ROUND ROCK – The gray clouds and rainstorms that trailed her from her East Texas hometown to Round Rock weren’t the only things dark in Brandi’s life on the day she pulled in front of Reid House at Family Care on the campus of Texas Baptist Children’s Home. Full Story »

A Word from Suzii“Really? Who says so?”

Growing up in a family of five kids and four near live-in neighbor kids, we occasionally – ok frequently- found ourselves in disagreements. Facing a demand or challenge, I can hear the sound of the definitive defensive question, “Really? Who says so?”  The implication being, I am not going to change or act unless I am certain of the authority of “who says so.”

An uncertain new year is waiting around the bend. We face the facts of precarious economics, a cast of new characters on the stage of world leadership and the two-edged sword of global interconnectedness.  These realities may be global, but they are also as local as a neighborhood business or a changing church budget.

On February 2nd & 3rd, the CLC Conference Hope in the Heart of Texas: People, Policies, Perspectives is giving a microphone to important voices and national leaders who can inform, inspire and equip us for the realities of 2009. “Who says so?”  David Blankenhorn, Institute for American Values will speak convincingly about a return to the values of thrift and savings for the greater health of America. His institute was studying a return to thrift three years before the Wall Street crash in preparation for such a time as this. An advocate for families and for fiscal leadership, he will share how church and community leaders can be a voice towards financial stability as an expression of our Christian ethic. Carl Stuart, Raymond James Financial Services, award winning financial advisor and TV & radio host,  will speak with unusual clarity about the US and global economic  context as he combines his Main Street experience of answering weekly call-in requests with the precise, energetic analysis of a national market expert.  Bee Moorhead, Texas Impact, and Trenton Cogdill, Priority Power Management  will give step by step practical advice to congregations about energy and efficiency. Cogdill was recently featured in the Dallas Morning News for helping north Texas churches cut energy costs through the largest church discount energy contract in the country. Churches are finding new ways of cooperating to spend less on energy costs and more on mission and ministry.

Every policy passed by local, state or national governments reaches down in to the lives of real people. Texas law enforcement reports an alarming trend of human trafficking in our state. God is calling faithful people of all ages to abolish this form of modern day slavery. Who says so? Eric Nichols from the office of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott will join Representative Rafael Anchia and Senator Leticia Van de Putte to outline changes that would align existing laws and add new laws to aid victims all across Texas.  Support from Christians is essential: like other forms of slavery, the perpetrators make large profits at the expense of the victims and they don’t want the system to change. When it comes to artists with a heart for justice, who says so? Justin Dillon, producer of Call + Response, a Hollywood rock-u-mentary will be a participant on the human trafficking panel and the conference will host an evening showing his feature film of musicians and world leaders who use their notoriety to inspire others to action. Walt Wilkins, nationally acclaimed Texan, singer and songwriter, will compel and inspire you with his music that blends justice and mystery with just enough pickup truck to remind you we are still living under the Lone Star.

Who says so? There are a few other voices headed for Austin including Dr Susan Pacheco, a Puerto Rican born research pediatric specialist at University of Texas Medical Branch. Describing herself as a Texi-rican, Dr. Pacheco is an advocate for creation care for one simple reason – protecting the air quality in Texas saves lives and quality of life for thousands of our children. Les Bernal, from the national organization Stop Predatory Gambling has experience as a legislative chief of staff and now as a grass roots leader to create a healthy economy that is free from both debt and bet habits. On hand to question a panel of legislators including Senator Kirk Watson and Representative Valinda Bolton will be Shelley Kofler, News Director of KERA Dallas and Harvey Kronberg Editor of the Quorum Report.

The Christian Life Commission takes seriously its responsibility to speak to Texas Baptists about issues facing our state and the world. By bringing strong voices to the hearts and minds of God’s faithful servants, he strengthens the relevant witness for Christ in the world. So meet these leaders personally, be there by registering online; be informed and inspired. Even in uncertain times, God has a way of multiplying our learning efforts.  He says so!

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ISAACTexas Driver’s License Requirements

On October 1, 2008, the Texas Department of Public Safety issued new regulations regarding the “identity” requirements for obtaining or renewing a Texas Driver’s License. The Department requires an individual to show one “primary” identification document or one “secondary” identification plus two “supporting documents” or two pieces of “secondary” identification. For example, “primary” identification documents are:

  1. Texas Driver’s license or ID within two years of expiration;
  2. Unexpired United States Passport
  3. United States Citizenship Certificate or Certificate of Naturalization
  4. Unexpired Homeland Security of USCIS document issued for a period of at least one year and must be valid for no less than six months from the date presented to the Department.
  5. A foreign passport with a visa and valid immigration documents
  6. Unexpired US Military ID.

Read a complete list of the acceptable identification documents

The Department will also issue special vertical-oriented licenses for noncitizens with legal permission to be in the country. Some immigration advocates have criticized the new rules because they claim item 4, will create undue burdens on short term legal immigrants.  Others have claimed that the special vertically oriented driver’s licenses will lead to increased scrutiny for immigrants as they interact with government officials and the public.  This could be especially troublesome if the Department revives its now scrapped plans to institute state-wide “random” driver’s license checkpoints. Read further about the driver’s licenses and checkpoint program…

Interestingly, a person with a valid foreign driver’s license from a country that has “reciprocity” with the United States may drive a private non-commercial motor vehicle on Texas roads for up to one year.

Read a list of the countries with reciprocity…

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TBOWH UpdatesHunger Offering Advocates 

The Texas Baptist Offering for World Hunger (TBOWH) has long needed advocates around the state to tell the stories of lives saved and changed by the ministries supported by the Offering.  Happily, this need is being met by a small, but growing group of Baptists who have volunteered their time and energy (1) to help churches raise awareness about hunger and poverty in Texas and around the world, (2) to share the powerful scriptural witness regarding ministry to people in need, and (3) to show how modest, regular giving to the Offering makes an enormous collective impact in the world in the name of the One who came to bring good “news to the poor” (Luke 4:18).

