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.
This morning the Texas Tribune’s Patrick Svitek published a fascinating look at how district-by-district data suggests that Texas State legislative districts that traditionally elect GOP representatives all went to Clinton in the 2016 election, based on some newly available statistics.
From the article:
The question in those districts, like so many surrounding Trump’s election across the country, is whether the dramatic swings in 2016 were meaningful shifts that could have implications in future elections. That question is particularly pressing for the 11 Texas Republicans now representing districts that voted for Clinton, all of whom are up for re-election in 2018.
What this ultimately means going forward is that it is up to us. Yes, Texas is traditionally thought of as a deep-Red state. In reality, Texas would be more accurately described as a non-voting state.
If Donald Trump’s historical unpopularity doesn’t drive us to raise awareness of how crucial a role the state legislature and Texas state government is going to play is going to play–in gerrymandering Congressional districts, passing racist voter suppression laws, deporting millions of people and herding them into modern day internment camps, and doing away with basic civil liberties–then this will all have been a moot point. We have got to step up at the state level and fight back.
So my challenge for each visitor to this page is: talk to 3 people a day, in person, about voting for in the Texas state elections in 2018. Talk about where your representative stands on the issues.
Now is the time for Texans to demand that our state government listens to us, not wealthy GOP campaign contributors, not lobbyists, and certainly not the Trump administration.
Reposted with permission from Indivisible Austin
By Mark Kinzler kinzlerimmigration.com and Shaun Glaze, M.S
Image courtesy Flickr user jvoves https://www.flickr.com/photos/jvoves/138556236
Why the “Sanctuary Cities” bill must be opposed and how to do it effectively
Texas Senate Bill No. 4, or “a bill relating to the enforcement by certain governmental entities of state and federal laws governing immigration and to the duties of law enforcement agencies concerning certain arrested persons” was introduced by Texas state senator Charles Perry (R-Lubbock) and seeks to require law enforcement agencies (LEAs) in Texas to assist and participate in the investigation and determination of the legal status of immigrants who come into their custody. Generally, the job of arresting, detaining, and deporting immigrants is carried out by a branch of the Department of Homeland Security called U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (commonly referred to as “ICE”). SB4, was born from the current storm of anti-immigrant sentiment, with great support from Governor Abbott and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, who are commonly known to make factually questionable and often clearly disingenuous statements about immigration problems in Texas. SB4 is misguided for several reasons:
- Public Safety – Cooperation agreements between ICE and law enforcement agencies have existed for many years. Nevertheless, the agreements are not mandatory, and different law enforcement agencies have been able to choose their level of involvement with ICE officials. Many LEAs throughout the U.S. have chosen to have minimal cooperation with ICE. Though there are several reasons often cited by the LEAs for the choice to provide minimal cooperation, one very common reason is the fact that the LEA’s cooperation with ICE actually damages the ability of the LEA to properly investigate and prosecute crime. In areas with high populations of immigrants, trust between the immigrant community and the LEA is crucial to the ability of the LEA’s fundamental task of protecting and serving the community as a whole. If the immigrant community is aware that the LEA readily cooperates with ICE, or is legally required to assist ICE in its efforts to apprehend deportable persons (a la SB4), members of that community will be fearful of cooperating with the LEA. When members of the community fear having contact with the police, the policy impedes the LEA’s ability to solve local crimes because the effectiveness of that job relies on information from witnesses and statements from victims and other members of the community.
- Resources and training of the law enforcement agencies – Local police agencies have an extremely difficult job as it is, and they are often underfunded. Many LEAs do not support cooperation with ICE because it adds another level of investigatory requirement to their already strained workloads and budgets. In order for local officers to properly and lawfully act in a role as an immigration enforcer, the officers would need extensive training in federal and immigration law and would have to increase work hours to comply with the new requirements.
- Federal preemption – Under a constitutional principle called federal preemption, state and local authorities are generally not allowed to enforce federal law, particularly when an enforcement procedure is already in place. This is a long-standing principle that has been addressed by several federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court. The policy is also reasonable on a practical level because federal authorities are usually in the best position to enforce federal law. Specialization and extensive training is often required to carry out this enforcement due to the complicated nature of the laws being enforced. Also, federal preemption precludes states from enacting their own laws related to federal matters so that overlapping jurisdictions do not end up with conflicting laws on the same matter. Generally, if that happens, the federal law will supersede the state law and the state law will be invalid.