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At the 6th Annual Texas Tribune Festival last month, state and local leaders opened up about key issues and challenges going into the legislative session. While viewpoints varied greatly, there was one thing legislators agreed upon: we’re in for a challenging five months.
The 85th Texas Legislature is facing multiple opposing issues. Both school finance reform and property appraisal reform are likely to be primary topics this year. Additionally, finding dependable, long-term transportation funding to sustain Texas’ rapidly growing population continues to be a challenge.
Combine this with shortfalls in the state budget—driven by an anemic energy sector; increasing concerns over eminent domain and state vs. local control; and the highest healthcare costs in our state’s history—and you’ve got yourself a long road ahead.
One thing is for sure – to be heard and make an impact in the upcoming 85th Legislative Session, organizations are not going to be able to do things the way we’ve always done. So how should organizations plan to be successful going into the next legislative session?
Budgets are tight, and all departments and programs will be examined critically for possible funding sources. Don’t assume that the existing funding for your cause or program is safe. So be prepared to fight for your position.
This means being ready and willing to demonstrate to each legislator that there are a significant number of citizens in his or her district that support your position and are impacted by your issue. Encourage stakeholders to contact their local legislators to support your issue or organize a daylong Capitol Visit in which local representatives from your organization meet with their respective legislators.
There are few issues that will make it through this session without a little give and take. Know ahead of time what obstacles are facing your position and where your organization would be willing to make concessions—and where you’re not. It’s also essential to be wiling to make concessions with opposing groups, if needed, to move your issue forward.
It can take months to collect the necessary data and proof points to support your position, drive meaningful conversations with local and state leaders, and mobilize stakeholders to advocate for your cause. If you wait until January to start the dialogue, you’ll likely miss the boat—unless you’re not looking for action to be taken on your issue until 2019.
There’s no way of telling what’s in store and what will result from the 85th Legislative Session, but—like almost every Texas legislative session before us— we’re in for an eventful ride. May the odds be ever in your favor.