Less than a day after a bill that would raise the age to legally purchase semi-automatic rifles unexpectedly passed through Committee, Texas IAF leaders learned that Representative Guillen (from Rio Grande City) appeared to be actively suppressing House Bill 2744 from being heard on the floor. Delayed submission of the Committee report resulted in the bill missing a crucial deadline for it to put on the Calendars schedule for Thursday -- the last day to hear new bills.
Leaders from across the state held an emergency press conference calling on Guillen and the Texas House Speaker to allow the bill to be heard, and for Calendars.
“Guillen and Burrows should...let the representatives vote their conscience on the House floor. Overwhelmingly, Texans support increasing the age limit of when people can buy assault weapons,” Rev. Minerva Camarena-Skeith from Central Texas Interfaith asserted.
“We’re very, very angry at what’s going on, with them holding this bill hostage,” Valley Interfaith leader Rosalie Tristan of Raymondville told the Rio Grande Guardian.
"How many more children have to die before we act?" demanded TMO leader Bishop John Ogletree.
[Photo Credit: Blaine Young, Texas Tribune]
“As a result of this policy, taxpayers are on the hook for an estimated $31 billion, according to the comptroller. In a demonstration analysis of “winners and losers,” the Texas IAF took the $1billion a year that taxpayers spend on Chapter 313 agreements, and instead ran it through the per student funding formulas for each district in the state. We found that 95% of students in Texas are in districts that lose potential funding because corporations are not paying their fair share of taxes due to Chapter 313 agreements.” - Eloiso Davila, EPISO/Border Interfaith leader - El Paso Matters
Opinion: Texas Shouldn’t Bring Back this Corporate Welfare Vampire, El Paso Matters [pdf]
A surprising legislative success in 2021 is on track to be undone in 2023, unless a grass roots left-right coalition can block legislation and the forces behind it that are trying to go backward....
In the name of jobs and economic development, a 2012 tax code trick called Chapter 313 essentially funneled state money, via school district property tax breaks, to private companies doing new industrial construction. The school districts that granted tax breaks under Chapter 313 were reimbursed — and many still are being reimbursed — by the state, meaning we as taxpayers reimbursed them. It was the ultimate insider game of channeling public benefit to private companies.
The [Texas] Industrial Areas Foundation cleverly brought a man dressed as Dracula to its rally to dramatize how Chapter 313 unfairly drained school districts of funds and that reviving this bad economic development deal would be akin to raising the undead.Read more
"In December, legislators killed a controversial tax abatement program known as Chapter 313, but its effects will last decades....
“There’s no accountability at the statewide level; nobody administers it,” said Bob Fleming, an organizer with [T]he Metropolitan Organization of Houston who campaigned against Chapter 313 reauthorization back in 2021. “A bunch of local school districts make singular decisions based on what they think is in their interest. Nobody is looking out for the statewide interest. Local school districts are overmatched when the $2,000 suits walk into the room.” ....
“It’s a perverse incentive,” said Doug Greco, lead organizer at Central Texas Interfaith, one of the organizations that helped shut down reauthorization of Chapter 313 in the 2021 legislative session.
“We approach it on a school funding basis,” said Greco, who is already gearing up to fight any Chapter 313 renewal efforts in 2023. “It’s corporate welfare and the people who pay over time are Texas school districts.” ....
The El Paso Interreligious Sponsoring Organization (EPISO) and Border Interfaith held its first in-person candidate accountability session Sunday since the pandemic.
The six El Paso County Commissioners Court candidates remaining in the May 24 primary runoff election for Precincts 2 and 4 were invited to the session where they were asked to state their position on policies such as colonias, education and economic development programs....
The incumbent for Precinct 2, David Stout, and Judy Gutiérrez, a candidate for Precinct 2, both attended the meeting.
Sergio Coronado and David Adams, are both candidates for Precinct 4, and they were in attendance.
