Archived Point of Order Messages from Luis Figueroa

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What Happened These Last 140 Days? A Tale of Two Sessions | May 30, 2019

What’s going to be the legacy of the 2019 Texas Legislative Session? One story will be the significant overhaul of public school financing (House Bill 3). HB 3 is a recognition by both parties that money matters in education, and it was time for the state to increase and pay its fair share, as demonstrated by an $11 billion price tag for the bill. Long term, the pressure on particular school districts will grow. This will create some inequities and be difficult to sustain without new revenue sources, but that is a story for another session.

The second story of the session will be the Legislature’s complete inaction to address uninsured Texans, even though Texas has the highest uninsured rate and numbers in the country. House bills providing extended health care coverage for new mothers and to stop eligible kids from being cut off coverage were killed in the Senate, and nothing else moved very far. We deeply appreciate Chairman Garnet Coleman and others who stepped up for health care this session. Without legislative success, however, expect health care coverage to come up again in the 2020 elections, just like school finance reform and teacher compensation came up in 2018.

This session our seasoned and rising star policy advocates researched the facts and encouraged lawmakers to use the facts when making policies that impact every single Texan.  From school finance to surprise medical billing and more, our staff was pounding the marble inside the Capitol and speaking across the state with other advocates, experts, and Texans impacted by policy gaps.

Thank you to our partners and to the lawmakers and their staff who work to ensure more Texans from all backgrounds can thrive.

Check out our three top 5s from the 2019 Session.

The Last War Week | May 21, 2019

Like Game of Thrones, we have reached the season finale for the legislative session. There are six days left, and today is the last day for the House to pass Senate bills on the House floor. May 23 will be the last day for the House to act on Senate changes to House bills, which only leaves a few days left to act on conference committee reports.

We’re watching for these moves in the final week:

  1. Amendments: With many bills dying, lawmakers will try to attach both good and bad bills to legislation that is still alive and moving.
  2. Points of Order: A well-timed point of order (technical objection) could send a bill back to committee and effectively kills it.
  3. Conference Committee Reports: Both the good school finance bill (HB 3) and the dangerous revenue cap bill (SB 2) are in conference as lawmakers work out differences. Conference committee reports are where the details matter. Conference committee members routinely rewrite bills and may sneak in bad amendments at the last second.
  4. Chubbing and Filibustering: With so many critical deadlines approaching, it’s not uncommon for members on the House side to offer a plethora of amendments to slow the clock down (“chubbing”). Senators are always at liberty to filibuster a bill on the last day.

As the hours tick away, CPPP will be advocating for policies that help every Texan reach their full potential.

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It’s the fourth quarter, and anything could happen | May 14, 2019

With less than two weeks left in the legislative session, there’s some big news on the good school finance remodel bill (House Bill 3). Conference committee members working out differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill announced they may change anything they want about the bill (known as going “outside the bounds”). This unusual move means that the new, negotiated school finance bill could look significantly different than the education funding bills passed by either chamber.

Meanwhile, lawmakers could be wrapping up negotiations on the 2020-2021 state budget this week, including how much is allocated for the school finance bill. Both versions of HB 3 currently cost more than the $9 billion in new state aid lawmakers have proposed.

This means anything is possible in the last stages of this session, and the choices of lawmakers in the HB 3 conference committee this week could make all the difference in the world. It is certainly possible for us to have a better funded, equitable school finance system that invests in pre-k, teachers, and students. There is, unfortunately, a real threat where we end up with a school finance bill that dramatically undermines equity, and we need to keep the pressure on the HB 3 conferees to put forward a bill that moves Texas forward for every child regardless where they live. Texans should all keep telling the HB 3 conferees to get more funding into public school classrooms, increase equity and prevent overreliance on high stakes standardized tests.

CPPP has helped lead the conversation on school finance. Follow us for updates and analysis through the end of the session (sine die).  

Time to Focus | May 7, 2019

The two major reforms of this legislative session are headed to conference committees, and their fates are tied together. Last week the House passed SB 2, the controversial bill that would limit the ability of cities and counties to provide vital public services. We expect the bill to head to a conference committee to reconcile differences with the Senate. Before passing SB 2, House members added language tying its passage to school finance reform (HB 3). 

Tying the hands of local elected officials makes it harder for communities to respond to the unique situations each town, city and county faces in our state. CPPP will continue to push for changes in the conference report for SB 2 that mitigate the damage to local services such as firefighting, parks, libraries and police.

