Friday, February 8, 2019

Informing and Persuading

Back in early January I wrote a how-to piece for citizen lobbying. This was what I’d been thinking about, because I’d done a presentation on the topic at our first-of-the-year local Cypress Texas Tea Party meeting.

Every two years, during the legislative session, we get together and visit the local offices of our state representatives and senators.
Rep. Tom Oliverson (left), me (right),
and most of the rest of our team today

Today was our first visit of this session. We had a good turnout--enough that we had trouble squeezing into the office. We visited Representative Tom Oliverson, or Texas House District 130. Fortunately, he happened to be back in town from Austin, and available to meet with us in person. Usually we meet with a district director or other staff.

Rep. Oliverson mentioned that the definition of lobbying is informing and persuading—which I thought was a good description of what we try to do as citizen (unpaid) lobbyists.

He’s one of the good guys, so it’s more about informing than persuading. And he’s so good that on most issues he was already aware. So it was just about giving him further information to back up our positions.

I’ve been busy since that January presentation building our bill list—the list of actual bills we’re either supporting or opposing, so we can keep track of them. There are about 40 on the list so far. And last night, after I printed the list to hand out today, I found several that had been recommended to me that I’d missed, and one that was just filed yesterday and hadn’t known about until late at night.

The general categories aren’t really different from last session, but the specifics change. At our state convention, we came up with five legislative priorities, so we covered all of those, plus additional issues, many of which are mentioned in the party platform.

If you’re in Texas, you might be interested in the bill numbers; you can look them up to follow them at the Texas Legislature Online website. Anyway, here are several we’re looking at. Note: SB = senate bill; HB = house bill; R = resolution; JR = joint resolution; CR = continuing resolution; companion = the same bill filed in both house and senate at the same time:

·         Hardening the electric grid: SB 76, HB 400 (companion bills)
·         Lobbying reform: HB 498, SB 490 (similar companion bills)—no lobbying by former legislators; HB 281—no public (taxpayer) money spent for lobbying
·         Constitutional carry: HB 357—open carry by person not otherwise prohibited
·         No unfunded mandates: HJR 30, SJR 10 (companion bills)
·         Property tax reform SB2, HB 2 (companion bills)
·         “Free to Believe Act” protecting freedom of conscience from government discrimination: HB 1035
·         Public prayers and religious displays: HCR 17; HB 307; SB 227
·         Conscience protection: SB 85 (and more to come)
·         SOGI laws we’re AGAINST (sexual orientation and gender issues): HB 244, SB 151, HB 254; HB 850; HB 188; HB 517, HB 1190; SB 154
·         Schools distributing contraceptives--AGAINST: HB 513
·         Dual-credit expansion (more junior college/school district courses offered jointly): SB 251
·         UIL participation for private/homeschoolers: no bill yet
·         Data on college costs and outcomes: HB 277
·         Amend constitution to define life at conception: SJR 3
·         Defund all abortion providers: SB 389
·         Abolish abortion: HB 1500
·         Verification of citizenship for voting: HB 378, SB 482 (companion bills)
·         Closed primary: HB 377
There are several more issues we’re interested in that either don’t have bills yet, or I haven’t become aware of them yet. It’s a work in progress, and I often feel a bit like a student behind in her studies. But with the help of others, I think we’re doing some good informing and persuading. And that feels a lot more empowering than feeling frustration or outrage but taking no positive action. Those of us who seriously take on the responsibility of citizenship are doing what we can.

I don’t show myself here very often, but the Tea Party posts videos of our speakers now, and that included me. I’m not happy in front of a camera, but I think I’m not embarrassed by the presentation and discussion, which is about how to be a citizen lobbyist, from January 5th.

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