Community Engagement in the Legislative Process
On February 21, KTB is visiting the State Capitol for Keep Texas Beautiful Day. We'll be visiting our elected officials to educate the new legislature on the value of KTB programs and the positive impact that our affiliates have in their local communities. Follow along online and @KeepTXBeautiful on social media to learn about affiliate coordinators, board members and volunteers who will be joining us as we meet with district officials and staff throughout the day.
In honor of the 86th Legislative Session and the growing numbers of questions we've received from our affiliates, we're sharing this helpful blog written by an industry professional working on legislation as we speak. We've also created a Texas Legislative Resources page with a growing number of resources to get involved in your local government.
Tip: Know your representation!
This is a great time to get engaged with your district representation. Research your members, what committees they serve on, whether or not they are a chair or vice-chair. There are a few websites (listed below) that will help you find information about your district by address, including what bills your representative and senator are authoring or sponsoring. How would their legislation impact you, good or bad? Let them know!
If you are in municipal or county government, get to know your governmental relations team. They can be an important resource. Tell your story. Ask what community or district priorities they are monitoring and relate them to your issues. Make your issue their issue but do your homework! Gather data, dates, pictures, what helps to highlight your needs that they can use to further the argument for legislative remedy.
Tip: Show up!
For those of you that have ever visited the Dome here in Austin probably heard the phrase "Welcome to your state capitol!" – and it's true. The doors are always open (24/7/365) and you are always welcome. Often (many) times more than me – your friendly neighborhood registered lobbyist. Show up in person to the Austin or district office, events, take a picture, don't be shy! Running for office is hard. They need you. They don't take your vote for granted – you shouldn't either. Make 'em work for it. Get to know staff and make sure they know your issues and expertise. The aforementioned homework applies here too.
Tip: Education is not advocacy is not lobbying!
You are a resource for your delegation. You live, work and vote in their district – what are your experiences? Educating i.e., expanding/advancing one's knowledge on a topic is different than advocating a position or opinion on that topic and much different than lobbying for a specific vote on a specific piece of legislation related to said topic. For those that felt a little shiver at that last line, caution is the better side of valor, or so I've been told, but you are a voter after all. Although and alas, you may not be. Even with the surge in participation during the 2018 mid-term elections, we mustered to the polls 46% of voter-eligible Texans – beating out only 10 other no-show states. I digress; do be careful to not cross the line into advocacy and/or lobbying depending on your community policies.
Tip: Be patient!
Understand there are often forces at play outside your or your delegations control. Patience is a key to politics. It's hard to pass legislation – supposed to be! So (one more time) do your homework! Know the arguments for and against, build and maintain a list of stakeholders, gather data, keep at it.
Texas Legislature Online: capitol.texas.gov
Texas Ethics Commission: ethics.state.tx.us/dfs/loblistsREG.htm
Texas Tribune Elected Officials Directory: texastribune.org/directory/
Texas Municipal League Legislative Update: tml.org/legis_updates
Texas Legislative Resources: ktb.org/legislature
Blog Post Written By Maia Corbitt. Corbitt is a consultant and registered lobbyist with Booth, Ahrens & Werkenthin, P. C.