Meanwhile the Senate passed HB 3 yesterday, and it will now head to a conference committee. We applaud the Senate for passing school finance reform, but there are still some major shortcomings in the bill that we hope lawmakers can fix before final passage.

It will take some serious work to merge the House and Senate bills, but there are good and bad ideas in both versions. CPPP will continue to be a resource for members that want to make the best policy for Texas kids to make sure we get this done! 

The home stretch | April 30, 2019

The month of May begins tomorrow, and May 6th is the first major deadline of the legislative session. It is the last day a House Committee can pass a House bill. Technically that means many House bills will die that day, but don’t lose hope or relax yet. Many bills may reemerge as amendments on other bills that are moving in the House and Senate. May is full of deadlines, including the last day for House bills to be voted off the floor on May 10th.

CPPP will focus on three major objectives in this last month of the session:

We’ll need your help in this last month more than ever. If you’ve been hesitant to make a call or email to your Senator or Representative, the time is now. After the final deadline on May 27, there won’t be another opportunity for a year and half unless… Well, we can talk about special sessions another time.

New beginnings | April 23, 2019

As communities of faith across Texas celebrated Easter and Passover over the weekend, we take a moment to reflect on new beginnings. I know this can be difficult in the middle of the legislative session.

To be sure, there will be some upcoming conflicts related to local taxes (SB 2/HB 2), state revenue (HJR 3), and school finance (HB 3). But there have also already been some moments of shared agreement to address serious issues facing Texans. These are moments where legislators have come together for the sake of Texans by addressing surprise medical billing (SB 1264, HB 2967 & HB 3933), student loan reform (HB 218), and GED college readiness standards (HB 1891). 

The real test for new beginnings will come this Thursday, when the Senate Education Committee is expected to consider the critically important school finance bill (HB 3). Can the legislature significantly remodel the school finance system, raise the revenue of all or nearly all school districts, and provide teachers and staff the pay raises they deserve, all while maintaining equity? If so it would mark the first time this has happened without a court order in modern Texas history. This landmark legislation could be transformational for students across Texas and could provide a new beginning for education policy in Texas.

CPPP has played a leading role in studying and advocating for a remodeled school finance system, and we will continue to push on behalf of students and teachers.

As the Texas Senate Education Committee prepares for its first public hearing on school finance, CPPP has a few recommendations for lawmakers to keep in mind. Read the latest from Economic Opportunity Program Director Chandra Villanueva on how we can make sure all Texas students have access to a high-quality public education, across all backgrounds and ZIP codes.

The Make It or Break It Bill of the Session | April 16, 2019

There are certain bills that define a legislative session, the ones you remember years later. Sometimes the session-defining bills represent core civil rights threats like the “bathroom bill” and anti-immigrant Senate Bill 4 from 2017, or the Voter ID bills of 2009 and 2011. Other times, the make it or break it session bills fundamentally affect how we govern ourselves.

House Bill 2 and Senate Bill 2 this session represent the kind of fundamental fight that could affect the lives of every Texan for generations. The ability of Texas cities and counties to set their own tax rates based on the needs of the community and determined by locally elected officials is critical to how we govern in Texas. What’s right for Lubbock isn’t necessarily right for Dallas or San Marcos, and local leaders should be able to make decisions without the Legislature tying their hands.

But yesterday Senate leaders forced a vote on SB 2 over the objections of Senators from both parties. By threatening to change the Senate rules and use the so-called “nuclear option” to pass SB 2, Lieutenant Governor Patrick set a devastating precedent. A slim majority of Senators decided that local control doesn’t matter, that the deliberative body known as the Texas Senate is essentially broken, and that winning is more important than getting it right.

If lawmakers are looking for more revenue sources and ways to address rising property taxes, there are so many better options than SB 2 and HB 2 – expanding the use of homestead exemptions, using inflation indexes, or increasing the state share of public education funding. It’s worth fully exploring these ideas not just for the sake of cities and counties but for the sake of Texans who want to be able to choose the level of public services in their own community. The debate shifts to the Texas House later this month, and we will be working to make sure lawmakers have the information and public support they need to stop SB 2. 

