85th Texas Legislature (2017)
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Known as Texas’ “Equal Parenting Bill”, House Bill 453 was sponsored by Representative James White. James White was a co-sponsor on Representative Gilbert Pena’s similar bill H.B 2363 the previous legislative session (84th). Unfortunately, Pena did not get elected for the 85th legislative session so James White was left to sponsor the bill himself. James White would have been expected to do better with the bill than Pena, since he was more experienced and held a Chair position on the House Committee on corrections, however the bill actually made less progress than when it was in Pena’s hands. Whether this was due to his lack of motivation is or to an inability to resist the pressure from the opposition or lack of motivation is unclear. The bill had the same opponents that this type of bill normally faces, the Family Law Section of the State Bar and the Bar’s lobbying arm, the Texas Family Law Foundation. The bill would have made it easier for parents to get equal physical custody of their children after divorce. The bills text can be found here, and a simplified version here.
October 25, 2016 – The Texas Family Law Foundation (TFLF) was already misleading the Texas Legislature, in regards to an equal parenting bill they knew was coming. They hosted a workshop at the capitol to “educate” the members of the capitol on the current state of custody practices in Texas. Among some of their claims were that non-custodial parents already get their kids 47% of the time, that non-custodial parents don’t really want more time with their kids, what they really want is reduced child support, and more. The whole presentation can be viewed here.
November 28, 2016 – James White files H.B. 453
February 1, 2017 – The TFLF’s lobbyist (Steve and Amy Bresnen) send out to the Texas legislature a “fact sheet” in an effort to counter the many individuals who have been contacting their representatives and voicing their support for H.B. 453. The fact sheet claims that H.B. 453 could actually cause non-custodial parents to get LESS time with their kids, and they raised the concern that H.B. 453 would cause more litigation (an unusual concern for a lobbyist representing the interest of family law attorneys).
February 20, 2017 – read for the first time and referred to the Juvenile Justice and Family Issues Committee. (Once a member of the Texas Legislature files a bill, the bill is referred to a committee. Here it’s the JJFIC, the chair of the committee then has to schedule a hearing for the bill to be voted on, where it must pass my majority. If it passes, it moves on to the Calendars committee where it is scheduled to be voted on by the 150 members of the House.)
February 21, 2017 – James White requested the head of the JJFIC (Harold Dutton) to schedule a hearing for H.B. 453.
February 28, 2017 – Steve Bresnen (lobbyist against H.B. 453) writes to the Department of Public safety because he fears for his life due to threats from proponents for H.B. 453. Included are screen shots of individuals posts on local facebook pages.
March 2, 2017 – A news report that members of the legislature read informs the legislature that proponents of H.B. 453 are threatening to “murder a lobbyist working in opposition to the bill”. See screenshot of article here.
March 16, 2017 – James White’s office staff begin telling people that H.B. 453 is on hold per White’s request. They give no indication why it is on hold.