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]
COPS/Metro Leaders Press Candidates of District 3 and 5 for Commitments to Improve Quality of Life of Constituents
On May 2nd, COPS/Metro held an accountability session with candidates form district 3 and 5 along with 120 attendees. During the session, COPS/Metro sought commitments from the candidates to meet with leaders two weeks following the election to address issues surrounding quality of life for the residents of District 3. Specifically, leaders are seeking resolutions to drug houses, speed bumps to deter street racing, abandoned houses, and the failure of contractors to notify residents in advance of work.
For District 5, COPS/Metro sought commitment to include the Cassiano apartments in the first phase of the housing bond passed last year.
All candidates were asked to support a gun box initiative that would educate the public about locking up guns and not leaving them in unattended vehicles.
On April 30th, COPS/Metro convened 200 leaders to press Mayor Ron Nirenberg and City Manager Erik Walsh on improving accountability for San Antonio's Ready to Work program by putting jobs on the table, improving the recruitment of quality participants, and holding contractors accountable who receive money for training. (i.e. trained workers are placed in high paying jobs.)
Additionally, leaders pressed Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar and San Antonio Police Chief William McManus on funding for a gun box lock initiative in both the city and county that educate the public about locking up guns and not leaving them in unattended vehicles.
On Saturday April 15th, over 200 people from 41 institutions and 6 deaneries participated in 'Recognizing the Stranger' parish leadership training in collaboration with the Archdiocese of San Antonio. The session was conducted in English and in Spanish, and included 15 clergy and two bishops. Spanish=speaking leaders expressed a strong desire to organize their parishes.
A major theme developed over the course of the sessions was that the Church is not a parking lot and that Mission is key element of the one's faith. Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller told participants that the Church needs their leadership because clergy cannot do what lay leaders can.
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.
In San Antonio, Mike Phillips is a COPS/Metro leader, a member of the Texas IAF. His organization and others rallied in Austin on March 21 to call attention to the inequities that school district tax breaks cause statewide.
“This is money that could instead be going to public schools. We are working this session with legislators from both parties and a range of allies to oppose taxpayer-funded corporate giveaway programs that involve school finance and school district decision-making,” Phillips said.
"Harlandale trustees have voted to close Columbia Heights, Rayburn, Morrill and Carroll Bell elementary schools at the end of the school year....
Juan Cristan came with a large group of COPS/Metro community organizers who felt the announcement of the proposal to close schools came too close to spring break, making it more difficult for families to learn about the proposal and participate in town halls. He was also one of several speakers that asked the district to come up with a plan to better compete with charter schools.
“What are we going to do to stop the hemorrhaging?” Cristan asked. “What are we going to do to [stop having] the students go to KIPP, to IDEA, to Royal?”
[Photo Credit: Camille Phillips, Texas Public Radio]
Harlandale ISD Trustees Vote to Close Four Elementary Schools, Texas Public Radio [pdf]
Budget Crunch Pushes Harlandale ISD Board to Order School Closures, San Antonio Express News [pdf]
South San Antonio ISD Moves to Close Three Schools in Bid to Avert Financial Crisis, San Antonio Report [pdf]
The Network of Texas IAF Organizations, a labor and faith coalition that has staunchly opposed using school property tax breaks for incentives... railed against the Texas Jobs and Security Act.
"It looks like it was written on the back of a napkin,"
stated Jose Guerrero, a leader with Central Texas Interfaith from Saint Ignatius Catholic Church.
The organization believes the proposed bill would have even less regulation than Chapter 313, including the exclusion of minimum job requirements as a key factor in a project's eligibility for approval. "It is hard to imagine that they would propose a program with even less accountability, fewer specifics (like no job requirements), and more leeway for companies to take taxpayer dollars from school children to line their pockets," Guerrero stated.
Over 300 leaders, clergy, religious, and bishops from 20 organizations gathered last week in San Antonio to celebrate five years of Recognizing the Stranger, a West/Southwest IAF training, leadership formation, and parish organizing strategy.
The Convocation was highlighted by a video message from Pope Francis, who offered his “closeness and support” to the IAF network and its work to organize with immigrants and with those at the margins to encourage “participation of the Christian in public life.”
"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.” ....