Public Policy Updates
The Dallas Morning News carried an excellent opinion piece in its Feb. 23 edition about children and prostitution. The article, by Malika Saada Saar, expresses a broad national perspective. In Texas, we are actually doing better than reflected in Saar’s article, but we still have lots of work to do.
Saar points out that about 293,000 U.S. children are “at risk of being exploited and trafficked for sex, according to a 2011 FBI report on trafficking. Most are girls ages 12 to 14. They often are abducted or lured by pimps and traffickers, beaten into submission and sometimes even branded with the pimp’s name.” She tells of one 15-year-old girl being abducted on her way home from school.
The trafficking of children is a deep tragedy in and of itself, but a secondary tragedy occurs when the justice system treats them like criminals (prostitutes) instead of victims. This secondary problem can be attributed to inadequate laws, uninformed officers, and the lack of places for trafficking victims to be sent for protection.
In Texas, we have made some genuine, bi-partisan progress in changing laws regarding child prostitution, and the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission has been a critical advocate in making these changes. In the 2013 session, the legislature made the following changes:
HB 2268 (John Frullo) and SB 1052 ( John Carona) streamlined the investigations of Texas law enforcement officers into aspects of human trafficking taking place on the Internet.
SB 92 (Leticia Van de Putte) created a diversion court program for victims of human trafficking. In particular, the bill helps recognize victims of human trafficking as victims, not criminals, particularly in situations involving allegations of prostitution (many victims are minors and cannot legally consent to sex—this bill treats them accordingly). This addressed a key aspect of Saar’s article.
HB 2725 ( Senfronia Thompson) created parameters to help ensure the confidentiality of human trafficking shelters and their occupants.
Two years earlier, in 2011, the following bills also helped shore up the Texas fight against human trafficking:
HB 2015 (Thompson and Van de Putte) added minor prostitution to the list offenses eligible for “child in need of supervision.” This addressed one of the legal shortcomings cited in Saar’s article.
SB 24 (Van de Putte and Thompson) mandated urgent recommendations from the Attorney General’s 2011 report that added human trafficking to lists of crimes in the penal code, government code, and family code, code of criminal procedure, and civil practice and remedies code. The bill also addresses important victim protections.
HB 289 (Jim Jackson and Jane Nelson) added human trafficking to the list of activities that cause a common nuisance in a community, allowing another avenue for law enforcement crack down on human trafficking operations in Texas.
HB 1994 (Randy Weber of Pearland and Van de Putte) made it permissible for local communities to hold a mandatory, day-long session for first-time “johns” (offenders who seek a prostitute), otherwise known as a “John School.” These sessions educate johns on the risks of having sex with a prostitute, including the reality of human trafficking, health risks, and other harms that come to their personal life and the community.
We can all add a big “thank you” to the Texas Legislature and Gov. Rick Perry for helping us make progress against these terrible crimes.
The U.S. Senate has shown both courage and wisdom in passing the sweeping immigration bill. In order to get bipartisan support, the bill had to reflect the concerns of people across the political spectrum, and this has resulted in a bill that addresses the needs of security, business and immigrants. Full Story »
Just Ten Cents a Drink…
By Judy Bergfield, Consultant for the Christian Life Commission
What is the meaning of the two following images – one carton of cigarettes and 22 grocery carts each filled with six- packs of beer? The excise tax received by the state of Texas on 22 grocery carts of beer is equal to the tax received from one carton of cigarettes! Quite a disparity!
If the legislature were to increase the tax to TEN cents per drink, that would generate approximately ONE BILLION dollars per year in tax revenues. Given the budget shortfall, any increase in revenues would be welcome but what’s particularly great about this scenario is that when the cost of a can of beer is increased, under-aged drinkers will drink less. It is shown that they are price sensitive while adults will tend to drink about the same amount: thus a double win of reduced under-aged and younger aged drinking coupled with increased revenue from adult consumption.
Contact your legislators and ask them to support a measure increasing the tax on beer to ten cents a can? Now that’s something to picture… a win all around!
Texas Makes Progress in Dealing with Electronic Waste – TV Recycling Passes the Senate
Electronic Waste is an ever-growing problem in modern society as people update their electronics regularly, especially their televisions. Flat screen TVs contain mercury and many electronic products contain PCB-like brominated flame-retardants that are dangerous to the health of Texans. Senator Kirk Watson of Austin and Representative Warren Chisum of Pampa have identical bills that require take-back and recycling of televisions by manufacturers, helping reduce chemical leaks into our landfills and allowing manufacturers to reuse old parts from these products. SB 329, Senator Watson’s version passed the Senate on March 23rd, signaling progress with regard to electronic waste in Texas.
Upcoming Policy Days at the Capitol… Join us!
One of every five human trafficking victims in the United States is trafficked through Texas. The 82nd Legislature is building on the Office Attorney General’s interim Task Force. The Senate unanimously passed Senator Van de Putte’s SB 24, which takes many of the Human Trafficking Task Force recommendations and puts them in to statute. Join us on April 27, 2011 on the South Steps of the Capitol for a rally to combat human trafficking, this horrific form of modern-day slavery. The rally begins at noon. If you are interested in more information about the event, please contact McCall Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Texas Food Policy Roundtable will hold its’ first-ever food policy day. The purpose of this special day is to brief legislators, legislative staff and other advocates at the Capitol about food-related bills and issues. Since our ultimate goal is food security in Texas, we want to show support for food policy and educate our legislators about the impact current food policy bills may have in Texas. If you would like to participate in food policy day, please contact Anne Olson at email@example.com.
