A leading candidate for the most outrageous bill of this year’s legislative session in Texas is HB 649, filed today by state Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, who is valiantly sticking up for a big corporation’s refusal to comply with the law and, while he’s at it, intruding in a woman’s private medical decisions.
This all stems from the fight between the Hobby Lobby arts and crafts store chain and the federal government. The owners of Hobby Lobby, based on what they say is a religious conviction, have sued the feds because they don’t want to comply with the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). The ACA mandates that health insurance plans provided by most employers (religious institutions like churches are exempted) include coverage for contraception. Refusing to comply has the company facing millions in federal fines.
Not to worry, Hobby Lobby. Stickland has you covered. His legislation would allow business that refuse to comply with the mandate to recoup the fines paid to the feds in the form of a state tax break.
Anybody want to do the math on how much $$ it would cost the state each year just to cover Hobby Lobby alone? Yeah, a lot.
If the bill passes, congratulations, Texas Taxpayer, you would be on the hook for Hobby Lobby’s fines and for the fines of any other business that refuses to comply with the mandate (because somebody else will have to cover the tax break Hobby Lobby gets). You would also be enabling executives at Hobby Lobby and other companies to impose their religious beliefs on their employees and limit their access to health care options like birth control. And you would be subsidizing Hobby Lobby’s flouting of the law.
At its core, this bill appears to be a continuation of what then-state Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, called a “war on birth control” during the last legislative session two years ago. It appears that the religious right in Texas has since then learned nothing.