The Texas legislature is required by the Constitution to meet up to 140 days in odd numbered years. This year the first day was January 12. The Senate met for two days and the House for three days the first week, and both have worked two days this last week in January. It’s normal for things to start slowly as committees are selected by the leadership and get organized, but the pandemic is slowing things down significantly.
Another delay is redistricting. Since the Census Bureau has announced that the final numbers won’t be ready this spring, redistricting will have to be passed during a summer special session. (Our state senator, Dawn Buckingham, is on the committee). That means that the main work of this session will be the budget, as usual, and the pandemic probably, along with police brutality and funding and election rules and procedures. Bills can be filed until March 21, and over 1300 have been submitted so far.
Anyone can keep track of this overwhelming body of information on TLO, Texas Legislature Online (https://capitol.texas.gov/Home.aspx). You can even register to set up a list, and they’ll notify you as that bill moves through each step of the system. The League of Women Voters, Texas Impact, Alliance for a Clean Texas, and Progress Texas all provide user-friendly summaries of filed legislation. I find LWV the most thorough, but it’s done by volunteers so stronger on some topics than others. Progress Texas is easy and fun to read.
Once the organizing is complete, we’ll know whom to contact about what. The committees are the first big hurdle every bill has to jump. But meantime we have an idea for those who want to DO something now! A volunteer working in parallel with The Children’s Defense Fund and other non-partisan organizations believe that Medicaid Expansion has its best chance so far in this legislature. Bills to do this have already been filed. But with minorities in both houses Democrats will have to have LOTS of Republicans buy in. The hope is that budget pressure will make the option of federal money more appealing.
Ross Pumfrey, the volunteer, has contacted us about a letter writing campaign to our state senator, Dawn Buckingham, and our representatives, Andrew Murr (Kerr and Bandera) and Kyle Biedermann (Gillespie). If you would like to write a letter or make a call, just let me (Mary Ellen Summerlin, Legislative Chair this year) know at email@example.com. I’ll send you the detailed information on options and talking points from Ross, you choose what to do, and ideally you let me know if you made a contact. I report only total number of contacts to Ross, none of your personal information (so you don’t have to end up on another list and receive constant emails!
Mary Ellen Summerlin