"I thought it was a great meeting. I wish more organizations, people would take the time to inform themselves, of what their candidates are willing and wanting to do for the people... how you’re [candidates] aligning to my needs," Coronado said.
For four decades, the Rev. Ed Roden-Lucero has influenced El Paso far beyond the walls of the parishes he pastored. He has been a key part of efforts to bring water and sewer services to tens of thousands of homes, and train hundreds of El Pasoans for jobs that paid a living wage and altered lives....
Those who worked with him said he fought poverty and injustice wherever he saw it. EPISO was involved in efforts to build El Paso Children’s Hospital and expand University Medical Center clinics across the county so that more people would have access to health care.
While Roden-Lucero served as pastor of San Juan Diego Catholic Church in Montana Vista, EPISO led an effort to divide the Clint Independent School District Board of Trustees into single-member districts so that power and resources were more evenly divided.
Roden-Lucero arrived in El Paso a couple of years after a group of mostly Catholic churches formed the El Paso Interreligious Sponsoring Organization, or EPISO, a nonprofit organization that trained community-based leaders to advocate for issues important to them. He had received training from the Industrial Areas Foundation, EPISO’s parent organization, before coming to El Paso.
EPISO leaders quickly focused on the dire situation in colonias, neighborhoods along the U.S.-Mexico border that had been developed without the most basic human services. By the mid-1980s, more than 80,000 El Paso County residents lived in homes without water or wastewater services. Many of them developed hepatitis A because they drank from water wells dug next to septic tanks.
State and local leaders had shown little interest in addressing the growing crisis. So EPISO and other IAF affiliates across Texas organized and turned up the heat, bringing national media attention to shameful conditions along the border.
Dolores DeAvila, an educator in El Paso’s Lower Valley and EPISO member, met Roden-Lucero in the early 1980s and was part of the fight to bring water to the colonias.
“I have learned a lot from him in terms of his being very courageous, acting on his beliefs and working with his parishioners, engaging them in their needs,” she said.
Years of lobbying and public pressure by EPISO and its sister organizations paid off in 1989, when Texas voters passed a bond issue to begin the process of providing water and wastewater infrastructure to border colonias....
[Photo Credit: Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters]
The Priest Who Spent 40 Years Fighting to Reshape El Paso, El Paso Matters
When organizers set out to overturn Texas’s giveaway program for the oil and gas industry, they had a long game in mind. Over 20 years, the tax exemption program known as Chapter 313 had delivered $10 billion in tax cuts to corporations operating in Texas — with petrochemical firms being the biggest winners. This year, for the first time in a decade, the program was up for reauthorization. [Texas IAF] organizers decided to challenge it for the first time....
At 4 a.m. last Thursday, it became clear that something unexpected was happening: The deadline for reauthorization passed. “The bill never came up,” Greco told The Intercept. Organizers stayed vigilant until the legislative session officially closed on Monday at midnight, but the reauthorization did not materialize....
In 19 months, Texas’s subsidy program will expire, but that doesn’t mean the fight is over.
“We know there’s going to be a big conversation over the interim — we are under no illusions that this is not going to be a long-term battle.”
Organizers, though, recognize that the subsidy’s defeat marks a shift: “The table has been reset.”
In Blow to Big Oil, Corporate Subsidy Quietly Dies in Texas, The Intercept [pdf]
How Skeptical Texas Lawmakers Put an End to a Controversial Tax Incentive Program, Houston Chronicle [pdf]
Texas Legislature Dooms Chapter 331, Which Gives Tax Breaks to Big Businesses, Business Journal [pdf]
Missed Deadline Could Doom Controversial $10B Tax-Break Program, Houston Chronicle [pdf]
Losers and Winners from Chapter 313, Central Texas Interfaith
EPISO, with Texas IAF, Bishops & Faithful Call on Lt. Governor and Senate to Reject 'Permitless Carry' Legislation
Bishops, rabbis, clergy and faithful from across Texas convened to express vocal opposition to the passage of proposed legislation HB1927 which would allow "permitless carry" in the state of Texas.