The Good, Bad, and the Ugly | April 9, 2019

The Good: With about seven weeks to go until sine die, it’s time to take a look at what’s good, what’s bad, and what’s downright ugly. Last week, the Texas House passed House Bill 3 by Chairman Huberty nearly unanimously. It raises the base level of funding for public schools, provides funding for full day pre-kindergarten, and increases the state share of school funding. CPPP supports HB 3, and we hope the Senate will look at improving the equity provisions even further so every child gets a fair shot to succeed regardless of their ZIP code. Overall HB 3 is a major step in the right direction for remodeling our public school finance system.

Also, good legislation that would combat surprise medical billing has made significant progress. Most of the major groups involved have agreed to work out billing disputes that lead to surprise bills among themselves and take Texans out of the middle of the process. CPPP is encouraged by the recent developments and hopeful a new law will get to the finish line.

The Bad: The extreme Senate Bill 15 (by Sen. Creighton), which is currently stalled in the Senate, was divided into four bills (SB 2485-2488) and given a swift hearing in the Senate State Affairs Committee. Committee members voted out the four bills late on April 4th, and they could be on the Senate floor as soon as tomorrow, April 10th. These state interference bills prohibit local communities from passing laws that improve working conditions, such as earned paid sick time and non-discrimination ordinances. CPPP hopes the Senate will honor the will of the people and block these “clone bills” of the extreme SB 15. Local governments should be able to improve health, safety and working conditions in their communities where the state has failed to act.

The Ugly: House Bill 2 by Chairman Burrows is expected to come to the House floor this Thursday. The House rejected similar short-sighted proposals last session. The House Committee Substitute made few improvements to the bill, and CPPP still opposes itHere’s why the mayors of 10 cities in the Dallas Metroplex oppose HB 2.  

It’s Coming Fast and Furious | April 2, 2019

It’s the time of the session where it gets hard to keep up. CPPP experts are testifying on more than 10 bills this week. Committees are hearing a large number of bills before deadlines arrive. Officially, a bill is not dead until it fails to make it through the process before official deadlines in early and mid-May. Unofficially, if a bill has not had a committee hearing by mid-April, then the chances of it passing are very slim, especially if it’s not an emergency item or priority item of the Lt. Governor or Speaker.

At the same time, lawmakers on the House and Senate floors are hearing more bills and having longer days debating higher profile bills. Among the most high profile is House Bill 3 by Rep. Huberty, the session’s major school finance reform bill. House members will discuss HB 3 tomorrow (April 3).

At CPPP, we are keeping the pressure on.

CPPP supports HB 3 and will watch carefully to see how lawmakers address equity in our school funding system to ensure all Texas kids have access to a high-quality education. Among other good amendments, CPPP supports two amendments one by Rep. Diego Bernal and one by Rep. Krause that would ensure that funding intended for English Language Learners and economically disadvantaged students is actually used for these students. We also support an amendment by Rep. Goodwin that increases the base funding amount to address inflation costs. We oppose an amendment by Rep. Burrows that would prevent the passage of school finance reforms until harmful local revenue caps are enacted. 

One major concern is an amendment by the author, Rep. Huberty, to replace property taxes with other state funds. CPPP supports stable sources of funding that do not place additional tax burdens on the least able to pay. We are concerned that this amendment would hurt the state’s ability to make future investments in education. Once HB 3 passes, CPPP will be working with members on long term solutions for funding our schools. 

Check out our take on the updated version of HB 3 before tomorrow’s debate, and make sure to follow @CPPP_TX and Economic Opportunity Program Director Chandra Villanueva (@ChandraKus) for #HB3 updates.

At this time of session, it’s essential to have a credible advocacy organization looking after the interest of Texas workers and families struggling to reach their full potential. CPPP cannot stop every bad bill or pass every good one, but we can provide the expertise, the data and the access to make the best possible case for each one in the midst of the session chaos. If you believe in fact-driven policy solutions for the best interest of all Texans, join us in the fight for the best Texas with your donation today. See you at the Capitol!

Budgeting for a healthy, well-educated Texas | March 26, 2019

It’s show time in the Texas House of Representatives. The only bill the Legislature is required to pass – the state budget – will be up for debate on March 27. Members will discuss and amend the 2020-2021 state budget proposal (House Bill 1), along with a supplemental spending plan to cover extra expenses for 2019 and 2020-2021 (Senate Bill 500). Lawmakers have filed more than 300 amendments to HB 1, and these amendments carry major implications for access to education, health care and other key programs that affect every Texan.

