Today I got my first lesson in political advocacy. You may recall from my post a month ago that I had been blessed with the opportunity to represent my fellow Catholics in front of the representative of Texas 51st district Eddie Rodriguez during Catholic Advocacy Day (April, 9 2013). The rally itself was quite encouraging. Our Bishops from all over Texas gathered on the steps of the capitol to inspire a vast audience of Catholics. Catholics filled both Galleys of the state capitol. Catholics where present and engaged we were a force to be reckoned with.
Unfortunately, while I hope these mistakes can be overlooked in Christian charity, I am forced to report the behavior of Rep. Rodriguez staff failed to meet our expectations. When you advocate for a broad agenda that cutting across party lines you expect any representative to have a some level of disagreement. But that wasn’t our problem. As best as I can tell the problem with Rep. Rodriguez staff is that they were simply not prepared to represent so many Catholics.
You see in 51st district there are actually multiple large, informed, engaged and outreaching Catholic parishes! Add to that the energy of a large, engaged and outreaching diocese, and the inspirational leadership of Bishops throughout Texas and you sometimes make a bigger stir than organizers expect. At Saint Ignatius we had a meeting scheduled for 3pm with Rep. Rodriguez since mid February. We reconfirmed the meeting 3 times with the staff on the two days before. In the excitement of the rally a group from San Jose also managed to make a surprise visit to Rep. Rodriguez’s staff. Apparently the idea that there where two active Catholic Parishes in a district got Rep. Rodriguez Aid a little confused.
Without checking her computer the Aid basically called me a liar twice. Arms folded and eyes rolling she informed us that we had already had our meeting and we in fact did not have an appointment. Instead of offering us seats the aid briskly questioned what we were standing around for anyway. But what really made me scratch my head was one particular phrase the aid muttered right in the middle of our dismissal. “… we already know what you have to say. We have heard it all before.”
Oh good! There are over 500,000 Catholics in Austin. There are at least two politically active parishes in the 51st district. Often we have to fight the impression the church is divided, or that we do not fully support the agenda of our bishops. But Rep. Rodriguez has recognized that point of fact we are a unified force. His staff has figured it we are united in our message and we keep repeating it over and over.
We’re a voting block!!! I’m a little new at this, maybe Rep. Rodriguez is trying a bold new strategy, but if he really keeps hearing his employers repeating the same message over and over again I would propose to the Representative that is the wrong message to roll your eyes at. So maybe we should bother Rep. Rodriguez’s just a little bit more? Can you help me make sure the representatives of our state hear it all just one more time. Lets contact them again and let them know that we-
Support CSSB 303 and HB 1444, Oppose HB 1464
CSSB 303 and HB 1444 make many small improvements and clarifications to Texas’s current law regarding End-of-Life care. The net result is improved communication between hospitals and families with a balanced approach to decision making. This approach balances both the rights of families and the expertise of medical professionals. HB 1464 has been opposed by the TCC (Texas Catholic Conference) because under certain circumstances it requires medical professionals to provide indefinite care that would contradict the reasonable medical and ethical judgment of medical professionals.
Support HB 2019, Oppose CSSB 1247
HB 2019 would impose regulations on pay-day lending in Texas to make these loans more just by providing a cap on APR at 80% and limits on fees. While the TCC would like the interest cap to be 36% (or lower) as it has been already set in 15 other states, they support HB 2019 as an incremental step towards social justice. The TCC opposes CSSB 1247 because it provides no such cap. And it would provide explicit protection for current predatory practices even when this overrides municipal regulations.
Support CSSB 537, HB 2816 and HB 3243
These bills all provide incremental protections for unborn children and Woman’s health. While the church continues to reach for the day when abortion ends in this country these bills will help mitigate the Abortion industries effects. CSSB 537 and HB 2816 mandate that abortion facilities meet rigorous standards and have regular inspections. The HB 3243 bill simply limits a judicial bypass of existing law. While currently it is illegal for a minor in Texas to have an abortion without parental consent this regulation can be bypassed by any judge ruling they are mature enough to make the decision. The strengthened law would restrict the bypass to cases where the judge in the teens home district ruled the case met multiple conditions. Basically the bypass could only take affect if the judge ruled the parents did not have their child’s interests at heart.
SB 23 and HB 3245 would allow a tax credit for corporations to fund PreK – 12th grade educational scholarships to students demonstrating financial and other need. The tax credits would not be taken from existing educational funding or local property taxes and students would only be eligible if they where identified as meeting need based requirements. This would result in an increase in the per-pupil budgets of local schools and make private schooling more widely available to poor children in Texas.
There has been some amount of confusion between these two bills and the universal vouchers proposed in SB 1575 and HB 3475. The TCC has expressed concerns about these bills because they do direct funds away from public schools and potentially away from low income families. The Catholic church supports true school choice. True school choice means every Texas child has the option of quality public or private schooling regardless of their economic or geographic status.
The TCC is urging the 83rd legislature budget conference committee to include in their budgets an extension of Medicaid to 1.3 million, working class uninsured Texans. The right to health care is fundamental to the Church’s believe in the life and dignity of the human person. This action would leverage existing federal spending to make this care more available to the uninsured citizens of our state.
These where the major priorities of the Texas Catholic Conference (your Catholic bishops) please let your Rep. know you support them. And if you happen to be in the 51st district take heart. I suspect Rep. Rodriguez’s staff really does want to hear what a major voting block keeps repeating over and over again. But please remind him if his staff really doesn’t want to listen to the concerns of 500,000 Catholics then they can stop hearing from us after the next election cycle.
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