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Public Policy Updates – February 2009

February 24th, 2009 at 7:11 pm

Indian Gambling Bill

On Tuesday, February 17, Representative Norma Chavez (D-El Paso) filed HB 1308. The bill would give a defense to prosecution for Indian tribes that conduct otherwise illegal casino gambling operations. The bill does not legalize gambling, but merely excuses the behavior and gives the tribes a way to avoid punishment for violation of the law. The bill is the exact same piece of legislation which failed to pass the House last session. According to Rep. Chavez and other supporters, the bill would simply allow two tribes, the Tigua of El Paso and the Alabama-Coushatta of Livingston to reopen illegal casinos that were shut down several years ago. While sympathetic to the desperate conditions on these two reservations, the Christian Life Commission opposes this piece of legislation because we believe that the consequences of passage may be far more expansive than what proponents are indicating. Specifically, the vague language in the bill would actually allow other tribes from out of state to operate casinos in Texas. The CLC will be following the legislation very closely and working to drastically amend or defeat the bill.

Literacy Day at the Capitol
On Thursday, February 12 the CLC hosted “Literacy Day” at the capitol. The turnout was tremendous and the support of key legislators like Senate Education Chairwoman Florence Shapiro (R-Plano) and House Public Education Chairman Rob Eissler (R-Woodlands) was wonderful. After gathering for training at First Baptist Austin the group of over 400 individuals, including 260 adult learners from over 16 Texas towns, headed to the capitol to make visits to legislative offices. Following the visits, a rally was held on the south steps of the capitol where the crowd, including members of the media, heard from elected officials, business representatives, local officials, the heads of state agencies and literacy advocates. The following reflection of the event was written by CLC volunteer Patricia Presley.

Today is Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday. It is also Literacy Day at the Texas Capitol hosted by the Literacy Coalition of Central Texas and the Christian Life Commission. I was struck by the irony, for lack of a better term, of Literacy Day and the birthday celebration of a self taught man, who rose to the height of power in our country occurring on the same day. Lincoln was a tough, “uneducated” man whose words would help “bind the wounds of a broken country.”

Today, Lincoln could not reach such heights as a self educated man; words alone would not be enough to help him find a bright future. As I looked into the faces of the men and women registering as advocates for literacy, I saw excitement mingled with a wariness born of asking for so long what must I do to make a better future for my children, my husband or my wife, and hearing no answer. Did they sense that the power of literacy in Lincoln’s day and today are so different that even the “great communicator” would be silent in today’s world?

But as they prepared for their meetings with legislators, wariness was replaced with an eagerness to tell their stories. Eagerness beating back the disbelief that “someone will listen to me” to a fierceness giving birth to hope that my family will have a better future because of what I say and do on this day. Voices of broken English, accents and Texan drawl, mothers, fathers, and expectant parents left First Baptist Church to be heard at the Texas State Capitol. I wondered, “Would another Lincoln come into their own because of the voices lifted for literacy on his birthday?”

Returning from the Capitol, the glow of excitement announced their voices had not been quieted, nor silenced. As they prepared their lunches, it was as if they were fueling themselves to step out of the shadows of illiteracy and into the power of the written word.

I have heard it said that you may teach a man to fish or grow crops and he can feed his family; teach a woman to read and she can feed a village. Perhaps that’s the best gift on Lincoln’s birthday: to see the strength of many who are learning to read, mastering new trades, and earning prosperity for new generations of Texans.

Environmental Lobby Day
On Wednesday, February 18, the CLC participated with the Alliance for Clean Texas in their 2009 Lobby Day. The event was a success as dozens of Texans from all over the state came to Austin to advocate for economically and environmentally sound energy policy. The lobby day coincided with the Texas Energy Future conference (http://www.txenergyfuture.org/) which brought together industry representatives, activists and policy makers. The CLC will be working in cooperation with the Alliance for Clean Texas (http://www.acttexas.org/) during the legislative session on environmental legislation that makes good economic sense for the state including further investment in renewable energy sources and in programs that enhance energy efficiency saving Texans money and energy. The CLC will keep you informed as legislation is filed that needs your support.

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