The conference committee for House Bill 1, the state’s budget for 2020-2021, officially began their work to write the final version on Tuesday, April 23. This was the committee’s first meeting and one of the few open to the public. The committee is comprised of five representatives and five senators with the purpose of resolving the differences between the Texas House and Texas Senate budgets, including determining whether the budget will fully fund the Alternatives to Abortion program with $90 million for the biennium.
While each chamber had their hearings, committee meetings, workgroups, and floor debates, the vast majority of budget decisions rests with the 10 legislators on the powerful conference committee. Governor Greg Abbott attended the critical budget-writing committee to speak with the conference committee members. Texas Right to Life monitors the actions of the conference committee as closely as possible, which is difficult since the committee is one of the most secretive processes in the Texas Legislature. The big question for Pro-Lifers around the state is how the conference committee will resolve the chambers’ significant difference in funding to the Alternatives to Abortion program.
The Alternatives to Abortion program funds a statewide network of social service providers including pregnancy centers, maternity homes, and adoption agencies to administer services like counseling, material assistance, and parenting classes to women and men who choose Life in difficult circumstances.
With substantial growth in the number of providers and clients, the state budget in each Legislature since 2005 has addressed the program’s accomplishments by keeping pace with the demand and success of the program. There are 29 provider locations set to enter into the program if the state funds the program at the needed $90 million. The House, recognizing the need for these services and the continued growth of the program, voted to increase the fund to $90 million in the budget they passed in late March, while the Senate only allocated $48 million for the Pro-Life program. For Texas Right to Life and Pro-Lifers around the state, determining which amount to adopt for the final version of the budget is the most important item the conference committee will decide.
Texas Right to Life continues to urge the conference committee to consider the success of the program and the needs of vulnerable Texas families who courageously chose Life – families often preyed upon by the abortion industry. Texas is a Pro-Life state, and the state budget should reflect our values and support expecting and new parents. The conference committee on the budget must prioritize Life by adopting the House’s increase and fund the Alternatives to Abortion program at $90 million.