The Texas Legislature only meets for 5 months every 2 years. Due to the condensed time frame, the sheer volume of bills can be dizzying, and covering them and knowing what fresh hell the Texas GOP and the mega-wealthy lobbies behind them are trying to push through can be hard to keep track of.
We’re doing our best to keep the process out in the daylight. First, have a look at our Intro to the Texas Legislature Online here, get familiar with the site, and create an account.
Once you’ve created an account, create a list of bills you’d like to track. Here’s how:
1. Navigate your web browser to the Texas Legislature Online:
2. Click on “My TLO”.
3. Click “Bill List”.
4. You’ll be prompted to sign in. If you haven’t already, create an account – it’s simple to do, just make sure you use a secure password and that the email account you use has Two-Factor Authentication enabled.
5. Enter a name for your Bill List and a brief description. Then click “Create”. You should then be able to Edit your Bill List.
6. Enter the numeric name of the bill you’d like to track in the left field and a brief description for your own reference (Such as, “HB1261” and “We support-would prohibit charter schools from discrimination against students on basis of their discipline history in admission policy”)
7. Once you’ve entered your desired bills, click “Save”, then click “Run”. You may then download your list of bills as a pdf if you’d like.
And that’s it! You’re up and running. Let us know how it goes in the Comments!
As always, be sure to like our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter.
In Texas, mega-wealthy industrial lobbies have bought and paid for most of the GOP candidates at every level of our state government. This is a fact. These lobbies install hard-right extremists who vote the way they are instructed to by the lobby think tank, the shadowy industrialists get their rich friends rewarded, and their political arm–the Texas GOP, which exists only to do the bidding of the rich and powerful–stays in power.
But things are changing. And citizen activists terrify these people. Participation is fundamental in taking Texas back. But we can’t win if we don’t show up.
A huge component of showing up entails physically going to the capitol and testifying at a committee hearing. We’ll be doing this a lot.
However, most people have never provided testimony before a Senate or House Committee. Many of us are conditioned to equate things that are new with things that are uncomfortable or scary. Not to worry!
Donna Howard put together a wonderful infographic with steps on how to testify at a Texas Legislative Committee Hearing, and we thought we’d post on this subject and help demystify what this process is like and what you can expect. You can do it! In fact, you must.
For quick reference, you can quickly find upcoming Committee Hearings page at the Texas Legislature Online, under Committees. The most controversial bills are typically sent to the State Affairs Committee in both the House and the Senate.
Before the Hearing
- Know when to testify – Track bills, issue areas & committee hearings by signing up for alerts at http://www.capitol.state.tx.us. We keep track of harmful legislation here, and we’ve got a post that walks you through how to use the Texas Legislature Online here if you’d like to make a list of your own bills to track. You should also follow us on Twitter for up-to-the-minute updates about what’s going on with certain bills, and when we’ll be at the capitol to testify, where committee hearings are taking place, etc.
- Make sure you can testify – Many committee hearings allow public testimony, but some only allow invited witnesses. Check the hearing notice!
- Practice your speech – Testimony is generally limited to 3 minutes. Prepare 2-3 minutes of comments, and run through it a few times.
Getting to the Capitol
- Parking near the building – The Capitol’s Visitor Parking Garage is located at 12th & Trinity, but it’s just as easy to park on the street around the capitol. We use an app called ParkX whenever we have to park downtown in Austin–you can just link a debit card to the app and “feed the meter” from your cel phone, without having to go back to your car. There’s metered street parking around the capitol, so you might consider bring quarters. We haven’t had any problem finding a spot on the street lately (even during SXSW), but it’s a good idea to give yourself a good 15 minute cushion before registration begins to find parking.
- Getting to the capitol – There are entrances on the north, south, east, and west sides of the capitol. The security checkpoints are there for everyone’s safety; don’t let the state troopers carrying machine guns intimidate you! The troopers are really quite friendly. I mean, it’s Texas y’all.
- Find the kiosks – You’ll find electronic kiosks–essentially iPads in a black plastic frame–near each of the committee hearing rooms. This is where you will register to provide testimony. The interface is simple–it’s a web-based form that you enter your name, address, and then you’ll denote whether you’re testifying “On” (neutral), “For”, or “Against” the bill.
