By: James Wesolek – txvaluesaction.org – May 29, 2019
The Texas Legislative Session ended earlier this week and many Texans are asking what passed and what didn’t. In fact, about two weeks ago liberal activists and media headlines declared that our greatest effort was dead. Then came the resurrection. We are happy to report for the 4th Legislative Session in a row, Texas Values and Texas Values Action helped lead the effort to pass key religious freedom and pro-life legislation – legislation that is now headed to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk for his signature! But first, let’s hop in our time machine and jump back to where this Session started in January.
New Speaker, New House, New Caucus
The whole session started off with a different vibe. We had a new Speaker of the House in Dennis Bonnen, and instantly saw a camaraderie between the big 3 (Governor, Lt. Governor and Speaker of the House) which had been missing for many years previously. Speaker Bonnen promised an open process and unfortunately, some key faith and family members lost re-election and weren’t returning to the chamber. We also saw the creation of a 5 member “LGBTQ Caucus” which promised to unveil a “transformative” agenda. It was an interesting session, to say the least. But thankfully, important pro-family policies still prevailed.
Ban the Bible Bills Banished
Following the promise of a transformative agenda from the LGBTQ Caucus, there were over a dozen “Ban the Bible” bills filed which sought to punish or criminalize Christians. These “Ban the Bible” bills tried to add “sexual orientation and gender identity” (SOGI) language into law and create a new special protected class. Many of these bills included criminal penalties, fines, and even possible jail time, for believing and living out Biblical views on marriage and sexuality.
Thankfully, all of these LGBT priority “Ban the Bible” bills were defeated. This is a huge win and cannot be overstated. In their own words, the LGBTQ Caucus promised a “transformative” agenda, and it was stopped because of your action! The last session saw similar legislation passed out of committee, but this year they were given no such progress.
Religious Freedom – Tastes Like Chicken
The Save Chick-fil-A bill became a statewide and even national movement this session after the San Antonio City Council banned a location from their airport in March because of donations to the Salvation Army and Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Make no mistake, it was a bumpy road to get this bill passed. Watching the House version of the bill, HB3172 by Rep. Matt Krause, fail on a technicality hours before a critical deadline created a huge obstacle to overcome. But because of the overwhelming support of over 185,000 phone calls, emails, and tweets to the Texas Capitol, the Senate wasted little time on their version of the bill, SB1978 by Sen. Bryan Hughes, and we pulled off a miracle. SB1978 is now expected to be signed by Gov. Abbott any day.
The Save Chick-fil-A bill is for all Texans, not just Chick-fil-A. It protects anyone who donates to, or affiliates with, a religious organization from government discrimination. Not everyone has the market share or resources Chick-fil-A does, and facing a government ban could be a make or break moment for many small businesses. No one should have to fear state-sponsored attacks against them because of what they believe. The Save Chick-fil-A bill ensures, just like the First Amendment intended, that no one is discriminated against for associating or donating to a religious organization.
There were also other religious freedom bills that made progress but didn’t pass. SB17 by Sen. Charles Perry and sponsored by Rep. Phil King protects the religious beliefs of occupation license holders. The bill made it through the Texas Senate but was not heard in the House. HB1035 by Rep. Bill Zedler, the Free to Believe Act, was a comprehensive religious freedom bill and was heard in the House State Affairs Committee.
Multiple pro-life bills were filed in the legislature, and enthusiasm was high for passage. While not all of the pro-life legislation we supported passed, two key pieces did. We are excited to announce SB22 by Sen. Donna Campbell and Rep. Candy Noble, which protects taxpayers from funding Planned Parenthood, passed! SB22 prohibits local governments from giving sweetheart deals to abortion providers from now on. Texans saw the need for this bill when Austin gave Planned Parenthood rent in a government building for $1 a year for 20 years. That lease even includes an option to renew for another 20 years. $40 for 40 years of rent in prime Austin real estate. Thankfully, deals like this will be illegal moving forward.
HB16 by Rep. Jeff Leach and Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, The Born Alive Infant Protect Act, passed as well. HB 16 is a clear response to the horrible things we have seen coming from New York, and comments by the Governor of Virginia. Republicans in Congress have tried more than 50 times to get a vote on this exact piece of legislation. Texas has now passed it. A key moment was when Texas Values friend and abortion survivor Gianna Jessen, testified in favor of HB 16. Gianna’s testimony was a clear reminder to Texas that children do survive abortions and they deserve to be protected.
Unfortunately, bills like SB1033/HB2434 by Sen. Kelly Hancock and Rep. Matt Schaefer (the Preborn Nondiscrimination Act), did not pass. This important legislation would have saved lives by stopping discriminatory abortions based on race, sex, or fetal abnormality. We will not give up the fight to see legislation like this passed in Texas. We will have more details of other life-affirming bills in the coming weeks.
Make no mistake, Texas passing laws to further defund Planned Parenthood, and protect religious freedom and life, continues the trend of setting the standard for the rest of the country, and that should make Texans proud.
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