Diane Sollee writes, on the Smart Marriages listerv:
Marriage legislation is being introduced in Texas in three parts: 1) The 1%
Solution; 2) A Pre-marital Education Incentive and 3) Mandatory skills-based
Divorce Education. ... Here are
various media treatments of the proposals.
More money could be pumped into programs to foster healthy marriages.
House appropriations committee chairman Warren Chisum's proposal is pushing
for the state to spend almost 10-million dollars per year on programs
promoting healthy marriages.
While Chism wants to spend more money on the front end of marriages,
Representative Donna Dukes says she'd rather see the money spent on foster
care, child protective services or women's health care.
Chism's proposal is written into a version of the state budget that the
house appropriation committee is expected to vote on this week.
Budget writer pushes more money for marriage training
Other lawmakers question whether programs are best use of federal family
By Jason Embry
March 19, 2007
Call it the Dr. Phil bill.
Some key lawmakers want to boost the amount of tax money that Texas spends
on programs designed to foster healthy marriages. Advocates of doing so call
it a way to prevent problems that later cost the state government, such as
child abuse and poverty.
"If we don't start addressing marriages and keeping families together, then
we're never going to be able to fund the social costs in this state of
divorced families and separations and that sort of thing," said House
Appropriations Committee Chairman Warren Chisum, R-Pampa. "If we'd spend
more money on the front end, there'd be less money to spend on the back
Congress has designated $100 million to be spent on healthy-marriage
programs. Those programs can include advertising campaigns on the components
of stable marriages, high-school lessons about healthy relationships and
budgeting, and marriage skills classes for couples.
Chisum is pushing for the state to spend almost $10 million per year in
federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families money on programs promoting
healthy marriages, which would double current annual spending on Texas
But some say there are better uses for those dollars. Rep. Dawnna Dukes,
D-Austin, said she'd rather see the money spent on foster care, Child
Protective Services or women's health care.
"My concern is that there are programs that are without historical records,
historical performance, that are awarded funds when we know of programs that
have been effective," Dukes said.
Chisum's proposal is written into a version of the state budget that the
House Appropriations Committee is expected to vote on this week. That vote
will be followed by many more. The Senate is working on its own budget, and
in several weeks the two sides will start working on a compromise plan.
Texas now spends marriage money on programs that include counseling for
couples and classes on marriage and parenting for expectant parents. The
state delivers the services though groups including Lutheran Social
Services, the Center for Social Work Research at the University of Texas,
the Texas Migrant Council and others that provide other social services to
The Bush administration's push for marriage incentives nationally has
created considerabe debate, with critics saying such programs are, at best,
oversimplified and could in fact encourage women to stay in abusive
relationships. There is conflicting research on how much marriage does to
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, at least two
common threads run through healthy marriages. The marriages are mutually
enriching and spouses share a deep respect for each other, the department
Oklahoma uses the federal money for marriage training at schools, prisons,
military bases and churches. In Louisiana, it's used at faith-based and
community centers in low-income neighborhoods.
Celia Hagert of the Austin-based Center for Public Policy Priorities, which
advocates for more spending on programs to help low-income families, said a
better use of the dollars proposed for marriage programs would be to help
low-income residents get education and training that will help them advance
in the workforce.
"We don't have the extra dollars to spend on those (marriage) initiatives
right now," Hagert said. "We need to be investing more on the sort of basic
core services that help these families get out of poverty."
But Rep. Betty Brown, R-Athens, said some children do not have any
two-parent families around them.
"They're starting to consider (marriage) as not really an alternative,"
Brown said. "They need education, they need training in finding out their
children can be benefited by a stable, two-person relationship."
Added Chisum, "I'm happy for us to grade this system and see if it works."
Proposal seeks more money to promote healthy marriages
Express News (San Antonio)
March 15, 2007
AUSTIN — The state would funnel millions more federal dollars into promoting
healthy marriages among low-income Texans under a proposal pushed by House
Appropriations Committee Chairman Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, and others.
Chisum put a provision in the state budget being developed by the panel to
direct up to $4.8 million more annually from the Temporary Assistance for
Needy Families block grant into a healthy marriages initiative.
That would more than double current spending from all sources on the program
overseen by the Health and Human Services CommissionÖ, which contracts with
organizations around the state. (There are similar initiatives that don't
flow through the commission.) Chisum and other backers say the effort
addresses problems that cause marriages to break up, which thrusts single
parents into poverty.
“If we don't start addressing these problems on the front end, we'll never
be able to fund the back end,” Chisum said. “That's the biggest issue we
have out there, is not having a family unit..... Hopefully we'll have a
whole lot of surplus TANF funds if we get this done (because) we won't have
single mothers out there with kids, which is what the TANF money is for.”
Others questioned whether it was the best use of TANF money, which also can
be used for cash assistance, job preparation and, in a limited amount,
family planning. The healthy-marriage money can be used for programs such as
relationship skills and advertising the value of marriage.
Rep. Dawnna Dukes, D-Austin, voiced concern that the initiative drains money
from other programs. “People who have these problems could be going to see
their minister,” she said. “It just doesn't seem like the best use of state
Advocates for the poor noted that women may eschew marriage for economic
reasons, since they may lose Medicaid for their children if their household
income rises slightly. Rep. Robert Puente, a San Antonio Democrat and member
of the mostly-Republican House leadership, said the state should first fill
gaps in basic services such as health care for needy citizens before
“To designate this amount of money for something as nebulous as healthy
marriages — I don't think it's money well spent,” Puente said. “It's
incumbent on us as a state to fund these basic social services for our
citizens. If we're successful at that, let's look at Warren Chisum's
But Rep. Betty Brown, a Terrell Republican on the Appropriations panel, said
there are young people whose lives “could be made so much better by a
stable, two-parent family relationship. Until we address that, we really in
many instances don't have hope of lessening the numbers in these other