- You don’t have to give spoken testimony – Remember that the kiosks will give you the option of registering support or opposition without providing testimony. So even if you aren’t planning on staying through the entire Committee hearing, it’s always good to get down to the capitol and register your support for or opposition to a bill.
- Get comfortable – Arrive early, but expect to stay late. The sessions are unpredictable. Some hearings are short, but some can be very long.
When It’s Your Turn
- How it works – Generally, your name will be called and you’ll be invited to the podium. State your name, who you’re representing, and whether you are for, against, or “on” (neutral) the bill. For example, “My name is Mary Ross, I’m representing myself, and I’m here to testify against the bill.” Simple, we know, but many folks forget this part only to have the committee chair interrupt them.
- Be nice – Your testimony can be passionate, but always be respectful.
- Be concise – You’ll probably only have 2-3 minutes, so make it count!
- Be personal – Tell the Committee how this legislation will impact you, your family, and your friends. Tell your story.
- Bring copies – If you’re providing written copies of your testimony (for example, you may have data and supplemental material that backs up the points you’re making in your testimony), the Committee will ask for 20 printed copies. At the beginning of your testimony you can just say “I’ve provided written copies for all the members of the Committee to supplement some of the points I’ll make in my testimony today and I’ll be glad to distribute those” and a page will distribute.
- Follow up – Email the committee members to provide additional information. You can find them here: http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/Committees/Membership.aspx
You did it!
Thanks to Donna Howard and her team for making this excellent infographic! Here’s the original infographic. Let us know how your testimony goes in the comments below.
SB6 Public Hearing
On Tuesday, March 7th, the Legislature has a public hearing scheduled on SB6, Dan Patrick’s wildly unpopular, and utterly pointless “bathroom bill”.
The hearing begins at 8 a.m. in room E1.012 (in the Capitol Extension, underground). Click here for a map of the Capitol complex and here for a map of the Extension so you know exactly where you’re going. Testimony will run through most of the day. We need to fill the gallery.
Make a plan for how you’re going to get there, and give yourself a good 10 to 15 minutes to find parking.
Actions for Americans has organized a book drive to educate our lawmakers on what life is actually like for transgender people and their families, and to buy a copy of the extraordinary book Becoming Nicole for Greg Abbott, Dan Patrick and every member of the Texas Legislature.
We need to hit this goal so that the books can be handed out at the Capitol on Monday, March 6th, during Trans Lobby Day.
Overcoming the fear of people who are different from us has always been one of humanity’s greatest struggles, but the fact is, all human beings deserve justice and dignity. That goes for everyone–black, white or brown; male, female or transgender; Muslim, Jewish or Christian. That respect for basic dignity is what our Constitution is based on, and that is what makes this country great.
The book drive is a vitally important step toward educating those who remain willfully ignorant–our Texas state legislators.
Again, Dan Patrick and the GOP keep trying to use a widely debunked “bathroom predator myth” to nominally support this bill. There is 0 evidence for this claim. None. This is an absurd defense. You can’t isn’t even call it a logical fallacy. In reality, this bill is really a pretext to give the state and autocrats like Dan Patrick and Greg Abbott more power than local governments, but that is another discussion.
Right now it’s time for action.
- Call your State Senator, and call your State House Representative. They need to know that you are vehemently opposed to this legislation, and that you are watching them closely, with an eye on the 2018 Texas State elections. Click Not sure who that is? Click here.
- Call a friend or family member who lives in another Texas county. Discuss this issue with them. Ask them if they know who their state rep is. What has their legislator done for them lately that has really improved their financial situation? Are they aware that their legislator is probably bought and paid for by an industrial special interest? (I’ll be posting on dark money in TX politics later). It’s important that the culture of fear and disinformation our lawmakers willfully deploy is addressed in real time, with friends, family members, and neighbors. This is our state, not theirs. Don’t let them pit us against each other.
- Donate to the book drive. Texas legislators have tried to hide behind their own ignorance for long enough.
Click here if you’d like to read a the text of the SB6 bill itself with plain English annotations.
Click here to find your state rep.