CTI-Huston Tillotson Partnership Results in Historic HBCU Conference
[With support from Central Texas Interfaith], Texas students and campus leaders held the state’s first Texas Historically Black Colleges and Universities Conference in Austin over the weekend to discuss the need for increased investments in HBCUs.
The event, held at Huston-Tillotson University, featured speeches from campus leaders, a conversation with state lawmakers who represent HBCUs in their districts and a roundtable discussion with students who spoke about the experience and challenges of attending HBCUs....
Jeffrey Clemmons, a Huston-Tillotson alumnus, who graduated in 2021, said there has been a “funding inequity from day one” between money for HBCUs and the flagship state university systems. In addition to addressing inequities, he said one of the conference's goals is to develop a coalition of HBCUs that can address shared issues in the future.
“Prior to this moment, as far as we could tell, while there were informal channels, there was never a unified conference of HBCUs,” Clemmons said. “We were never able to come together in a unified fashion and advocate for issues, and so I certainly hope that the one thing that comes out of this is that we will no longer be strangers to one another and we will be united”
[In left photos, Huston-Tillotson students engage state legislators. In right photo Huston-Tillotson University professors and CTI Lead Organizer Doug Greco discuss the development of public leadership. Credit: Aaron E. Martinez, American-Statesman]
Texas HBCUs Hold Statewide Conference at Huston-Tillotson to Address Funding Inequities, Austin American Statesman [pdf]
CTI and Texas IAF Leaders Impede Plans to Conceal Chapter 313 Data
Following an opposition campaign by Texas IAF organizations, Comptroller Glenn Hegar is backing away from his proposal to gut Chapter 313 reporting and accountability requirements in the program’s final year of existence. Hegar signaled the change Friday after significant pushback by Chapter 313 critics, including a press conference held by Texas IAF organizations in December, and a barrage of public comments submitted to his office against the proposal, with the largest portion coming from Texas IAF leaders.
During the 2021 Legislative Session, the Texas IAF, along with allies, stopped the reauthorization of Chapter 313, the State’s largest corporate tax subsidy program. Though the current program, which costs taxpayers $1-2 Billion per year, is set to expire in December of 2022, Comptroller Hegar had proposed in November to reduce the reporting requirements on jobs, wages, and overall costs to taxpayers.
“Comptroller Hegar has recognized the voices of voters from across the political spectrum, including our organizations, and now says the data we are concerned will continue to be available,” said Bob Fleming, a leader with The Metropolitan Organization, the IAF affiliate in Houston. “However, we remain vigilant because he says the rules will still be revised and made ‘more efficient’. Given the history of this failed and discontinued program, we need even more transparency and accountability, not less.”
[Photo Credit: Mark Mulligan, Houston Chronicle]
After Backlash, Texas Comptroller Abandons Plan to Hide Details of Controversial Tax Break Program, Houston Chronicle [pdf]
Network of Texas IAF Organizations, Press Release
Texas IAF Calls On State Comptroller to Abandon Plan to Gut Chapter 313 Subsidy Accountability Requirements
"Lawmakers have ordered Comptroller Glenn Hegar to wrap up Texas’s biggest corporate tax break program, but he wants to give companies one last gift: an end to public accountability.
Activists, corporate relocation specialists and lawmakers are scrambling to comment on Hegar’s proposal that companies no longer report key data about their progress toward meeting the terms of their property tax abatement agreements.
Interfaith groups that fought the corporate giveaway that hurts Texas children demanded Hegar roll back his plan on Wednesday.
“What is the benefit of less accountability and less transparency?” San Antonio state Senator José Menéndez asked at a Texas Industrial Areas Foundation press conference. “The taxpayer should know how their money is going to be used and what they are getting in exchange.”