Ending Underage Drinking, Tobacco and Drug-use
This spring, the CLC has been working with one of our partner organizations, Texans Standing Tall, to educate Texans on ways to make alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs irrelevant in the lives of youth. The CLC has presented information on legislative action in the 2009 session at two regional forums in San Antonio and Austin. City and county employees, school district and university officials, drug and alcohol treatment counselors and members of non-profit organizations all participated in these forums and worked together to find local and state-level solutions to end underage usage. Among the bills the CLC has presented is keg registration, one of our key issues during the 2011 session. The next forum is on April 22 in Midland, and the last forum in the 2010 series in on May 11 in Lubbock. Please see the calendar of events for more information.
Statewide Summits on the Trafficking and Exploitation of Children
Texas Baptists is proud to have sponsored two statewide summits, in Dallas and Houston, to raise awareness on the trafficking and exploitation of children. The summits were hosted by Children at Risk, a Houston-area non-profit. Tomi Grover, Director of Community and Restorative Justice in the Advocacy/Care Center at the BGCT, spoke to a captive audience about the importance of engaging the faith community in ending childhood slavery. Sen. Leticia Van de Putte (D- San Antonio), Rep. Randy Weber (R- Pearland), and Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D- Houston), Rep. Carol Kent (D- Dallas), Rep. Rafael Anchia (D- Dallas), and Rep. Paula Pierson (D- Arlington) participated in panel discussions on the upcoming 2011 session. Other local and statewide officials including Attorney General Greg Abbott and staff from the TABC and the FBI discussed law enforcement and best practices for childhood exploitation prevention and treatment. The CLC is dedicated to working with these state officials to increase awareness on this issue during the 2011 legislative session.
Students from Baptist University of the Americas Visit Austin
The CLC Austin Office was delighted to host Patty Villarreal’s Ministry and Community class from Baptist University of the Americas last week at the Texas Capitol. The students are interested in social work and community ministries and how public policy affects the lives of those they hope to minister too. The day began with a tour of the capitol building, followed by in-depth presentations and conversations about the CLC, including what the CLC does during a legislative session, how predatory lending affects the state of Texas, and how they as college students can combat human trafficking. The students ended the day with a visit to the office of Rep. David Leibowitz (D-San Antonio) whose district includes the BUA campus. The representative’s chief-of-staff discussed the legislative process and internship options with the class. We were delighted to host the group and are happy to welcome similar groups interested in the legislative work of the CLC.
Contact you Legislator immediately and tell them you are against the expansion of gambling in Texas and you are against the adoption of the new rule TAC 401.317, and the amendments to TAC 401.301 and 302.
We need your help by Monday, August 24. Proposed rules at the Lottery Commission will create new electronic gambling with instant tickets, without Legislative approval.
Explanation: The proposed rule, TAC 401.317 and the amendments to TAC 401.301 and 302 would allow the Texas lottery to offer electronic instant lottery games on a “central determinate system.” This server- based gaming system is the key component of a video lottery system. The two proposed games include an add-on game to Lotto Texas and an instant printed ticket.
While the lottery commission claims these games are not technically a video lottery terminal, this rule would constitute a giant leap forward for electronic gambling and only one small step away from stand alone VLTs.
Question: Has Texas recognized the connection between “central determinate systems” and VLTs?
Answer: Yes, in the March 5, 2005 Texas House Research Organization’s Report: “Betting on Video Lottery Terminals to Raise Revenue”, the “central determinant” video lottery system was described as: “similar to playing a scratch-off lottery game in which players try to purchase a predetermined winning ticket that has been distributed randomly. The VLT equivalent of this system, used in New York, is called a ‘central determinant win’ in which the video lottery’s central computer system, rather than the machine itself, randomly chooses which plays are winners”
(click here to see report).
If you oppose casino gambling in this state, please take this proposed rule very seriously.
We defeated casinos in the Legislative session – act now to preserve the victory.
Act by next Monday, August 24. If enough voices are heard, the Lottery Commission may decide to abandon this rule making process at their September meeting.
ACTIONS – By Monday, August 24, 2009
1. Click the link below to submit your objections to the adoption of these rules. Be sure and fill out the entire information requested (Name, address etc.) and indicate that you are against the adoption of the new rule TAC 401.317, and the amendments to TAC 401.301 and 302.
:: Tell the Commissioners not to adopt the proposed rules.
:: I oppose electronic gambling with instant games and the Texas Lotto add-on game.
:: These games have key components of VLTs.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org or
Fax to (512) 344-5189,
Attn: General Counsel – Rulemaking; or
Mail to: General Counsel – Rulemaking,
Texas Lottery Commission,
P.O. Box 16630, Austin, TX 78761-6630
2. Encourage Governor Perry’s opposition to gambling. Ask him to instruct his appointees to the Lottery Commission to not expand gambling in this state and to vote no on the new rule TAC 401.317 and the amendments to TAC 401.301 and 302. You can use the link below to contact the Governors office.
3. Contact your elected State Representative and Senator and ask them to contact the Lottery Commission and request that the proposed rules (new rule TAC 401.317 and the amendments to TAC 401.301 and 302) be withdrawn. The following links can help you contact your representatives’ and senator’s office:
In 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
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.
We value your input and suggestions.
Your comments and recommended resources are welcome in the comments box below.
Recently, 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.
We value your input and suggestions.
Your comments and recommended resources are welcome in the comments box below.