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DALLAS — Woman’s Missionary Union of Texas has named Carolyn Porterfield mulitcultural consultant effective May 1. Full Story »

DALLAS – Buckner International and the Center for Informed Faith have announced an alliance combining efforts of the two organizations to promote CIF’s mission of equipping Christians while enabling Buckner to expand its global work on behalf of children and families. Full Story »

AUSTIN – Before legislators can do something to solve a problem, they must first know it exists. Full Story »

The 81st legislative session is rapidly drawing to a close. The House and Senate have each passed their version of the budget for the next two years. A conference committee made up of members from each body will soon be named and get to work reconciling the differences in the two bills. A budget is the only piece of legislation that is constitutionally required to pass every legislative session. The Senate passed their budget on April 1 and the House worked to the wee hours of the morning of Saturday, April 18 to pass their version. Many reporters and other observers noted the relatively uncontroversial debate on the budget in the house which eventually passed unanimously, 149-0.

Quorum Report on Budget debate (pdf)
Dana Chiodo’s Weekly Report – April 18 , Budget Report (pdf)

The remaining weeks of the session will be marked by an increased pace on the floor of both the House and the Senate as they each consider many of the hundreds of bills that have been reported by committees thus far. Legislators, lobbyists, advocates and citizens alike will be working hard to insure that their favorite bills find a place at the very busy table. The month of May will bring numerous deadlines that will determine the fate of bills that have not made it far enough in the legislative process to pass this session. Many bills that are doomed to fail on their own will likely be added as amendments to other bills with similar subject matter.

As with every session the CLC has a long list of bills that we have been working to pass or to prevent from passing. The following list is made up of key bills in each of our issue areas along with where they are in the legislative process. We have included links to other organizations that are also working in Austin on these bills. Please contact the CLC in our Austin office to find out how you can best lend your voice to support or oppose a bill that you care about.

Alcohol & Addiction
SB 1344 – Sen. Watson (D-Austin) Heard in Senate Ed on 4/16 Suzii testified recommended for local and uncontested. 4/21 This bill would require the State Board of Education, in adopting the essential knowledge and skills for the health curriculum, to adopt essential knowledge and skills that address the dangers, causes, consequences, signs, symptoms, and treatment of binge drinking and alcohol poisoning.  Requires the Texas Education Agency to compile a list of evidence-based alcohol awareness programs from which a school district is required to choose a program to use in the district’s middle school, junior high school, and high school health curriculum. 

HB 2096 – Rep. Eissler (R-The Woodlands) This bill would create a keg registration program in Texas that would attach information regarding the purchaser to a keg of beer. This law would help law enforcement officials easily identify an individual who has served alcohol to a minor in a party setting that is raided by police. The CLC testified in favor of this bill and it is currently pending in the Licensing and Administrative Procedure Committee.

Texans Standing Tall

Children & Family Issues
SB 2248 – Sen. Zaffirini (D-Laredo) This bill directs public school systems to provide transition assistance students in foster care to ease the process of changing schools. Passed Senate Education and recommended for local and uncontested calendar.

SB 282 – Sen. Nelson (R- Lewisville) This bill creates a nutrition outreach program through the Texas Department of Agriculture to promote better health and nutrition programs and prevent obesity among children in this state. It also creates a grant program that promotes nutrition education.  Passed the Senate on 4/21 and will move to the Hosue.

SB 867 – Sen. Lucio (D- Brownsville) This bill seeks to increase participation by low income students in the summer nutrition program. Passed the Senate on 4/24 and will move to the House.

HB 109/SB 1098 – Choose Life License Plates
HB 109 Rep. Larry Phillips (R-Sherman) and SB 1098 Sen. John Carona (R-Dallas) The Choose Life license plate will promote infant adoption.  Funds raised from the sale of the plates will be available for organizations that assist pregnant women who might consider adoption, including pregnancy resource centers, Gabriel Projects, maternity homes, and adoption agencies. Of the $30 annual fee for the plates, $22 will go to this mission; $8 will go for administrative costs.

SB 182 – Sen. Patrick (R-Houston) This bill amends the Woman’s Right to Know Act to require physicians to provide an obstetric ultrasound on a pregnant woman at least two hours before performing an abortion. Passed the State Affairs Committee and placed on the Senate Intent Calendar to be debated and voted on on 4/24.

Texans Care for Children

Church & State
HB 492 – Rep. Zerwas (R-Katy) aims to expand the outreach capacity of small and medium sized faith- and community-based organizations to serve Texans in need of basic social services. The bill also establishes governmental liaisons, an interagency group, a non-profit task force, and an advisory committee that will all function to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of faith- and community- based organizations and improve the collaboration between state agencies and these organizations.

