H.B. 2479 Returns Texas to Days of Dangerous, Unregulated Faith-Based Programs

H.B. 2479 Returns Texas to Days of Dangerous, Unregulated Faith-Based Programs

Committee to Hear Testimony Today on Bill That Gives Governor Sole Discretion over Distribution of Faith-Based Funds

April 20, 2005

AUSTIN House Bill 2479 by Rep. Dianne Delisi, R-Temple, would create a new government-administered, faith-based program in Texas and return our state to the days of unregulated faith-based providers that endangered children and others, the president of the Texas Freedom Network said today.

“We have been down this road before, and look what it got us: unregulated facilities like Roloff Homes that endangered children and other vulnerable populations in our state,” TFN President Kathy Miller said. “The Legislature tried to clean up the mess by rolling back the Alternative Accreditation program for such faith-based facilities in 2001. I would hope our lawmakers have learned from the mistakes of the past and insist that any faith-based program we enact include basic protections and safeguards measures that are currently not in this bill.”

The House Public Health Committee is set to hear testimony on H.B. 2479 today. The bill establishes a “Renewing Our Communities Fund” that would be administered solely by the governor. As the only trustee, the governor would have sole discretion over the distribution of funds to faith-based organizations.

Miller questioned the need for the fund, noting that state agencies and private foundations already make grants to faith-based providers.

“Why is such broad, discretionary authority to distribute state, federal and private faith-based money given over entirely to the governor’s office, with absolutely no checks or balances?” Miller asked. “Simply put, allowing a lone trustee to have sole authority over the distribution of such funds would be fiscally reckless and raise questions about the true purpose of such a scheme.”

At the very least, Miller said, such a fund must be administered by a board of trustees with grants approved by an independent, interfaith advisory board.

“This would prevent the appearance of partisanship, sectarianism and religious discrimination,” she said.