Instrumental in growing this band of advocates is Carolyn Strickland, newly elected First Vice-President of the BGCT and member of Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas.  Carolyn organized the first TBOWH advocate meeting on October 23 at the Baptist Building which was reported in the November e-newsletter, and she is continuing to pull together subsequent training meetings in San Angelo, Abilene, and other locations around the state.  If you would like to serve as a TBOWH advocate, please contact Joyce Gilbreath for more information at 214-828-5172 or email joyce.gilbreath@bgct.org

Donate now!

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Public Policy UpdatesIn November the Sunset Advisory Commission released its report and recommendations regarding the Texas Youth Commission and the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission. The thorough and well researched report called for many changes. Most dramatically, the Sunset Commission recommended abolishing both agencies and creating the Texas Juvenile Justice Department which would take over the functions of both. In its reasoning the Sunset Commission cited the fact that both agencies serve essentially the same population and that “To work effectively, the State’s juvenile justice programs need to fit together seamlessly with county probation services, but they do not.” Click here to read a copy of this report (pdf) and see all the information given to Sunset Commission members to prepare them for a hearing on the recommendation held on Monday, December 15th.

This top to bottom review of TYC occurred during a time of great upheaval in the agency as it was responding to the calls for reform from senate bill 103 from last legislative session. The brand new Executive Commissioner of TYC, Cheryln Townsend, responded to the report by saying “that TYC and the Texas youth it serves will be better served if we delay the consideration of extensive agency restructuring for four years when the impact of SB 103 reforms can be evaluated and our efforts can be more fully realized.” Read the entire response…

The Executive Commissioner has also released a report on the progress and impact of SB 103. The report outlines what reforms have been implemented, substantially implemented and those which are priorities for 2009.

During the hearing on Monday, several members of the Sunset Commission seemed reluctant to recommend that the Legislature should follow the recommendation to abolish and combine the two agencies into one. While agreeing with many of the suggestions in the Sunset report, Representative Ruth Jones McClendon of San Antonio said that such a drastic step would be an “overcorrection.”  Read a Dallas Morning News article on the hearing here. (pdf)

Many in the juvenile justice advocacy community, while praising the work of the Sunset Commission and agreeing with many of its conclusions, are hesitant to call for the abolition of both agencies and the combining of their functions into one large agency and believe that some unintended consequences could result.

The Christian Life Commission has joined the Texas Juvenile Justice Roundtable which is a large, newly formed group of stakeholder organizations that support the reform of TYC. The Roundtable has a list of legislative priorities for the upcoming session some of which include:

  • Moving toward small, regionalized county and state juvenile justice facilities
  • Improving juvenile justice interventions at the county and state level by using wrap-around services and community based treatments
  • Decreasing public school practices that funnel students into the juvenile justice system
  • Increasing funding significantly for research-based practices geared towards delinquency prevention
  • Improve funding for quality mental health services and services for youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the juvenile justice system

Read the complete list of priorities… (pdf)

The Christian Life Commission will continue to monitor the implementation of reforms and work with the Texas Juvenile Justice Roundtable to advance needed legislation this legislative session.

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Public Policy UpdatesRecently, Texas state agencies have raised the profile of a very serious issue, human trafficking. The Texas Attorney General’s office released a report entitled "The Texas Response to Human Trafficking" (.pdf).  The Texas Health and Human Services Commission also released a report on human trafficking in Texas, also entitled "The Texas Response to Human Trafficking".  The State of Texas is recognized as having the best set of state laws on this very important issue and we continue to lead the way for other states as we look to find new and better ways to combat modern day slavery. In November, Senator Leticia Van de Putte and Representative Senfronia Thompson hosted a day of panel discussions and speakers on the Texas response to human trafficking.  Senator Van de Putte as well as Rep. Rafael Anchia, another recognized leader on this issue in the state legislature, have been invited to present at the Christian Life Commission Conference in February. Film producer and activist Justin Dillon will also attend the conference and screen Call+Response, the ground breaking music-filled documentary exposing the underworld of modern day slavery. Senator Van de Putte has filed SB 89(.pdf), which is another step in the right direction as our state looks for a comprehensive, cohesive state policy on human trafficking. There will be great deal of positive activity this session to address this critical issue. Texas’ fight against traffickers will continue as state agencies, legislators and faith leaders all work together.

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Public Policy UpdatesWhat happens in Vegas should stay in Vegas! Grand juries in Tarrant (Fort Worth) and Bexar (San Antonio) counties indicted Chairman Gordon Graves and 22 other officers, employees and directors of Aces Wired in November. Aces Wired is a well-financed and politically powerful Dallas-based company whose slot machine-like gambling devices called 8-liners have blurred the line between legal and illegal gambling. Over $400,000 in political contributions in the past several years has been traced back to Aces Wired management and employees.
Aces Wired allowed players to accrue winnings on stored value debit cards.  Players could utilize the stored value cards like cash and purchase merchandise at retailers across the State.  The company continued to operate these machines despite a March 6, 2007 Attorney General Opinion which clearly acknowledged that rewarding players with stored-value cards enabling the purchase of merchandise was illegal in Texas. On May 21, 2008, the Texas Attorney General, The Texas Department of Public Safety and local authorities shut down Aces’ locations in Dallas, Fort Worth, Corpus Christi, San Antonio, and Copperas Cove.

Similar charges may be pending in Nueces County. The charges, brought under organized-crime statutes, are all gambling-related felonies. They include operating a place of gambling, money laundering, and tampering with evidence.

Read the full article…

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