Ahead of tomorrow’s debate, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • The budget-writing House Appropriations Committee approved a 2020-2021 budget (House Bill 1) that would spend $251 billion in state and federal funds. This “All Funds” amount includes $2.3 billion from the Economic Stabilization Fund (usually called the Rainy Day Fund), much of it for one-time uses.
  • Representatives have filed over 300 amendments, including a good one by Rep. César Blanco to help reduce an undercount in the upcoming 2020 Census. This support is crucial to ensure representation at all levels of government, federal funding, accurate data, and business investment in Texas. Another amendment by Rep. John Bucy would wisely direct the state’s Health and Human Services Commission to accept Medicaid expansion funding.
  • We’re also grateful to Rep. Carl Sherman for filing an amendment to create a Kinship Navigator Program to provide information, referral, and follow-up services to grandparents and other relatives raising extended families’ children in order to link them to the benefits and services they need.
  • Amendments to the budget on the House floor are governed by the “put-take” rule, which means adding General Revenue or ESF funds in one part of the budget requires reducing appropriations from those somewhere else.

In the supplemental budget (SB 500), the House makes changes to the 2018-2019 budget, adding $7.2 billion in spending through August 31, 2019. SB 500 also proposes $2.1 billion for state services in 2020-2021, mainly for public education and teacher and state employee retirement. The 2019 spending includes funds needed because of damage and recovery costs from Hurricane Harvey, which struck after the 2017 legislative sessions had concluded. But SB 500 also contains $2.1 billion in General Revenue and $2.3 billion in federal funds needed to pay for the remainder of 2019’s Medicaid bills, which the 2017 Legislature chose to postpone for a 2019 supplemental bill.

Be sure to follow our Invest in Texas Program Director Eva DeLuna Castro (@DeLunaEva) for her unique brand of budget analysis, fact-checking and humor. Look for more analysis of the final House budget and how it compares to the Senate’s proposal in the weeks ahead, as the conference committee process begins. Most likely, the biggest difference will continue to be found in the two chambers’ proposals for state aid to school districts, charter schools, and the more than 5 million Texas school children they educate.

The final 2020-2021 budget compromise will affect every Texan since it provides for state-supported public higher education, health care, highways, public safety, environmental protection, and other services. Read more from CPPP’s Eva DeLuna Castro.

The state of equity | March 19, 2019

We are about halfway through the Texas legislative session, and at CPPP we are focused on whether proposed policies lead to more equity for struggling Texans. Equity is the quality of being fair and impartial. CPPP seeks to measurably improve equity in and access to health care, food security, education, and financial security across Texas.

The coming weeks will include important debates about equity in public school finance. Legal precedent in school finance litigation defines equity as the ability to raise similar amounts of revenue at a similar rate of taxation. Really it just means every Texan gets a fair shot to reach their full potential. Where do we see opportunities for equity this session?

Equity in school finance: 
CPPP testified last week in favor of House Bill 3 by Chairman Dan Huberty because, among other things, it adds $6 billion of new money to schools and instruction. Some school administrators described the bill as a positive game changer for their districts, but it does come with an asterisk. The legislation allows school districts with high property values to raise additional funding, and it does little for English Language Learner funding, which would make the system less equitable. This inequity would grow over time, especially if the Legislature does not increase funding amounts in future years. We appreciate that the new version of HB 3, which passed out of the House Public Education Committee today, makes some important adjustments to enhance equity. We like the scope and overall funding increases in House Bill 3 and hope the Legislature will rein in some of the inequities as we move forward.

Equity in taxes: 
Texas has one of the most unfair tax structures in the nation, where we ask those with the least to pay the most to support the public services – schools, health care, public safety, roads, parks – that we all need to thrive. In Texas, the wealthiest residents pay an average of 4.3 percent of their income in state and local taxes, compared to 16.7 percent for residents with the lowest incomes. The state’s overreliance on sales and property taxes make it very difficult to provide the necessary revenue for our state. This session has mainly focused on property taxes, but it’s the sales tax that is inequitable to most Texans.

CPPP is concerned about bills like HB 705 by Chairman Rep. Geren and HJR 3 because they would exacerbate the state’s unfair tax structure. CPPP will also testify against corporate tax giveaways allowed under Chapters 312 and 313 of the Texas Tax Code. These giveaways are set to expire, but lawmakers could extend them for another 10 years. We should phase out these giveaways or at least make them more transparent.

