The 2023 Texas Legislative Session has Begun: How Texas Nonprofits Can Use Their Power to Influence the Process
On January 10, the 88th Texas Legislature kicked off the 2023 legislative session. This session is unique because the legislature will be working with a record-breaking budget surplus of $27 billion. Meeting for the first time since 2021, the Texas Legislature is set to convene until May 29. While lawmakers can still submit bills for this legislative session before the March 10 deadline, more than a thousand bills have already been submitted.
This legislative session represents a unique opportunity for nonprofits to engage in lobbying activities to push for—or fight against—specific legislation. As we have seen in the past, organizations like Every Texan and Texas Appleseed have gathered resources and created materials to keep tabs on the 88th legislative session.
Since the Texas Legislature meets every two years, it is always good to have a refresher on the lobbying rules for 501(c)(3) public charities. According to the Internal Revenue Code, public charities can lobby within certain lobbying limits. Under the tax code’s definitions for lobbying under the insubstantial part and 501(h) expenditure tests, lobbying includes attempts to influence specific legislation at all levels of government, including attempts to influence bills currently under consideration by the Texas Legislature.
Under Texas state law, however, lobbying is defined as direct communication with members of the legislative or executive branch of state government that attempts to influence legislation or administrative action. See Tex. Gov’t Code §§ 305.001, 305.003(a). Those who engage in lobbying according to the Texas state law lobbying definition may need to register as lobbyists with the state. The Texas Ethics Commission imposes specific thresholds for individuals and organizations that, if met, trigger registration as a lobbyist.1 As such, nonprofits that work to influence legislation in Texas should be aware of and comply with both bodies of law.
Below are some of the key bills nonprofits should keep an eye on as the legislative session progresses:
Despite recent tragedies across the nation and in the state of Texas, gun control legislation is unlikely to move forward in Texas. However, lawmakers have introduced several pieces of legislation that would reduce access to guns in Texas in certain circumstances.
- SB144: Red Flag Law
- Already implemented in several states, this bill would allow judges to temporarily seize firearms from individuals who are deemed dangerous to society. For more information on how Red Flag laws work, read the Giffords Law Center report here.
- SB145: Gun Purchase Age
- If approved, this bill would raise the minimum age for purchasing a gun from 18 to 21.
It is no secret that education is always at the top of everyone’s legislative agenda. This year, given the unprecedented budget surplus, many organizations are focusing on ways to improve access to high quality education and ways to increase salaries for teachers. Simultaneously, some lawmakers are also seeking to restrict the ability of teachers to discuss issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity, and others have introduced bills that would allow the state to use taxpayer funds for private schooling.
- HB1548: Pay Raise for Teachers
- This bill would give public school teachers a $15,000 salary raise and a 25% pay raise for other school employees.
- HB557, HB619 & SB176: School Vouchers
- Several bills have been introduced to create school voucher programs that are similar to ones implemented in other states across the nation.
- HB1155: Discussion of Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity
- This bill would prohibit any discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity to students enrolled in schools from kindergarten through eighth grade.
A survey conducted by the Episcopal Health Foundation found that nearly 70 percent of Texans support Medicaid expansion to provide health insurance to low-income Texans. Despite overwhelming support for Medicaid expansion however, some lawmakers have been reluctant to vote for a bill that would address this issue.
Another key healthcare issue this legislative session is abortion. Following the US Supreme Court decision in Dobbs, Texas groups are looking for ways to add exceptions to the near-total abortion ban that is currently in place.
- SB72: Medicaid Expansion
- This would expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
- SB122 & SB123: Abortion Exceptions
- Currently, Texas abortion law does not allow for exceptions for victims of rape or incest. These bills would allow for exceptions for victims of rape, incest, or dangerous pregnancies.
- SB209: Marijuana Legalization
- While Texas law currently allows for the use of medical marijuana in extremely limited circumstances, this bill would legalize the recreational use of marijuana.
Lawmakers have introduced legislation to restrict access to property in Texas by certain individuals and companies.
- SB147: Purchase of Property by Foreign Entities or Individuals
- This proposed legislation would ban citizens and companies from China, North Korea, Russia, and Iran from buying property in Texas. This heavily polarizing bill has been the subject of numerous protests by groups accusing lawmakers of promoting hate and anti-Asian sentiments.
If you have any questions about your nonprofits’ ability to lobby in Texas, please feel free to reach out to us. Our Texas-based Bolder Advocacy team is ready and eager to assist.
Just call us at 866-NP-LOBBY or click here to submit a question through our FREE technical assistance hotline. Para asistencia técnica gratuita en español, favor de llamar al 866-675-6229 o enviarnos un correo electrónico a email@example.com.