Today I got another lesson in political advocacy. You might recall-
About a month ago I was blessed with the opportunity to represent my fellow Catholics in front of the staff of Eddie Rodriguez. You may also recall that, that first meeting with Rep. Rodriguez’s staff didn’t was not constructive as we had hoped. This prompted me to reflect somewhat about both the solidarity and relative power of Catholics in politics. Some of my sharper readers observed the churches political unity is doubtful at best. But I now have more encouraging evidence for the churches relative political strength.
After our first meeting with Rep. Rodriguez staff ended in frustration my fellow Catholic Advocates contacted Rodriguez’s office again. To our own amazement we were received by a near immediate apology, an affirmation of how important Saint Ignatius is to the 51st congressional district and a new meeting scheduled. And thankfully the tone of our second meeting with Rep. Rodriguez’s was a full 180 degree change from our reception on Catholic Advocacy Day. Rep. Rodriguez’s staff was friendly, attentive, well prepared and willing to discuss the issues that mattered to Catholics. So where does Rep. Rodriguez stand on the issues?
For most of the issues we are in agreement.
On End of Life Care:
Rep. Rodriguez once authored a bill that was Identical to the CSSB 303 bill supported by the TCC (Texas Conference of Catholic Bishops). CSSB 303 greatly increases communication between families and doctors during end of life care and helps protect individual rights of conscience. But at the time of Catholic Advocacy day Rep. Rodriguez had pulled his support from the bill he himself authored in response to heavy criticism from disabled citizens group. Luckily since then lawmakers have found ways to adjust CSSB 303 to help the disabled citizens while still providing the communication and control the TCC were seeking. So Rep. Rodriguez has become our friend on EOL reform once more.
Pay-Day Lending Increase
Pay-Day lending reform has faced major resistance in both arms of the capital. The result has been a flurry of new bill numbers and amended bill numbers, far more than I could reasonably summarize here. In fact the TCC (Texas Catholic Conference) has changed their own position on CSSB 1247 from appose to support do to the many amendments in the Bill. But the churches root position is not changing. Social Justice demands a economic system where the poor are protected from usury. To this end we seek a real cap on Pay-Day APR as low as possible (36% has worked well in other states bills in Texas would set the cap near 80%). And we do not want “reform” to override existing local protections. Once again Catholics have a friend in Rep. Rodriguez his staff agreed with both of these goals and they strongly support strong Pay-Day lending reform.
Expanding medicaid in Texas has been a fierce and emotional fight at the Texas capitol. Catholics will be happy to know proposals to expand the medicaid expansion has finally left committee in the Texas legislature. This is a big step in providing health care for millions of unissued Texans. Rep. Rodriguez fully supports movement toward a medicaid expansion.
Once we had brought presented out top issues to Rep Rodriguez staff I asked them if their was anything more Rep. Rodriguez wanted Catholics to know. There was. His staff used this opportunity to mention that Rep. Rodriguez is cosponsoring several bills with the Workers Defense Project Didn’t I tell you his staff had done their homework this time. The WDP is closely affiliated with Austin Interfaith which has direct ties to Saint Ignatius Parish. This is because the WDP’s work is highly consistent with the fourth key (order varies) of Catholic Social Teaching: The economy is meant to serve the people, the people should not serve the economy.
Catholic Social Teaching upholds the dignity of work and claims that all workers have a right to productive work, with a livable wage in dignified conditions. While I can not state that simply because a bill is sponsored by the WDP it is endorsed by the Catholic bishops this is a good indication that at its heart these bills are consistent with Catholic Social Teaching and that Rep Rodriguez is in agreement with the church on protection of workers.
But like all his contemporaries there are also places where Rep. Rodriguez is not in agreement with the church.
Abortion Industry Regulation and Parental Consent
Without even really being asked Rep. Rodriguez staff stated for the record that Rep. Rodriguez is pro-choice. This means we will have to continue to work with him to support further regulation of abortion facilities [ CSSB 537 and HB 2816] and to reject the judicial bypass of the existing parental consent law [ HB 3243]. While this is his one area of disagreement with the church versus many areas of cooperation. It is clearly one of great importance. I have no intention of telling people how to vote, but I encourage anyone who lives in Rep. Rodriguez district to continue to write letters expressing the importance of these bills. Catholics can work with Rep. Rodriguez on the many issues we are in agreement while continuing to push him towards our side on issues we may disagree.
Careful readers may have noted I’ve made no reference to the school choice tax credit in the above article. While this tax credit was a high priority to the Texas Catholic Conference this legislative session. Between Catholic Advocacy Day and our second meeting with Rep. Rodriguez all efforts on these tax credits had been killed. So we did not spend time in our meeting with Rep. Rodriguez discussing them. The struggle for a better and more just educational system in Texas will begin aknew in the 84th Texas legislative session.
So what were my real lessons for Catholic Advocacy Day the sequel? A couple things.
- A just government needs your support. On every issue that is important to Catholics there are powerful interests pushing our state in the other direction. As our diocesan head of Social Concerns Barbara Budde would say you either have organized money or organized people. They only way we can ever expect our representatives to govern justly is if we are informed, organized and active.
- The Catholic vote does count. One or two informed and active parishes have all the resources they need to effect elections in their district. Even if they don’t show it at first our state representatives know who we are and want to hear what we have to say.
- Persistence pays off. At first you may seem to run into insurmountable resistance. Have faith and keep working. That resistance can be worn down or be broken through completely over time.
- The most important thing my readers at home can do is contact their representatives. A few advocates on one day in the capitol will have little effect. It is only when our worlds are accompanied by the support of many READERS LIKE YOU advocates for our Texas Bishops can be effective. Once again I will end this post by providing links where you can locate your representative and how to contact them.
My challenge to you once more this post is to locate your representative with the links below and 0let your voice be heard once more for the issues important to Catholic Voters.