Faith in texas

2021 Legislative Session platform and resources

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The Texas Legislature (often shortened to lege) meets every two years, from January to May (approximately), to make laws and set budgets. State law supersedes local law, so what happens in Austin has a big impact on what we can and can’t do here in North Texas!

We determine our issue and policy priorities based on the needs and interests of leaders in our communities. This session, we will track, advocate for, and lobby around policies related to:

  • Preemption

  • Criminal Legal Reform

  • Evictions and Tenant's Rights

  • Covid-19 Relief

This resource has been designed to make it easy for you to follow and engage with key developments in the legislative session related to our platform. You will find bill overviews, ways to take action on the issues, and links to partner websites and resources.


Lege and the Road to Liberation

Faith in Texas envisions a world in which economic, racial, and social equity enables everyone to live in complete liberation to pursue their divine purpose and participate fully in the systems and processes that govern their lives. As faith leaders, we are compelled to take bold action. We are leading our multi-faith, multi-race coalition to be full partners in the movement to divest from white supremacy, as expressed through policing, mass incarceration, inequity, and unconscionable violence. It is well past time to construct true liberation through housing, jobs, mental health resources, and community-centered response to harm. Systemic failures require a systemic fix – that starts with policy.

PREEMPTION

Preemption is when a higher level of government (state or federal) eliminates or reduces the authority of a lower level (county). Some conservative lawmakers want to "reign in" progressive cities by stripping their power to make decisions. Local control is the right and ability for our cities and counties to pass ordinances governing our communities – both broadly and on specific issues. We anticipate an attack on local control related to the following issues:

  • Criminal Legal Reform

  • Evictions and Tenant's Rights

  • Emergency Powers

  • City Funding and Lobbying


CURRENT PREEMPTION-RELATED BILLS WE'RE TRACKING:

  • HB 2813 – Texas currently has little oversight or regulation over the payday and auto title lending industry compared with many other states. HB 2813, sponsored by Rep. Chris Turner, would cap the amount of interest a predatory payday or title loan provider can demand from vulnerable borrowers.

  • HB 2432 – Faith in Texas succeeded in the past in pushing cities to pass ordinances protecting vulnerable borrowers from certain tactics used by payday lenders that would force people to fall into an endless cycle of debt. HB 2432 would eliminate some of those protections by allowing predatory payday lenders to assess huge baseline fees and avoid the local protections we helped put in place.

  • HB 886Local laws that protect families from discrimination based on their source of income can make it easier for families who receive federal assistance to find quality, stable affordable housing in communities that meet their needs. Read more about HB 886 here.


ACTION(S) YOU CAN TAKE:

CRIMINAL LEGAL REFORM

A key component of our Road to Liberation journey is our work to boldly reimagine safety and reconstruct our criminal legal system that criminalizes poverty and treats inequality and racial violence as an accepted norm. Dallas County alone spends more than $67 million annually on its jails while spending less than $20 million on health and human services. We are calling on our elected officials to create a new system that values and protects all people and centers the needs of the most vulnerable.

ISSUES WE'RE TRACKING:

BAIL REFORM – Changing laws that require people to pay to get out of jail while they wait to see a judge and there has been no conviction.

Two bills, HB 20 and SB 21, specifically impact people who are awaiting trial (sometimes for months) and are unable to leave jail just because they do not have the money to pay bail. If passed, these bills will dramatically increase the jail population, exacerbate racial disparities in our immoral mass incarceration system, invest even more money in carceral practices rather than investing in community needs, and embolden the current, dehumanizing narrative of labeling people as criminals and monsters.

  • HB 20, among other things, requires “risk assessment tools” (tools to determine someone’s likelihood to be a risk to public safety upon release while awaiting trial). The Risk Assessment Tool will be used for many people who cannot afford to purchase their release and the analysis used for the assessment is based on racially biased data.

  • SB 21, among other things, will dramatically increase our jail population by creating categories of charges that will require people to pay bail who were previously not required to do so. It will also require judges to consider immigration status in setting bail, which will likely result in fewer immigrants being able to afford to leave jail and await trial.


CLEAN SLATE – A package of bills that will provide record clearance relief automatically and expand eligibility, making record clearance more accessible to all Texans.

For more information, visit the Clean Slate Texas website.


GEORGE FLOYD ACT – Several bills encompassing a range of reforms designed to prevent other people from enduring the police misconduct that George Floyd and other Black and Brown Texans have experienced.

For more information, visit the George Floyd Act website.


ACTION(S) YOU CAN TAKE:

EVICTIONS AND TENANT RIGHTS

ISSUES WE'RE TRACKING:

  • Source Income Discrimination – Changing laws that prevent people from living where they want because of their form of payment, such as Housing Choice Vouchers (Section 8).

  • Extending Eviction Moratorium – Stopping eviction filings and implementing stay of execution orders that prevent renters from being forcibly removed from their homes.

  • Reducing Evictions Reforming the eviction process to equalize state laws governing landlord/tenant rights.


ACTION(S) YOU CAN TAKE:

VOTER SUPPRESSION

There are a series of bills currently moving through the legislature that will severely impede our democratic process if they become law. Democracy only works when everyone can freely and equitably participate – that can't happen when voting rights are under attack. We must work to protect our vote and ensure every voice is heard.

HB 6 and SB 7 are omnibus bills designed to drastically impede the democratic process. An omnibus is a single document that packages together several measures into one or combines diverse subjects while being accepted in a single vote by a legislature. Because of their large size and scope, omnibus bills limit opportunities for debate and scrutiny.

HB 6 and SB 7 will restrict voting rights in many ways; here are just a few:

      • Counties would be prohibited from providing nonprofits – including churches – applications for mail-in ballots.

      • Civic engagement by 501c3 nonprofit organizations would be criminalized in a vague and overbroad definition of “paid vote harvesting.” It would be a felony to take a position on a ballot measure and distribute applications to vote by mail.

      • Voting in a temporary structure, parking lot, parking garage, or motor vehicle (other than curbside) would be prohibited even in the event of a disaster.

      • Partisan poll watchers would face no penalties for violating the secrecy of your ballot by recording it.

      • Would create new causes of action for disgruntled candidates to allege fraud in court after an election.

For more information, visit texasimpact.org


ACTION(S) YOU CAN TAKE: