New laws highlight the CLC's advocacy work.
While the 84th Legislative Session ended June 1, we are just beginning to feel the effects of our legislative efforts. This session, the CLC followed 65 bills and helped pass several important pieces of legislation. The CLC's legislative priorities are set by our 18 commissioners who reflect the diverse membership of Texas Baptists. Here are just a few of the highlights.
Grant Funding for Pre-kindergarten
One of Governor Abbott's top priorities was to improve the quality of early education in Texas.
H.B. 4 sets aside $130 million over two years for school districts whose pre-kindergarten programs meet certain standards. Specifically, the law creates a grant program that could give up to $1,500 per child to school districts who hire certified teachers, use state approved curriculum, and create parent engagement plans. H.B. 4 is an important first step in bolstering early education in Texas. H.B. 4 became law on May 28, 2015.
Pastor Protection Act
While the First amendment and the Texas Religious Freedom and Restoration Act allow for religious objections to certain state laws, S.B. 2065 provides additional protection against participation in marriage activities that may violate sincerely held religious beliefs. Texas pastors, churches, and religious organizations can refuse to perform, provide services, accommodations, goods, facilities, or privileges related to solemnization, formation or celebration of any marriage that violates a sincerely held religious belief. S.B. 2065 became effective on June 11, 2015.
While several bills became effective immediately after the Governor's signature, a slew of bills are slated to go into effect on September 1.
Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force Recommendations
H.B. 10 is comprised of several recommendations from the statewide Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force. It supplements and amends several existing laws by improving statutes related to the prosecute human trafficking and forced prostitution, coordination of victims services, and the identification and reporting of trafficking. The bill was signed by the Governor on June 9, 2015, and is effective September 1, 2015.
Nutrition Assistance for Ex-Offenders
H.B. 1267 allows certain ex-offenders to regain eligibility for supplemental nutritional assistance program (SNAP) benefits. Access to SNAP is an important part of the overall strategy to promote stability among individuals with a criminal past who are attempting to become productive members of society. H.B. 1267 became law, because it passed as an amendment on S.B. 200. This change takes effect on September 1, 2015.
Second Chance Act
S.B. 1902 seeks to expand the availability of orders of nondisclosure and to streamline the process for obtaining an order.
An order of nondisclosure can help prevent a person's past mistake from following the person throughout life. Current law limits the availability of an order of nondisclosure and can prevent individuals who have been convicted of certain low-level, nonviolent crimes from receiving a nondisclosure order. S.B 1902 was signed into law by Governor Abbott on June 20, 2015 and becomes effective September 1, 2015.
The CLC's legislative advocacy prioritizes children, the poor and marginalized. In all of our efforts we seek to honor God as we pursue the common good. While session is over, we will continue our advocacy work during the Interim with legislators, policymakers and our Texas Baptist family.
To read the full end of session report, click here.