For those who don’t follow the “other” March Madness - the Texas Legislature - I thought I’d give you a primer and an update on some of the things happening in Austin. For those who REALLY don’t follow politics or forgot what they learned in government and civics classes, this is the season when state senators and representatives go to Austin to file and vote on bills on behalf of their constituents. It’s also the time when we voters can be vocal about how we want those bills to go.
Right now, we’re in the 88th Legislative Session. The sessions are held in odd-numbered years, a time during which both small and large businesses, local government and the politically inclined who follow the Lege: (a) hold their breath, (b) pray, (c) swear or (d) all of the above. The Greatest Show in Texas begins on the second Tuesday in January, which was Jan. 10. It lasts 140 days and will end May 29.
March 10 was the harried deadline for filing bills, hence March Madness. Bills that pass become law Sept. 1 and those proposed as amendments to the Texas Constitution will be voted on by you and me this coming November.
Some overachieving reps and senators began filing bills November 2022 and a whopping 9,632 bills were filed this legislative session! Some are fun bills like recognizing Texas Birthday Bash Day, but the overwhelming majority affect every citizen’s pocketbook in some way or another. Not all bills get voted on. Thankfully, many die in committee – or they don’t make it out of the starting gate. This is the fifth legislative session in which I’ve attempted to track bills that matter to me. If you have a life, it can be time consuming but it’s also very interesting and enlightening.
Anyone interested in following the progress of specific bills or topics should go to Texas Legislature Online at https://capitol.texas.gov/BillLookup/BillNumber.aspx, then to MY TLO and set up a personalized bill list. You’ll receive alerts when anything happens related to that bill. I find the Witness List the most interesting! I’ve been surprised on a couple of occasions to see who or what business or organization testified for or against a particular bill.
If there is a topic you’re concerned about and you don’t have a clue what the bill number is, you can look it up by subject. Be prepared to be surprised there, too. On a whim, I typed in ‘cottage food’ for a family member pondering selling homemade goods and found 11 bills had been filed! On my favorite subject, masks, 16 bills were filed this session.
On a more serious note, there are some heavy-duty bills being debated this very minute which can have a profound effect on people’s finances and quality of life. For instance, usurping local control from our cities and counties, gender modification issues, school vouchers, capital punishment for the mentally impaired, posting of government notices and banks monitoring lawful gun sales, to name a few.
I can’t possibly keep up with all of them but have emailed my opinion about some to my senator and rep. That communication is logged and serves several purposes. First, it tells them if I want them to support a specific bill or not and it also lets them know I’m paying attention to how they’re representing me.
For those who say, ‘My opinion doesn’t count,’ you’re absolutely right! It won’t if you decide not to give it. But here’s a point to ponder for those who have no interest in speaking up about what’s at play in Austin, the beauty of America is that we CAN – that is, until we can’t.
The column represents the thoughts and opinions of Connie Clements. Opinion columns are NOT the opinion of the Navasota Examiner.
Clements is a freelance reporter for the Navasota Examiner and an award-winning columnist.