is instructed to create a list of all “scrutinized” Texas companies that have contracts with or provide supplies (both military and non-) or services to the government of Iran, as well as ones in which the Iranian government has a direct or indirect equity share.  The list must be updated annually and distributed to the legislature and attorney general.  For each company engaged in active business operations in Iran:

  • A state governmental entity must send a notice warning the company that it may become subject to divestment by state governmental entities.
  • The company has an opportunity to clarify its Iran-related activities and whether they are subject to the state’s divestment scheme. If the company continues to have scrutinized active business operations in Iran following the warning, the state must sell, redeem, divest, or withdraw all publicly-traded securities of the company.
  • All of the divested assets must be removed from state’s investment portfolio.
  • Each year, a publicly available report is filed that identifies all securities sold, redeemed, divested.

[1] See Douglas F. Gansler, “Uniting States Against Iran,” Wall Street Journal, March 8, 2013, available at http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887324662404578332622153212746#articleTabs=article (citing National Association of State Budget Officers study).

[2] 22 U.S.C. 8532 § 202(b).

Iran Divestment

Congress Must Pass Kate’s Law

In the following letter, TCC members encourage the Texas Congressional Delegation to enact Kate’s Law. Under the proposed law, previously deported individuals who return illegally to the United States would be subject to mandatory jail terms of five years upon conviction of an offense. The legislation is named for Kate Steinle, a young woman who was murdered by an illegal alien in San Francisco with multiple prior convictions and five previous deportations:

July 30, 2015

Dear Congressman,

We write to urge you to support and advance H.R. 3011, the “Establishing Mandatory Minimums for Illegal Reentry Act of 2015” or “Kate’s Law”. As you know, the legislation is named for Kate Steinle, a young woman who was murdered by an illegal alien in San Francisco who had multiple prior felony convictions and five previous deportations.

Under the proposed law, previously deported individuals who return illegally to the United States would be subject to mandatory jail terms of five years upon conviction of an offense. A recent Washington Post story highlighted three recent cases where illegal aliens with prior felony convictions, including one for armed robbery, received jail terms of just two years, 30 months, and 21 months, respectively. Under Kate’s Law, these aliens would have received mandatory sentences of at least five years. Continue reading

TCC Letter Applauding Gov. Abbott’s Investigation into Planned Parenthood

Following the recent revelations concerning Planned Parenthood allegedly harvesting and selling the organs of aborted children, please see this letter from members of the Texas Conservative Coalition applauding Governor Abbott for launching an investigation into Planned Parenthood’s activities in Texas:

July 17, 2015

The Honorable Greg Abbott

Office of the Governor

P.O. Box 12428

Austin, Texas 78711-2428

Dear Governor Abbott:

The Texas Conservative Coalition (TCC) is deeply concerned by the revelation that Planned Parenthood has been harvesting and possibly selling the body parts of aborted children. This abhorrent practice confirms that Texas made the correct decision to defund Planned Parenthood. Now we must take steps to ensure that the organization is not breaking or abusing any laws. We applaud and support your decision to launch an immediate investigation into its activities.

That Planned Parenthood supports late-term abortions and other reprehensible acts is no secret, but the recent video filmed by the Center for Medical Progress sheds light on just how callously the organization operates. In the video, Planned Parenthood’s Senior Director of Medical Research, Deborah Nucatola, is seen discussing the method of “crushing” a fetus in order to keep desired internal organs intact for harvesting. She explains that Planned Parenthood has “been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, so I’m not gonna crush that part, I’m gonna basically crush below, I’m gonna crush above, and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact.” Continue reading

King v. Burwell: TCC Letter Encouraging Congress to Repeal & Replace PPACA

In the light of the King v. Burwell Supreme Court decision, please see the following letter from  the Texas Conservative Coalition encouraging members of the Texas congressional delegation to repeal and replace the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act:

July 8, 2015

U.S. House of Representatives

Washington, DC 20515

Dear Congressman:

With it being clear now from two decisions that the Supreme Court will not defend the Constitution or enforce the law as written – instead, effectively, rewriting the Affordable Care Act from the bench – focus shifts back to Congress to repeal and replace the fundamentally flawed PPACA.

The Texas Conservative Coalition (TCC) thanks you for your repeated efforts to repeal the law and urges you to continue those efforts. Important votes such as H.R. 160 (The “Protect Medical Innovation Act”), which would repeal the 2.3% medical device tax in the PPACA, must continue to take place. Repealing the tax will help keep medical devices affordable for patients, but it will also allow companies to retain important resources which may be used for R&D and innovation. H.R. 160 passed the House by a 280-140 margin—one vote shy of the votes necessary to override a presidential veto.

For its part, the Texas Legislature refuses to be complicit in the implementation of the PPACA. We remain committed to letting the law fail on its own terms by not expanding Medicaid and by not establishing a state-based exchange. These are prudent moves, as evidence against the PPACA’s efficacy and efficiency continues to mount: Continue reading

TCC Letter In Support of Congressional Vote to Repeal IPAB

Please see the following letter from  the Texas Conservative Coalition thanking members of the Texas congressional delegation for their recent vote to repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), an unelected bureaucracy created through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act:

June 30, 2015

Dear Congressman:

The Texas Conservative Coalition (TCC) is writing to express our gratitude for your support of H.R. 1190, which would repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) – a central feature of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).  It is now urgent that the U.S. Senate acts.

In 2013, TCC joined hundreds of organizations around the nation in calling for the elimination of the IPAB, one of the worst provisions of the PPACA.

Tasked with the responsibility of recommending cost-saving Medicare reforms to Congress, the 15-member unelected board has the power to implement its recommendations even without Congress’s approval. Former Obama administration official Peter Orszag has publicly stated that IPAB’s authority was deliberately set up as a way to “counter the gridlock of our political institutions by making them a little less democratic.”  Yet, that is precisely the problem.

Former Senator Tom Coburn and Congressman Phil Roe (both physicians), writing late last year in the Wall Street Journal, got to the heart of the matter: “Why is this board dangerous? Because there is nothing “advisory” about its vast powers. IPAB’s mandate is to deliver on one of ObamaCare’s central promises: Medicare cost-containment. The law gives this board sweeping authority to do so, with virtually no constraints.”

Dissatisfaction and distrust of the IPAB is a bipartisan issue outside of the White House, and political figures as diverse ideologically as former Governors Sarah Palin and Howard Dean agree that it should be repealed. Indeed, Howard Dean explained his thoughts on the IPAB in a Wall Street Journal commentary in July 2013: Continue reading