Criminal Justice
HB 788 – Rep. Thompson (D-Houston) & SB 115 – Sen. Ellis (D-Houston) These bills would establish a Texas Innocence Commission to look at the cases that resulted in an exoneration after a conviction to determine what went wrong in the case and recommend to the legislature any improvement in law that might help prevent wrongful conviction. The CLC provided testimony in support of HB 788. It is currently pending in House Criminal Jurisprudence.

Education
SB 1 – Floor Amendment #85 – Rep. Heflin (D-Crosbyton) The amendment states that “none of the funds appropriated above may be spent to pay for a public education voucher program or a public education voucher pilot program.”

Adult Ed
SB 1313 – Shapiro (R-Plano)  Career and Technology Education and Adult Education Funding

SB 1726 – West (D-Dallas) Dropout Prevention and Recovery

CLC Recommendation – Legislative Appropriations Request (pdf)
CLC Recommendation – House Bills (pdf)
CLC Recommendation – Senate Bills (pdf)

Environment
HB 821 –Rep. Leibowitz (D-San Antonio) This bill would create a TV recycling program with manufacturer responsibility much like the computer take back law passed last session. The CLC supports this bill and spoke in favor of passage at a press conference on 4/22/09.

Read our entire statement (pdf)

SB 184 – Sen. Watson (D-Austin) This bill, often referred to as the “no regrets” bill, would direct the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to compile a list of strategies for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases in this state. SB 184 requires that the strategies either result in net savings for consumers or businesses or can be achieved without financial cost to consumers or businesses.

SB 545 – Sen. Fraser (R-Horseshoe Bay) This bill would greatly expand the renewable solar energy industry in Texas. SB 545 provides for the establishment of a distributed solar generation incentive program by the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC), and requires the state energy conservation office of the comptroller’s office to establish a pilot revolving loan program for solar energy for school buildings. This bill passed the Senate on 4/21/09 and will now move to the House.

SB 16 – Sen. Averitt (R – Waco)  This bill is a very broad clean-air bill that furthers the goals of SB 12, from last session by modifying and enhancing the Texas Emissions Reduction Program and the Low Income Vehicle Repair Assistance, Retrofit, and Accelerated Vehicle Retirement Program.  The bill also contains provisions that help to incentivize the adoption of innovative clean air technologies including a rebate program for plug-in hybrid passenger vehicles and support for electricity storage projects related to renewable energy. The bill also provides incentives for new, point source-oriented air quality technologies, modifies and enhances existing state air quality programs, and establishes appliance standards and energy efficient building codes. SB 16 passed the Senate on 4/16/09 and will next be considered by the House Environmental Regulations Committee.

ACT, TX Campaign for the Environment
www.allianceforcleantexas.org/
www.texasenvironment.org/

Gambling

HB 222 – Rep. Menendez (D-San Antonio) 
House Bill 222 erroneously purports that poker is a game solely of skill, and has no element of chance. The presence of chance in poker is introduced through the shuffling of the deck of cards prior to the deal  and is also demonstrated in the proposed electronic poker tables  through the existence of a random number generator program that  shuffle the electronic facsimiles of the playing cards.  

CLC Recommends – Vote No on House Bill 222 (pdf)

www.texansagainstgambling.org/

Health & Long Term Care
SB 6 – Sen. Duncan (R-Lubbock) This bill, known as the Healthy Texas program would provide access to health insurance for small employers, including qualifying churches through a public/private partnership between the State of Texas and small business.

CHIP Bills
TX Impact – texasimpact.org

Immigration & Trafficking
Things are looking good for the major trafficking legislation, SB 89 and HB 639.
Other significant bills that have passed out of committee:

HB 530 – Anchia – Relating to law enforcement training relating to the trafficking of persons.

HB 533 – Anchia - Relating to civil liability for the trafficking of persons.

HB 639 – Thompson  (house companion to SB 89 Van De Putte) Relating to trafficking of person or certain forced or sex-based labor, law enforcement training relating to trafficking of persons, and the creation of the trafficking of persons investigation and prosecution account.

HB 1372 – Shelton - Relating to the definition of victim in relation to certain crime victims’ rights.

Other Bills 
HB 2740 – Rep. Bolton (D-Austin) This bill would license and regulate overnight youth recreational facilities that are not already covered by state law regarding youth “camps.” The bill passed the House Human Services Committee on Thursday, April 23.

HB 3744 – Rep. Marquez (D – El Paso) This bill would amend the Finance Code so that credit service organizations that obtain, facilitate, or assist a consumer in obtaining an extension of credit, including a motor vehicle certificate of title, must be licensed by the Office of Consumer Credit Commissioner (OCCC). The licensing requirement would help the state better regulate payday lenders that many consider a predatory business.  In addition, the OCCC must establish a database to monitor the compliance of credit service organizations. The bill was heard on 4/21 and left pending in the Pensions, Investments and Financial Services Committee.

