January 28, 2013 — Texas lawmakers on Thursday filed a bill (HB 649) in the state House that would give a tax break to secular businesses whose religious owners object to complying with the federal contraceptive coverage rules, the Texas Tribune reports (Aaronson, Texas Tribune, 1/24).
The rules, which are being implemented under the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148), require health plans issued or renewed after Aug. 1 to cover contraceptive services without copayments or deductibles. HHS has given religiously affiliated entities, such as colleges and hospitals, a one-year delay period to come into compliance, and religious institutions, such as churches and synagogues, are exempt altogether (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/10).
If a Texas business with religious objections to contraceptive coverage is penalized for not complying with the rules, the bill would allow that business to claim a state tax break up to the total amount of its state tax bill.
One business that would be covered under the bill is Hobby Lobby, whose Christian owners have unsuccessfully challenged the rules in court. The business faces a $1.3 million per day penalty if it does not comply with the contraceptive coverage requirement.
State Rep. Jonathan Stickland (R), the bill's sponsor, introduced another measure (HCR 32) that calls on the federal government to offer an exemption to businesses with religious objections to the rules (Texas Tribune, 1/24).
Debra Ness, publisher & president, National Partnership
Andrea Friedman, associate editor & director of reproductive health programs, National Partnership
Marya Torrez, associate editor & senior reproductive health policy counsel, National Partnership
Melissa Safford, associate editor & policy advocate for reproductive health, National Partnership
Perry Sacks, assistant editor & health program associate, National Partnership
Cindy Romero, assistant editor & communications assistant, National Partnership
Justyn Ware, editor
Amanda Wolfe, editor-in-chief
Heather Drost, Hanna Jaquith, Marcelle Maginnis, Ashley Marchand and Michelle Stuckey, staff writers
Tucker Ball, director of new media, National Partnership