Texas Interim Charges: Why Nonprofits Should Sharpen their Advocacy Strategy Ahead of the Next State Legislative Session
In recent weeks, Texas Speaker of the House Dade Phelan and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick released their interim charges for the House and Senate committees of the 88th Texas Legislature. Interim charges help guide both the Senate and House of Representatives during the period between legislative sessions, allowing them to focus on key issues during the non-legislative year. If your organization cares about women’s rights, our education system, immigration, or access to the polls, you need to be paying attention. What happens now will set the stage for the next Texas Legislative session, which begins in January of 2023.
Unlike many state legislatures, the Texas Legislature meets every odd-numbered year. These legislative sessions last 140 calendar days, with the Speaker of the House presiding over the House of Representatives and the Lieutenant Governor overseeing the Senate. The period between regular legislative sessions is known as the interim. In between sessions, the Speaker of the House and the Lieutenant Governor issue interim charges to House and Senate committees, respectively. These interim charges allow committees to study certain issues in order to develop policy for the upcoming legislative session.
Interim charges represent an invaluable opportunity for nonprofit organizations. They allow nonprofit organizations to maximize their levels of advocacy by identifying topics that will become central to the agenda during the upcoming legislative session. During this interim, committees may invite public testimony and allow organizations to provide research on a particular issue. Therefore, nonprofit organizations should take this opportunity to focus on key issues discussed in these committees.
Key Charges in the Senate
In the Senate, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick identified over 80 charges that will be discussed by Senate committees. Among these charges, Lt. Gov. Patrick asked the State Affairs Committee to study the impact of Senate Bill 8, also known as The Texas Heartbeat Act. That committee was also tasked with studying the allocation of poling locations for early voting and election-day voting, as well as studying whether the state should shorten the primary election runoff period in Texas. Several committees were also charged with evaluating several immigration-related issues. For example, the Border Security Committee will study the impact of Operation Lone Star on border, rural, and urban communities throughout Texas.
Given that Critical Race Theory has become a hot-button issue, local nonprofit groups should pay particular attention to the interim charges related to education. The Education Committee was assigned with exploring the impact of COVID-19 on the public school system. This committee will also review Texas’ existing parental rights and responsibilities, including making recommendations to enable parents to exert a greater influence on their child’s learning environment. Moreover, the Education Committee will assess current adoption, placement, and review structures for library materials and make recommendations to ensure, among other things, that materials are grade, age, and developmentally appropriate and that parents and the public are given a prominent role in the process.
The full list of Senate charges can be found here.
Key Charges in the House
On March 10, Speaker Phelan published the House interim charges. In addition to the charges, Speaker Phelan also announced the creation of two interim committees dedicated to criminal justice (House Interim Study Committee on Criminal Justice Reform) and healthcare reform (House Select Committee on Health Care Reform).
Speaker Phelan’s interim charges honed in on key issues that are central to his party’s agenda ahead of the upcoming midterm election. As a result, border security, education, and the election took centerstage. Speaker Phelan asked several committees to complete their study of assigned charges related to the Texas-Mexico border issued in June 2021. He also tasked the Committee on Public Education with identifying and examining efforts to ensure that parents have a meaningful role in their children’s education. This committee will also monitor and analyze the state policy on curriculum and instructional materials used in public schools.
On the other hand, the Committee on Elections will study the laws related to local ballot initiatives and propositions to assess whether reforms are needed to ensure that ballot language is clear and unambiguous and that the process is fair and consistent. This committee will also study the effectiveness of new poll watcher training required by SB1 and examine the reporting of election results following an election. Ultimately, this will determine the reasons for any delays and inaccuracies in the initial reporting of elections results.
In response to last year’s freeze that left most of the state without power due to the collapse of the electrical grid, several committees will study the reliability of the system and explore natural gas alternatives. On the public health front, legislators were tasked with exploring the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic including hurdles to workforce reentry and industry-specific disruptions.
The full list of House charges can be found here.
Great opportunity for nonprofits in Texas!
Nonprofits should take this opportunity to be bold and advocate for issues that are central to their mission. Your organization should study these charges and develop a strategy ahead of interim committee meetings. The Bolder Advocacy team is ready to help your organization amplify its voice and maximize its levels of advocacy. To that end, our Texas team recently released the Texas Advocacy Toolkit designed to help local nonprofits understand the legislative process in Texas and to comply with state laws and regulations.
At Bolder Advocacy, we also provide workshops and public webinars for nonprofit organizations that help your organization navigate federal, state, and local laws. Our FREE technical assistance hotline is also a great way for us to answer your questions! You can reach us by phone at 866-NP-LOBBY (866-675-6229) or email at [email protected]. Para asistencia técnica gratuita en español, favor de llamar al 713-331-9428 o enviarnos un correo electrónico a [email protected].