Center for Public Policy Priorities – www.cppp.org/ 
Initiative for a New Thrift – New Thrift (pdf)

We value your input and suggestions.
Your comments and recommended resources are welcome in the comments box below.

Throughout the 81st legislative session the CLC has welcomed many Texas Baptists to Austin as they have sought to have their voice heard in the capitol. As the final weeks of the session are upon us we would like to take this opportunity to share a few stories of those who have felt called to speak out.

Hispanic Education Initiative – On Tuesday, April 21, several members of the BGCT Hispanic Education Advisory Council came to Austin to advocate for adult basic education and literacy programs. Led by Gus Reyes and Steve Vernon the group had a very successful and effective visit to our capitol. The complete list of participants can be found here. The Hispanic pastors and other leaders met with all of the legislators and/or their staff who serve on House Public Education, Technology, Economic Development and Workforce, and Calendars committees. They also met with all of the Texas State Senators and/or their staff. Several bills critical to adult literacy and career and technology education are moving through the legislative process and are on the edge of not making it through in time before the legislative adjourns. The group was successful in moving these bills forward and the work they did at the capitol will most defiantly bear much fruit.

Susan Ater, BGCT Camp Specialist and Disaster Response Coordinator, and Danny Dowdy, Director, Highland Lakes Baptist Encampment testified at a hearing of the House Health and Human Services Committee in support of HB 2740 by Rep. Bolton (D-Austin).

Scott Talbert, pastor McDade, testified in front of the House Licensing and Administrative Procedures committee in opposition to gambling expansion.

Tomi Grover, Director, Local Transformational Missions, submitted written testimony before the Senate Criminal Justice Committee in support of SB 89 by Sen. Van De Putte (D-San Antonio).

Kim Kotrla – Assistant Professor, Baylor School of Social Work, also provided written testimony in support of SB 89.

Weston Ware – Legislative Director, Texans Against Gambling and John Thielepape – Vice Chair, Texans Against Gambling Board of Directors both traveled to Austin to participate in an anti-gambling coalition meeting and strategy session.

Lester Merriweather, President, Literacy ConneXus, came to Austin for Adult Basic Education lobby day in support of increasing state funding of adult education and literacy programs in the state.

Charlie Johnson, Interim Pastor of Broadway Baptist Church in Ft. Worth and Co-Chair, Coalition for Public Schools, has worked as an advocate for religious liberty and against our tax dollars going to support private religious education.

Gordon Atkinson, Pastor, Covenant Baptist Church, San Antonio, testified before an interim study committee about barriers to affordable health insurance and the injustice of our health care system.

Here is some helpful information about how to get involved by meeting with your representatives or writing a letter.
Advocacy tips (pdf)
How to write a letter to your legislator (pdf)

We value your input and suggestions.
Your comments and recommended resources are welcome in the comments box below.

There is a new alignment of the BGCT organization that will shape and support the Christian Life Commission. Since 2000 and the turning of the millennium, the Christian Life Commission has been prayerfully and deliberately making changes. Like notches on the kitchen door, we can see where we have grown. Our changes have added to our strong foundational history and focused us firmly on the future.

As the BGCT takes on a new, future-focused structure the CLC will relate more intentionally with related ministries both within BGCT and those in the wider Baptist family of institutions. The ministries of the BGCT will be grouped under three main centers, each focusing on a main service of the BGCT: Missions /Evangelism, Education/Discipleship and Advocacy/Care. The CLC will be in the Advocacy/Care Center (pdf) along with these related ministries: Community Missions, Restorative Justice, Chaplaincy, Disaster Relief, and relations with medical, retirement and childcare BGCT institutions. This is a good neighborhood – full of dedicated and compassionate current and future partners in ministry.

Discerning God’s leadership is not a puzzle. The scripture is compelling, and the call of dedicated loving Christian leaders as our Christian Life Commissioners has been a true reflection of the hands and feet of Christ’s love in guiding the CLC. In retrospect, it is evident that the CLC has been forging strong partnerships since its inception with friends like the TB Maston Foundation, Baptist Joint Committee and more recently with ministries and institutions within and beyond the Baptist family. Experience with many partners has prepared us for this new work.

A few reminders of some milestones in the last 10 years for CLC: expanding the staff , scope and impact of the Texas Baptist Offering for World Hunger, opening and staffing the Austin office, creating a vital partnership with Buckner International to provide the ISAAC project for immigration ministry,  creating the AMEN network and video and conference resources for substance abuse ministry, providing summer Public Policy Institute for youth, creating a mentoring home for law school, seminary and social work interns. We’ve said good-by to some terrific ministries and friends – Phil Strickland, of course, Weston Ware, Mike Lundy, Carol Bowman, Jerry Reynolds.