[Photo Credit: Mark Mulligan, San Antonio Express News]
Texas Comptroller Proposes Covering Up Corporate Welfare Program, The Houston Chronicle [pdf]
Network of Texas IAF Organizations, along with Public Officials, Hold Press Conference to Call on Comptroller Hegar to Abandon Attempt to Gut Chapter 313 Transparency and Accountability, Texas IAF
Taylor: The Chapter 313 Monster — the Mother of All Corporate Welfare — Revives?, San Antonio Express News [pdf]
At Urging of CTI, Travis County & City of Austin Invest $200+ Million into Homelessness Prevention & Support
After years of working to protect the dignity of people experiencing homelessness and preventing low-income families from displacement, Central Texas Interfaith leaders celebrated the investment of $220+ Million in federal funding into homelessness prevention and support. Over 100 CTI leaders were joined by City of Austin Mayor and Travis County Judge Andy Brown who expressed appreciation for the organization's partnership and doggedness in addressing key regional challenges. Leaders relayed how this effort was connected to a multi-year effort that resulted in passage of an affordable housing bond in 2018, $40 Million in rental assistance during the first year of the pandemic, and now over $217 million in federal dollars into homelessness prevention and support.
Elected officials further committed to identifying sources for additional rental assistance as eviction moratoriums lift.
Central TX Interfaith Leaders Share Plans for $200M, Will Be Used to Address Homelessness, CBS Austin [pdf]
Church Leaders Praise City, County for Committing Fed Funds Toward Homelessness, Austin Monitor [pdf]
Central Texas Interfaith Leaders Share Plans for $200 Million, Will Be Used to Address Homelessness, CBS Austin
Homeless Housing Plans, Spectrum News
Several Austin City Council Members Concerned About Spending on Homelessness Services, KXAN [pdf]
Interfaith Group Calls for Immediate Action on Homelessness, Austin Monitor [pdf]
Headlines / Quote of the Week, Austin Chronicle [pdf]
Líderes Religiosos Exigen Que las Autoridades Locales Tomen Acción para Ayudar a Indigentes, Univision [video]
Central Texas Interfaith Calls on Austin-Travis Officials to Invest, Address Homelessness, CBS Austin [pdf]
Press Conference Footage, Central Texas Interfaith
Central Texas Interfaith Calls on Austin & Travis Officials to Address Homelessness Now
[Excerpt from Austin Monitor]
Members of Central Texas Interfaith are asking the city to spend the funds City Council set aside a few weeks ago to alleviate homelessness in Austin – now. At a virtual news conference Tuesday, members of the group also urged Travis County to come up with $100 million to match what the city might provide.
Austin intends to spend at least $84 million on solving homelessness, mostly from its federal American Rescue Plan Act funds, to help with the effort. However, the city’s commitment is conditional on major investments from the county and private foundations. County staffers have recommended spending only $325,000 on homelessness in next year’s budget. Speaking for the group, Rev. Michael Floyd said,
“We’re tired of waiting and we believe that most Austin citizens are too. Austin citizens of every political persuasion share our desire for the city of Austin to act immediately to implement a comprehensive plan to end homelessness. That’s what we’re advocating today because the city’s efforts to assist those without housing have again been put on hold.”
[Photo Credit: John Anderson, Austin Chronicle]
Interfaith Group Calls for Immediate Action on Homelessness, Austin Monitor
Headlines / Quote of the Week, Austin Chronicle
Líderes Religiosos Exigen Que las Autoridades Locales Tomen Acción para Ayudar a Indigentes, Univision [video]
Central Texas Interfaith Calls on Austin-Travis Officials to Invest, Address Homelessness, CBS Austin
Press Conference Footage, Central Texas Interfaith
CTI Calls for Expansion of Rental Assistance & Investment of Stimulus in Homelessness Reduction
....Leaders with Central Texas Interfaith – a non-partisan coalition of religious congregations – are also pushing the city council to act.
Jonathan McManus-Dail, the assistant priest at St. Julian of Norwich Episcopal Church, said the city should use available federal funds to make an immediate impact.
“I think many people, myself included, want more urgency around this issue because we see people suffering,” McManus-Dail told KXAN.
Austin has been criticized for not prioritizing permanent supportive housing efforts in the past. Homelessness advocates say the need for urgency has only intensified since the passage of Proposition B.
[Photo Credit: KXAN News]
Several Austin City Council Members Concerned About Spending on Homelessness Services, KXAN News
Statement on City Funding to Address Rental Assistance and Homelessness, Central Texas Interfaith [6/7/21]
Statement on Use of Federal Stimulus Dollars, Central Texas Interfaith [6/10/21]
CTI, with Texas IAF, Blocks $10 Billion Dollar Corporate Tax Giveaway to Big Oil
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. Organizers decided to challenge it for the first time.