Equity in health care: 
In health care coverage, Texas remains one of the few states that has not accepted federal Medicaid expansion funding. Our state has left at least $6 billion per year of federal funds on the table, funds from taxes already paid by Texans. House Bill 565 by Chairman Colemanwould create a much more equitable health care landscape. CPPP also supports Senate Bill 1264 by Chairman Hancock and House Bill 4444 by Chairman Rep. Martinez Fischer, bills that would protect consumers from surprise medical billing. It is more fair and equitable for health care providers and insurance companies to work on reaching agreeable prices between them rather than sticking it to patients.

We’re here to highlight equity concerns this session, and we have much more work to do. CPPP is the leading the way on these important discussions and appreciates your support.

The state is set for school finance | March 12, 2019

Lawmakers filed 5,670 House bills and 2,869 Senate bills before last Friday’s deadline in the Texas Legislature. Let’s focus in on the session’s top priority, remodeling our public school finance system. There are now several comprehensive and significant proposals in the mix. Here are a few major ones:

  1. The Texas Public School Finance Commission’s proposal
    Current status = incorporated partially into HB 3 and SB 4
  2. The Texas House Democrats Proposal, “Texas Kids First
    Current status = a set of various bills awaiting hearings
  3. Senate Finance Committee Chairwoman Nelson’s teacher pay bill (SB 3)
    Current status = passed the full Senate
  4. Senator Seliger’s teacher pay bill (SB 995)
    Current status = awaiting a Senate hearing
  5. Sen. Rodriguez’ and Rep. Gonzalez’ bills to provide comprehensive school finance reform under the current formula structure (SB 136/HB 89)
    Current status = both bills are awaiting hearings
  6. House Public Education Chairman Huberty’s school finance bill (HB 3)
    Current status = under consideration today in the House Public Education Committee
  7. Senate Education Committee Chairman Taylor’s school finance bill (SB 4)
    Current status = awaiting a hearing in the Senate Education Committee

Together with our partners and allies, CPPP advocacy has kept public education at the forefront of the legislative agenda. It’s incredible that last session lawmakers were still debating voucher schemes and smaller-scale plans for school finance. We’re proud to be part of the push to remodel our school finance system so all kids can access a high-quality public education that prepares them to reach their full potential.

CPPP will continue to provide the in-depth expertise to create the best plan possible. We can invest more in our students and teachers in an equitable and sustainable way this legislative session, all while reducing the reliance on local property taxes.

In this marathon, the steep hill is approaching | March 5, 2019

This Friday, we will be 60 days into the 140-day Legislative session. I’ve never run a marathon, but I imagine by mile 7 or 8, my legs would burn and I’d be wondering how this race could only be just beginning. Marathon runners push through, find their rhythm and think past the steep hill that is staring them down.

Today’s excitement included House Bill 3, a big new school finance proposal introduced by House Public Education Committee Chairman Dan Huberty. Here is our statement on this new school finance plan.

As advocates, we are getting deeper into the Legislative session and facing our own steep hills. CPPP is here as the legislative support crew, helping you navigate the policy race course with data, analysis and policy solutions.

Last week CPPP testified six times, including against HB 2, a property tax bill that would hamstring local communities. This week we are focused on HB 320, which would hurt Texas families who rely on TANF benefits. Additionally, we are testifying against HB 1000 and HB 648.

Friday is a significant mile marker in the Legislative session for a few reasons:

  1. Bill filing deadline: Friday is the last day lawmakers can file new bills (except under some special circumstances). As a policy organization, we are always exploring and evaluating different ideas for how to make this the best state for hard-working Texans and their families. It will be good to see all the policy proposals on the table after Friday. If you still have an idea and need to find a last-minute bill author, try to do it as early as you can this week because staff and members are loath to file bills at the last minute.
  2. Non-priority bills move to the floor: After Friday, all bills are now eligible for discussion on the House and Senate floors. Until now, only emergency and priority items made it that far. This change means that floor debates will start taking much longer, as lawmakers discuss substantive bills; committee hearings will therefore be delayed and run later.
  3. Committee pressure: Your legs really may burn as you race around the Capitol to try to get a committee hearing for the bills that are important to you. While there is still time to pass legislation after Friday, the clock officially starts moving on bills. Committees typically only meet once per week to hear new bills. Some committee chairs will move quickly, and others will be judicious in passing legislation. The later in the Legislative session it gets, the harder it becomes to pass bills.

It’s all about the people | February 26, 2019

The legislative session now shifts from public hearings on the budget in the House and Senate to public hearings in standing committees.