Catholic Bishop Mark Seitz referenced the massacre in El Paso which resulted in dozens of residents dead and seriously injured. Baptist Rev. Darryl Crooms from San Antonio testified to the "unnaturalness" of adults burying children. Lutheran Rev. Jessica Cain testified to the impact of last weekend's shooting in North Austin on local worshippers. Rabbi David Lyon recalled last year's deadly shooting in Santa Fe High School.
Together -- with Lutheran Bishop Erik Gronberg, Episcopal Bishop Suffragan Kathryn Ryan, Methodist Director of Missional Outreach Andy Lewis, Dallas Catholic Bishop Gregory Kelly and several lay leaders -- all expressed concern that passage of HB1927 would increase gun violence. States that have passed similar laws, removing the required license and training needed to carry a handgun, experienced spikes in homicides and gun violence.
"You’ll find no scripture that will support this kind of legislation,” said Pastor John Ogletree, First Metropolitan Church of Houston.
“...it makes our church much less safe,” said El Paso Bishop Mark Seitz.
Texas Faith Leaders Come Out Against 'Permitless Carry', CBS Austin [pdf]
While we desperately need immediate relief, we must also seek long-term systemic change.
As faith leaders, we have a responsibility to cry out for the vulnerable and seek the common good, and this means the reform of a utility system that has served as a means for profit, putting profit before people.
Last week, The Network of Texas Industrial Areas Foundation Organizations with interfaith leaders from across the state held a press conference, urging the governor and legislature to take responsibility and put people before profits. It is time to direct recovery resources and restructure utility oversight to protect all, especially the poorer residents already on the edge because of the pandemic.
El Paso County commissioners on Monday approved contributing $275,000 to a partnership that will provide emergency financial assistance to El Pasoans, with a focus on helping people excluded from earlier pandemic stimulus funds.
The Woody and Gayle Hunt Family Foundation is offering a five-year, $500,000 match for the program, and unnamed national funders are contributing $150,000, organizers said. Other key partners are El Paso Interreligious Sponsoring Organization (EPISO)/Border Interfaith and the Family Independence Initiative.
At least 1,000 El Paso County families this year will benefit from cash grants of up to $500, which they can use to cover any expense or financial obligation. The partnership especially wants to reach undocumented and mixed immigration status households that were barred from receiving $1,200 stimulus checks and other COVID-19 relief help approved by Congress.
“They were already in the shadows and now even more in the sense that their poverty became even bigger poverty in the sense of things were not moving,” said Rev. Pablo Matta, a Catholic priest and a leader with EPISO/Border Interfaith, which will assist FII in reaching families in need of assistance. “They work so hard and they’re a big part of the economy of El Paso and all throughout the U.S., but never very much taken into account at all.”
Woody Hunt, the El Paso businessman who chairs his family’s philanthropic foundation, said the $500,000 donation builds off of efforts in the spring to shore up the El Pasoans Fighting Hunger food bank in the early stages of the pandemic.
“And during that time period, I had some discussions with EPISO, which I’ve kind of met with regularly over a very long period of time, and I know they had concerns about those within the community that were at the very bottom end that in some cases didn’t qualify for some of the federal programs that were coming out,” Hunt said.
“FII has a platform, they’ve been doing it for 20 years, they’ve got the technology to do it. They need local partners like an EPISO who can really identify either directly or through the Catholic Church that they work with, those that really have the greatest need,” Hunt said.
Many low-income families in El Paso face cumbersome application processes and a lack of access to computers and other technology to apply for assistance, said Dolores De Avila, a longtime leader with EPISO.
[Photo Credit: Robert Moore/El Paso Matters]
Low-Income El Pasoans Can Get Emergency Financial Help From New Partnership, El Paso Matters [pdf]