At the beginning of last week, as Texas’s biennial legislative session approached its end, the aims of organizers remained modest. “We thought it would be a victory if the two-year reauthorization passed so we could organize in interim,” said Doug Greco, the lead organizer for Central Texas Interfaith, one of the organizations fighting to end the subsidy program.
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....
“No one had really questioned this program,” said Greco, of Central Texas Interfaith. The reauthorization was a once-in-a-decade chance to challenge it. “We knew in our guts that the program was just a blank check, but we also are very sober about the realities of the Texas legislature.”
....As legislators met in a closed session to hammer out the bill, Greco heard from a colleague. “One of my organizers said there’s 20 oil and gas lobbyist standing outside this committee room,” he recalled.
Former Gov. Rick Perry, an Energy Transfer board member, tweeted his support for reauthorization. But as last week of the session ticked by, the bill didn’t come up. “It became clear that the reputation of the program had been damaged,” Greco said.
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.”
The Unlikely Demise of Texas’ Biggest Corporate Tax Break, Texas Observer [pdf]
In Blow to Big Oil, Corporate Subsidy Quietly Dies in Texas, The Intercept [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
A Texas Law Offers Tax Breaks to Companies, but It's Renewal Isn't a Done Deal, Texas Tribune [pdf]
A Controversial Tax Program Promised High Paying Jobs. Instead, Its Costs Spiraled Out of Control, Houston Chronicle [pdf]
Losers and Winners from Chapter 313, Central Texas Interfaith
CTI, 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. From Central Texas Interfaith, Reverend Paul Skeith of SoCo Episcopal chaired the press conference and Jessica Cain, of Living Word Lutheran in Buda, testified to the fear that worshippers faced following the weekend shooting in Austin.
“Our faith tradition teaches us to protect life,” said Bishop Suffragan Kathryn M. Ryan of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas. “You cannot protect life if people carrying deadly weapons aren’t properly trained and licensed.
"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]
Bishop Mark J. Seitz, Other Religious Leaders Oppose Bill That Would Ease Carrying of Guns, El Paso Times [pdf]
Religious Leaders Speak Against Texas Bill That Could Allow You to Carry Gun Without License, ABC13 Houston [pdf]
Group of Texas State Leaders Say They're Opposed to Permitless Carry, FOX KDFW
El Paso Bishop, Gun Store Weigh In On Texas 'Constitutional Carry' Bill Debate, KFOX14 [pdf]
Esto Opinan Líderes Religiosos en Tejas Sobre la Propuesta Legislativa de Portar Armas Sin Licencia, Univision Dallas
CTI Faith Leaders, with Texas IAF, Push for State Weatherization of Power Grid
The virtual press conference was organized by the Network of Texas IAF Organizations — a nonpartisan coalition of 10 primarily faith-based organizations across the state that represents more than 1 million people — and The Metropolitan Organization, a Houston-based civic group, to keep public attention on the aftermath of the widespread power outages that occurred earlier this year....
Texas IAF has thrown support behind Senate Bill 3, which would mandate weatherization under federal energy regulation guidelines. The bill passed on March 29 and now moves to the House. It would also impose penalties for noncompliance, increase coordination among state energy regulating bodies and create an emergency alert system.
"Our families have already suffered enough," said the Rev. Minerva Camarena-Skeith of St. John's Episcopal Church [and Central Texas Interfaith] in Austin. "They have paid more than their fair share of the cost for the mistakes of the energy industry and the unwillingness of the legislature to regulate the energy industry."
As legislation trudges through the legislature, the struggles continue across the state, members of The Metropolitan Organization said during the press conference. The budget strain of paying for repairs, they said, is especially felt by people living in apartments, whose landlords may not cover costs, as well as mobile home park residents and the elderly.
Pipes also burst at the home of Sorina Serrano, who is still waiting for repairs. A leader with The Metropolitan Organization Houston and member of St. Leo the Great Catholic Church, Serrano said her home insurance coverage expired in March and other insurers have told her they won't cover the house until the repairs are made.
[Photo Credit: Isabelle Baldwin/CNS Photo]
After Texas' Winter Storm Disaster, Faith Leaders Press for Legislation to Ensure 'Never Again', Earthbeat- National Catholic Reporter