This week CPPP staff will testify to support bills that raise the minimum wage and reduce the burdens of student loan debt. We will also oppose legislation that needlessly makes it harder to obtain food assistance benefits (SNAP), and we will continue our fight against revenue caps that inhibit cities from investing in libraries, parks, police officers, firefighters, and paramedics. You will see our advocacy supporting earned paid sick leave, protections against surprise medical bills, and accessing federal dollars to provide health insurance for more Texans.

At the end of day, it’s not just about the numbers. It’s the potential to improve the lives of Texans that fires us up.

Will they play by the rules? | February 19, 2019

CPPP believes that bipartisan consultation produces the best legislation. When lawmakers from one party ram through bills and violate or circumvent traditional rules, this usually results in prolonged litigation, a breakdown of trust, and poorly crafted policy.

House Speaker Bonnen set a positive tone at the beginning of the legislative session, suggesting that both parties would have voices this session. However, Capitol insiders have reported that the Senate may not uphold one of its traditions (known as the “blocker bill”) in order to push through the short-sighted property tax scheme, Senate Bill 2.

What is the blocker bill?

  1. It’s a real bill, and this year it is numbered Senate Bill 409.
  2. The purpose of the blocker bill is purely procedural.
  3. This Senate practice prevents the tyranny of the majority and ensures those who are outnumbered still get a voice. To pass something through the Senate requires 19 votes (3/5 of the Senators) instead of 16 (half).
  4. Circumventing the blocker bill to pass Senate Bill 2 with just a simple majority would be an attack on local government and the traditions of the Senate.

Speaking of taxes, here’s DL’s latest on who pays (and who doesn’t pay)  in Texas.

Get your bill moving! | February 12, 2019

It certainly feels like this legislative session has gotten off to a fast start. Committees are set. The Governor has laid out his priorities, and budget hearings are in full swing.

Here are a few tips on how to move or stop bills that affect priority issues:

  1. Getting it filed. You can’t move a bill that’s not filed. But don’t wait until the bill filing deadline (March 8th) to get a lawmaker to file your prize bill. Now is the time for your new champion to file that bill.
  2. Help your champion out. Also, be sure to anticipate any opposition, and have the responses ready for your bill author.
  3. Committee staff. The committee director vets all the bills referred to their committee and gets all the intel before making a recommendation to the committee chair on whether to hear a bill. Get your best available information to the committee staff, and be a resource for them.
  4. Don’t forget there are two chambers. Your best chance to pass a bill is to get a lawmaker to file bills in both chambers, giving you two bites at the apple.
  5. Stopping bad bills. The same rules apply for stopping a bill you oppose, just in reverse.

Let’s hear it for democracy! | February 5, 2019 

CPPP added a new category of legislative priorities this session, entitled “A Strong, Well-informed Democracy.” It’s only February, and there are already two major threats to democracy and one huge opportunity.

First, The Secretary of State released unsubstantiated lists of non-citizens on the voter rolls.

However, the list turned out to include the names of many naturalized citizens and weak matches on names.

The second threat came when lawmakers filed Senate Bill 2 and House Bill 2 last week. CPPP’s Dick Lavine will deliver a testimony about SB 2 and HB2’s direct threat to the authority of local counties, cities, and school districts to meet the needs of their residents.

However, there is a positive opportunity for legislators to strengthen democracy through the state budget. Texas has more revenue to invest this legislative session than in years past, and CPPP believes we should use a small amount of that funding to promote a full count during the 2020 Census.

Committees – they get the job done |January 29, 2019

The Lt. Governor and House Speaker announced Senate and House Committee assignments last week. The Senate did not change many chairmanships or committee memberships except for a few major exceptions and the creation of the Property Tax Committee. CPPP will monitor the Property Tax Committee closely and work to ensure that local communities continue to have the resources and local discretion required to provide the services their constituents need.

With Committee assignments set, here are a few tips as advocates visit legislative offices:
  1. The early bird gets the worm. Members are usually only in Austin while in session, which means there’s very limited time for meetings. Schedule those meetings while you still can and before floor sessions begin getting longer.  
  2. Staff can get the job done. Because of time constraints, you will more likely be talking to staff members instead. However, staff can provide valuable insight into the member’s thinking and legislative process, so use the opportunity to your advantage.
  3. Make your case but be sure to listen. Be sure to ask how the member feels about the issue if they have taken previous positions, and what concerns they have.
  4. Do you make an ask? Be sure to ask if the member will support your issue, file your bill, or follow-up with an answer. Staff are trained to not speak for the member unless authorized, so follow-up with an email and offer to be a resource for when the time comes to make a vote.
  5. Stay relevant and timely. Try to time your visits to coincide with the issues before the member, but don’t wait for the day of the hearing or the floor vote when a recommendation to the member has already likely been made.

