P.O. Box 12068, State Capitol
Austin, Texas 78711
Tel. (512) 463-0112
Fax (512) 463-0923
FOLLOWING THE TEXAS LEGISLATURE'S 83RD REGULAR SESSION
In less than three weeks, the Texas Legislature will gavel in for our 83rd Regular Session, which lasts for 140 days, in accordance with the Texas Constitution that calls for a citizen legislature to meet every odd-numbered year. Although some Texans joke they would prefer we meet for two days every 140 years, it's time for Texas to again address the many important issues and concerns that have arisen since we last met in 2011. We will pass a two-year budget, consider policy changes and then go home to live under the laws we pass. The framers wanted limited government, and that is why Texas is one of just four states to meet biennially.
Because we live in a fast-growing community with families moving in from all corners of the globe, for many of our new residents, this will be their first introduction to a legislative session. Our process is unique in Texas, so I thought I would share some information on what to expect and how to follow our deliberations.
Creating a law starts with the filing of a bill, which is then referred to a committee where it will be vetted by committee members and undergo a public hearing. It is difficult for bills to clear that first hurdle. In fact, of the 6,003 bills that were filed in the last legislative session, 3,258 never made it past the committee stage.
For the public to make an impact, the first step is identifying bills of importance. At the Texas Legislature Online (TLO) portal, www.capitol.state.tx.us, citizens can search by subject and keyword for legislation. One can also find out where that bill is in the process, read an analysis, search witness lists and learn about the fiscal implications.
Citizens can also sign up to receive e-mail notifications when bills of interest are set for hearing or advance in the process. Click on the "My TLO" tab in the TLO portal to set up alerts. All bills receive a public hearing. Testimony is usually limited to three minutes, depending on the rules established by each committee chairman. Hearing notices for specific committees can also be e-mailed via TLO, and committee proceedings are broadcast online and archived in the "Senate" and "House" tabs of the TLO portal.
This year there are new options for iPad and mobile users. The Texas Legislature has created a mobile version of the Texas Legislature Online website, which can be accessed at www.txlegis.com, and has many of the same capabilities as the full website.
One of the best ways the public can make an impact is by contacting their legislator about legislation. One rule is true throughout the Legislature -- legislative courtesy requires that each legislator be allowed to assist their own constituents. Therefore, keep in mind that your opinion carries the most weight with the members of the Legislature who represent your specific neighborhood. You can visit www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us if you have any questions about who represents you.
When contacting a Senator or Representative, make sure you identify yourself as a constituent, be courteous and be clear. Remember that Senate districts can contain more than 800,000 people and House districts hold about 200,000. Be specific about how an issue impacts you to make your communication personal.
I read every piece of correspondence that arrives in my office, and respond to every constituent who contacts me. E-mail is the quickest way to reach me at Jane.Nelson@senate.state.tx.us., and I encourage you to reach out anytime you feel strongly on an issue. I need your input to most effectively represent you in the Texas Senate.
SENATOR JANE NELSON represents District 12, including portions of Tarrant and Denton Counties. She is Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health & Human Services.