4 ways to make your voice heard during the 2021 Texas legislative session
Editor’s Note: This piece will be updated as details come out about the process for testifying during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 2021 Texas legislative session begins today, and it’s shaping up to be one of the most historic and consequential sessions in decades.
From legislative redistricting, to COVID-19 relief, to racial justice, the decisions made at the Texas Capitol this year will have effects on Texans for the next decade. But while our legislature is still controlled by the Republican Party, that doesn’t mean progressives can’t make a difference.
Not many Texans follow the #txlege, which means that making your voice heard can have a big impact. Not sure how to do that? Here are a few ways that progressives can share their thoughts and opinions during the upcoming legislative session.
1. Keep up with legislation and share with your family and friends
One of the most difficult parts of the legislative process is keeping up with the sheer amount of bills that are filed and considered each year. Some are much more consequential than others, and most are written in legalese that can be difficult to understand. But don’t let that intimidate you!
To make it easier, we’ve compiled a list of the good, bad, and downright ugly bills that have been filed by legislators so far. We’re going to be updating this list throughout the session, so bookmark the page to keep up with the bills that will undoubtedly affect you and your community.
If there’s a specific bill you’re interested in tracking yourself, you can use the Texas Legislature Online system to follow a bill through the legislative process.
If there’s a bill or issue you care about, make sure to tell your friends and family about it too. Most Texans know next to nothing about the Texas legislature, so the more awareness we create, the more people we can get to participate in the legislative process.
2. Call and email your representatives
Once you’ve found a bill (or several) that you’re passionate about, the easiest way to share your opinions with your representatives is the most obvious one — call or email them!
It’s a common misconception that sharing your opinion with your representative means that you’ll get ignored. Legislative offices keep close track of who is contacting them and what issues they support and oppose. After all, legislators represent their constituents, and they want to vote in ways that their constituents support.
If you’re not sure who your representatives are, use the Who Represents Me page to find out. You can call their number listed on their member page or fill out their email form, which goes directly to an inbox that will be read by a member of a legislator’s staff. Your email doesn’t have to be formal or in-depth (although it can be) — all you have to do is tell your legislator that you support or oppose a bill or issue. Many different organizations write form emails that you can simply copy and paste as well.
3. Testify on a specific bill
While the specifics haven’t been worked out yet, you will still have the opportunity to testify on specific bills, whether virtually or in person. During committee hearings for a bill, members of the public have the chance to speak to the committee and share their perspectives and opinions. This is a great way to speak directly to legislators on the impact that a bill can have on you and your community. Legislators then take this feedback into account when deciding whether or not to pass the bill in committee.
If you’re looking for a more specific guide on how to prepare your testimony, our friends over at Equality Texas have a great guide to help you out.
Some committees, such as the Senate Redistricting Committee, have opted to take testimony virtually. But others may decide to take testimony in-person, virtually, or both. We’ll know more once the legislature meets to decide the rules for the Senate and the House, and we’ll be sure to keep you updated throughout the process.
If you do visit the Capitol this year, the most important thing is staying safe. While the Republican-controlled legislature has made masks and COVID testing optional throughout most of the Capitol, we strongly recommend that you take every precaution before visiting in person. Legislative offices have the freedom to require visitors take precautions as well, so make sure to be prepared.
Unfortunately, the Texas legislature will only be taking testimony in-person this year, which means that you will most likely have to visit the Capitol if you want to testify on a bill.
In the Texas House, you can participate virtually if you are invited by a committee chair. While the committee chairs have not been assigned yet, you can reach out to your representative to learn more about this option. The Texas House will also accept electronic written comments for the first time this year.
In the Texas Senate, testimony will be held entirely in-person, except for the regional redistricting hearings.
4. Support advocacy organizations fighting for issues you care about
Advocacy organizations have an incredibly important role during the legislative session. They meet with legislators, help organize testimony and campaigns, and educate the public on important bills and updates at the Capitol.
There are advocacy organizations in Texas for nearly every issue you may care about, including abortion rights, LGBTQIA+ equality, voting rights, racial justice, environmental issues, and more. Many of these progressive organizations are crucial in making sure good legislation is passed and bad legislation is voted down.
Progress Texas has compiled a list of organizations working to make Texas a better place, many of which will be fighting for Texans during the upcoming session. Find an organization that you care about and find out how you can get involved with them..
Lastly, be sure to keep up with Progress Texas by following us on Twitter, giving us a like on our Facebook page, or subscribing to our email list. We also accept donations to help fund our work at progresstexas.org/donate. We’ll be keeping track of all the important bills and issues being debated so that you don’t have to.
Together, we can make sure progressive voices are heard during the upcoming session.