Every odd-numbered year our elected officials, also known as “Legislators,” make the journey to Austin, Texas to argue and debate bills and enact law, all of which has a great deal of influence on whether or not they will be re-elected during the next election.
Things to know about our state government:
- There are 150 representatives in the Texas House
- There are 31 senators in the Texas Senate
- The legislative session lasts for 140 days, starting January 6
- There is a low passage rate for bills filed to become law:
- In 2011, over 8,000 bills were filed and only 20 percent of those actually became law.
Much of what we see and hear about from a national, state and local level is how best to spend taxpayer money. If money was not the issue, I am sure there would be some other pressing issue – gun control, welfare reform, smart meter opt-out, etc.
This might be old news for some, and mindless matter for others, but as a citizen of this great state, it is important that we understand the roles we play in defending the very things that keep us functioning as a state. Many of us have driven down a highway or two and said to ourselves, “When in the world are they going to repair these roads?” or “They couldn’t pay me to drink the water.” If you have ever felt this way here in Texas, no matter the city or town, the best thing you can do is share that thought with your elected official, preferably before the legislative session begins. If you are not sure who your state representative or senator is, check out the following sites:
Once you have identified your representative and senator, I would encourage you to sign up for their newsletters so you can receive updates on what’s happening in Austin during the legislative session and the year. For those of you who are die-hard Republicans or Democrats, it’s okay to sign up for the newsletters of those you might be at odds with. I actually encourage this so you are able to fact check and get a well rounded understanding of sensitive legislation. You will also get to know more about your legislators on a personal note, rather than solely through the lens of the news media.
If you have the opportunity to take a road trip to Austin during a legislative session, it will be worth the trip. I suggest traveling with a group of friends or family members. The tour of the capital is free and educational. It’s a history buff’s paradise.
During your visit, you are allowed to pay personal visits to your elected officials. You might even be lucky enough to catch them in their office or on capitol grounds. One of the most opportune places to run into an elected official is in the capital’s cafeteria – they must eat at some point during the day! Don’t be disappointed if you are not able to meet your elected official during the session. Remember, they are very busy during these 140 days, especially during the months of April and May, when things start to pick up.
So, if you are looking for a place to take the kids or out-of-town guests, head for the hills of Austin, Texas this session. It will be worth the trip!