Make sure they hear you | January 22, 2019

Texas Legislative committee assignments are here, which means it’s time to start the hearings on possible legislation.

These hearings can be an important chance for concerned Texans to engage with issues that affect them.

Here are a few tips on delivering effective public testimony during the Legislative Session:

  1. Be prepared to stay late. A hearing with lots of public testimony could run well into the evening. You can watch the floor deliberations online and make your way back to the hearings when lawmakers adjourn from the floor session.
  1. Make the rounds. To be most effective, try to visit with the staff members who work for specific committees and the legislative staff assigned to those committees prior to the hearing, and let them know your concerns.
  1. Be professional.  Always give the author of any bill you oppose the courtesy of addressing your concerns with them directly prior to the hearing. The more advance notice you provide to members, the easier it is for the member and their staff to address any legitimate concerns.
  1. Be factual. Always have evidence to back your position and be truthful about your sources and data.
  1. Be strategic. Send the staff of members that support your position some questions and data ahead of the hearing so your point of view gets an audience early in the hearing when more members are present and attentive.

It’s time to have “the talk” again | January 15, 2019

It’s time to have a real conversation about decision making the Legislature and who gets a seat at the table.  

While it was inspiring to see progress as newly elected members arrived at the Capitol, our Legislature as a whole is still not reflective of the racial, ethnic or gender diversity of our state. According to the Texas Tribune, the Legislature is 36 percent people of color and 64 percent White. Texas as a whole is 58 percent people of color and 42 percent White. There are 42 women in the Legislature and 136 men, while the state population is 51 percent female.

As we honor the great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. this coming weekend, we need to do more to ensure that our most powerful institutions have equitable and inclusive representation. Due to discriminatory policies that created and maintained unequal access to opportunities, people of color are less likely to have access to health care, a quality education, and access to good jobs with fair working conditions. To advance policies that expand equity and opportunity for Texans of all backgrounds, we need a broader set of representatives at the table.

Off we go with so much at stake | January 9, 2019

The 2019 Texas Legislative session begins!
Here are a few things to look out for in the first weeks of session:

  1. Leadership Priorities. The first 20 House bills (House Bill 1 through House Bill 20) and the first 30 Senate bills (Senate Bill 1 through Senate Bill 30) are reserved for the priorities of the House Speaker and the Lieutenant Governor.
  2. Rules Matter. The House and Senate set their own rules for session this week. On an issue like school finance where regional differences matter in terms of funding, the rules of engagement can make a huge difference for fair funding for all students.
  3. Briefings are Not Brief. The early part of session is filled with press conferences and legislative briefings to educate members, staff, the media, and advocates. It can be difficult for issues you care about to cut through the noise, but CPPP is committed to using all forms of communication to let voters and lawmakers know about the policies that can make all Texans healthy, educated, and financially secure.

We recommend the following top 5 resources to help get you through the #txlege:

  1. Follow CPPP on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram
  2. Request a speaker or a briefing for legislators and their staff
  3. Request data help/assistance on a specific policy matter
  4. Read Point of Order each week to find ways to get involved/take action
  5. Read our blog

Luis Figueroa joined the Center in 2018 as the first Legislative and Policy Director. In this important new role, Luis oversees CPPP's comprehensive legislative strategy and leads our distinguished team of policy experts. He was previously General Counsel for Texas State Senator José Rodríguez and Executive Director of the Texas Senate Hispanic Caucus. Previously, he served as the Legislative Attorney for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), where he worked from 2004 to 2013. A proud Texan from El Paso, Luis received the 2013 MALDEF Award for services performed on behalf of the Latino community in pursuit of social justice, the 2011 Champion of Equality and Justice Award from LULAC, and the 2009 Spirit of Change Award by State Rep. Joaquin Castro, among other honors. He has a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Speech Communications with a concentration in American Politics and Law from Trinity University in San Antonio, and his Juris Doctorate from the University Of Texas School Of Law. He is licensed to practice law in the State of Texas.

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