If you are like me, one of the first questions in your mind is “How will the CLC function in the new neighborhood and will the leader of the Advocacy/Care Center understand the unique mission of the CLC?”  The CLC will continue to function exactly as it does now with an independent Commission and the same charge found in the BGCT bylaws (pdf)… and the leader of the center definitely understands the CLC. The challenge is that I will be both the Director of the CLC and the Leader of the new Advocacy/Care Center. Randel Everett called me Wade Phillips (Dallas Cowboys head coach and defensive coach). It is a dual role and will require additional staff, a clear delineation of roles and a little practice. Again, looking back to lessons learned, having managed two offices in two cities for the past several years may have been God’s way of preparing the way (some say for split personality, but I prefer multi-tasking!).

Like the scripture, we lament the need for compassion and care in the world. We strive to build up the body of Christ so that we as Texas Baptists are true Christ followers in word and deed. The CLC has pursued this mission and will continue to pursue it. It is a statement of accomplishment for the effectiveness of the CLC and its ministry that Advocacy is among the main defining concepts for the future focus. With God’s grace, we will have new partners from whom to learn and with whom to share towards a kingdom vision that can flesh out our adventurous obedience to Christ.

We value your input and suggestions.
Your comments and recommended resources are welcome in the comments box below.


Article taken from
CBF’s Spring 2009 Newsletter (pdf)

Each year, the Texas Baptist Offering for World Hunger receives and evaluates applications for hunger funding from worldwide ministry partners.  Unique to the next round of funding is a request for support for a riverboat ministry in Southeast Asia which provides critical medical care for impoverished people who live along an extensive river system.  TBOWH funds will underwrite the costs of medical supplies in 2010.  The following text is excerpted from the latest issue of CBF Fellowship and tells the story of the remarkable mission of this boat and crew:

For one medical worker in Southeast Asia, the adventure story of a lifetime takes place on a riverboat that doubles as her transient home and a health care clinic.  Despite daily challenges and setbacks–including a perpetually failing generator and local doctors attempting to shut the ministry down–she and the crew persist in their mission to improve the quality of life for people who generally have little access to health care.

Karen, one of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s field personnel, ministers to small farming communities along a river in Southeast Asia.  With a background in environmental science as well as medicine, she is uniquely positioned to care for the sick and provide health education.

"Most of their health issues [are] related to environmental issues," she said.  "[The villagers] are almost completely dependent on the river water for drinking, bathing, washing clothes and dishes, going to the bathroom, fishing, and irrigating their rice paddies and other fields!’

Since many of the villages have no road access, the river is often the primary means of transportation.  It’s also where industrial plants dump waste.  "With raw sewage and chemicals in the water!’ Karen said, "this river is the number one source of illness and disease."

However, most people can’t afford the fuel needed to boil their water before drinking it.  "Conditions are harsh and the level of poverty is extreme," said Karen.  "Most families live on less than $1 a day, which the World Health Organization calls ‘the poverty that kills: If a family member gets sick, the family must literally decide between seeking medical attention for that individual or feeding the rest of the family for the week."

The most common conditions that Karen treats are routine issues such as coughs, colds, runny noses, ear infections, dental problems, stomach problems, scabies and lacerations.  "We see a lot of infections that can be easily treated with antibiotics or even just good hygiene but have become debilitating or even life-threatening due to the poor conditions in which most people live," Karen said.

Sometimes, the riverboat team sees more serious cases.  One mother brought her 9-year-old son to the boat to be examined.  He was diagnosed with tuberculosis and an infection in his lung.  Karen saw that the boy was admitted to a hospital and assisted the family in completing the necessary steps to qualify for a free medical program so he could continue treatment after discharge.
"I am continually awed and humbled by their stoic acceptance of hardship," Karen said.  "People who live along the river are used to not having health care.  They habitually live with chronic and debilitating illness as just a normal part of life."

The staff on the medical riverboat often serves as many as 150 people a day, and village leaders offer fruit and fish as tokens of their gratitude.  "We spend a considerable amount of time educating patients as to the nature of their illness and ways to prevent a reoccurrence," Karen said.  "In the villages where we have been working for almost a year, we have seen a decrease in the severity of illness.  There are young children who have regained function of limbs that were previously useless and adults who are less likely to suffer a stroke or heart attack because their blood pressure is under control and they are eating healthier."

For Karen, the riverboat ministry is an attempt to reach out in a tangible way to share the love of Christ.  "I always think of Matthew 25:35-36, which says ‘I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me.’  To really show people what Christ looks like," she said, "we must explore ways to help people obtain their most basic and critical needs."

To this end, Karen and her co-workers are working to address the root causes of poverty at many levels.  In addition to providing free basic medical care on the boat, they are building water filters in the villages for clean drinking water and operating an experimental farm looking for ways to improve agricultural practices to boost economic stability.

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