The Texas Legislature gaveled in just a few short weeks ago. And, while lawmakers typically wait until the waning weeks of the session to get anything done, we're answering some of your questions about what goes on under the granite dome for our TXDecides project.
Today's question comes from Molly Vladyka:
I know lawmakers are voted in by us, the voters, but is there any REAL way to influence their decision and make my voice heard?
Ben Philpott: We are in a red state, a state where the Republicans control every statewide-elected office. They control the House; they control the Senate. If you are interested in the different bills that the Republican-controlled Legislature is passing and has made a priority, there is an assumption that your voice is heard more than the others. Your voice is heard more than the opposition. You can call up your state rep and say, "Yes, I want, you know -- just ticking off the list of priorities for this session -- I want school vouchers. I want, you know, a ban on sanctuary cities." You can make your voice heard much more easily than the opposition.
But I think that as we've seen on the national level with all the protests that have been happening after President Trump was sworn into office, you know, you have seen members of the Congress and the Senate now start to walk back on some things that they always talked about doing once Republicans were in total control -- House, Senate and the presidency. Things like the repeal of Obamacare. Obamacare was supposed to be gone Day 1 of any Republican president any of the people running for office this time. And they were going to get rid of it Day 1. There have been protests. There have been calls to offices. We had a report on just recently on KUT where people could not get a message to Sen. John Cornyn or Sen. Ted Cruz, that the mailbox was just always full or the phone was busy. They just couldn't even get through.
So people are reaching out to those federal level offices and now we are seeing that the House and the Congress are saying, "Well, you know, maybe we'll be very slow on getting rid of Obamacare," or "Maybe we'll keep some of Obamacare and change some of Obamacare." Here at the local level we maybe haven't seen as much of that yet, but if you do not call, if you do not send an email, then there is no way that the legislators will hear your point of view and will have any reason to do anything different.
Jennifer Stayton: You know, I can think back to instances, thinking back a couple of sessions ago, when there were late-night debates toward the end of the session about what came to be further restrictions on abortion in the state of Texas or thinking back to the debate over campus carry when there were very vociferous protests against both of those things. But, of course, they both still went into law.
BP: And that is absolutely what people point to and say, "Well, no, if I'm the opposition, I am the loyal opposition that will not be heard." But again, that's looking at just a protest at a single place in Austin, which of course is considered different than the rest of the state. But if you are making those phone calls, if you're emailing your individual lawmaker, that has a much larger effect, I think, on them especially if you call from their area code in their district. They will be much more attentive to you than if you're a protester in Austin going around to other offices of lawmakers that aren't your own.