LGBTQ equality. Abortion rights. Medical marijuana. Criminal justice reform. Immigrants’ rights.
These are just some of the issues impacting civil liberties in our state that are likely to arise in the 86th Texas Legislative Session, which opened earlier this week.
Nearly 1,000 bills have already been introduced, many of which pose considerable threats to the rights of Texans in communities across the state.
During the 85th Texas Legislature in 2017, some state lawmakers fought tooth and nail to pass legislation that rolled back fundamental civil liberties. During that session, several bills were passed and made into laws that now impact the lives of millions of people throughout Texas.
This session, we’re ready to uphold the rights that all Texans deserve, not just the rights of a select few. And your liberties and your voice matter in this process.
Want to know what you can do to fight back?
First things first, find out who represents you: And know how to contact them via phone, email, or standard mail. Many representatives also have social media pages where you can easily follow what they are working on and voice your opinion in response.
Second, learn the schedule: Session starts Tuesday, January 8, and lasts 140 days. There are additional key dates, including the deadline to file most kinds of new bills – March 8 – and the deadline for the governor to sign or veto bills passed by the legislature – June 16 – that will shape how the legislative session unfolds.
The most intense legislative activity will occur in March, April, and May, but it’s important to stay attuned to your elected representatives and the issues you care about throughout the 140 day period.
Third, know the process:
- In the House, a bill is filed then considered in committee. If the committee votes the bill out, one of two calendars committees set the bill on the House agenda for a vote, which is followed by a floor vote.
- In the Senate, a bill is filed then considered in committee. If the committee votes the bill out, the Lieutenant Governor sets the bill for a Senate vote, which is followed by a floor vote.
What you can do: Believe it or not, legislators like to be liked. They’re very concerned with what the voters think, and because of this, they can be influenced. That’s why it’s so important to email, call, or visit the office of your representative, senator, or other key policymakers, as can any concerned resident.
There are also several opportunities for the public to weigh in at each point in the legislative process. You can:
- Work with an elected official’s office to get a bill filed
- Call on committee leadership to support or oppose giving a bill a hearing
- Testify at a committee hearing
- Advocate that the committee vote -- or not vote -- the bill out
- Contact your lawmakers before the floor vote to voice your opinion
Bear in mind that as session moves along, some proposed laws will be amended into other bills. This can mean that a bill that seemed stuck in committee might suddenly reappear within a different bill.
Throughout the legislative session, we’ll be keeping Texans up to speed on opportunities to take action to protect civil rights and civil liberties. You can sign up to receive action alerts to know when it’s time to swing into action and defend the causes you care about.
- Sign up for ACLU of Texas e-alerts to keep abreast of bill movements, committee hearings, and emergencies
- Become a volunteer or an ACLU of Texas member (or both!)