On the G side, we took a step back in time and revisited the life cycle of a bill becoming a law. Now we discuss ways to research your elected officials, track bills and ultimately influence real change in your community and your life.
Who represents you?
Step number one to becoming involved – find out who represents you. The Texas Legislature Online (TLO) has a simple program where all you have to do is input your mailing address. http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/ From there, you’ll be able to see a listing of all who represent you – not just at the state level, but also in Congress. The site also provides contact information for each State house and Senate member.
John Cornyn & Kay Bailey Hutchison
Michael McCaul, Lloyd Doggett, Lamar Smith
Travis County Senators And Representatives
Texas State Senators
Jeff Wentworth, Kirk Watson
Texas State Representatives
Dawnna Dukes, Eddie Rodriguez, Valinda Bolton, Donna Howard, Elliott Naishtat, Mark Strama
How to Track a Bill
The Texas Legislature makes it very easy to become and remain engaged. Once you’re on the Texas Legislature website http://www.legis.state.tx.us/, click on the “My TLO” tab and become registered with the email address and password of your choosing. From there, you will be able to search for bills, select the bills that you wish to follow, and even customize different notification options allowing you to know when your bill of interest is up in committee or hits another major step in the legislative process. Keep an eye on this website in January and find a bill to track. It is better to get used to this informative website before you actually need to use it to track a bill that’s critical to you.
How To Get Involved
This can be an overwhelming process–putting yourself out there in the public eye is never easy–but remember that the legislative process is your process. You elected the members of the Legislature and they want to hear what you think. So, call them, write to them, visit their offices, watch them in committee and on the floor. Keep in mind, these are busy folks who work a jam-packed 140 days and hear a lot, and I mean a lot, of ideas. Think strategically about the point you want to make and keep your comments short and to the point. Back up your points with facts. Legislators love facts. And always bring a solution, even if it’s not fully vetted or needs some adjustments. Giving a reasonable solution gets them halfway to implementing the change. Also, keep in mind that staffers are often the key to their boss. Don’t be offended if that’s who you meet with or who ends up talking with you about a particular issue: that’s why they’re there and their boss relies on them heavily.
“Having face-to-face conversations with legislators or members of their staff is absolutely the most effective way to help change public policy for the better. Why? Because you cease being a piece of polling data and become a flesh- and-blood person who is directly impacted by some pending piece of legislation,” said Chuck Smith, deputy director of equality Texas. “And, because you have taken the time to make a personal visit, a lawmaker knows you will vote!”
“One of the most surprising things we hear from legislators is the claim that they ‘don’t have any gay people in their district.’ with elected leaders seriously believing that, it’s our job to put a face and a story on our issues. at HRC we have a team of professional lobbyists who work in Congress every day to make the voices of LGBT people heard,” said Michael Cole, human rights Campaign press secretary. “Our field staff works to connect LGBT Americans directly to their representatives through emails, phone calls and in-person meetings. Americans are more likely to support equality if they know someone who’s LGBT. The same is true for lawmakers, which makes lobbying–both professional and grassroots– so powerful.”
If you don’t have time to do it all yourself, find a lobbying organization that most closely represents your values and objectives and let them do the work for you.
LGBT Lobbying Groups
Equality Texas– www.equalitytexas.org
Human Rights Campaign– www.hrc.org
Story by Lynn Yeldell
Photos by Lynn Yeldell
L Style G Style – Storyteller of the Austin LBGT Community.