In an extended session of TNM’s Legislative Action Workshop, Rachel Malone, the Texas Director for Gun Owners of America, joins Claver Kamau-Imani for “Unlocking the Secrets of the Texas Legislature.”
Before a background draped with Texas, Gonzales, and Gadsden flags, Rachel Malone kicked-off a presentation she normally reserves for personal appearances. She began with a question: “What are the issues that you care most about?” Are there rights you want protected or new restrictions put on government? What would you like your legislature to do? And when you talk to your legislator, do you feel like you’re being taken seriously? Likely, no. The purpose of her talk is was help you walk-through the legislative process, to be “more effective with less effort” in one’s legislative activism, ultimately making your efforts count in the odd-years that the Texas Legislature is in session.
Among the major topics discussed was: you can’t do it alone. “You have to network with others,” said Malone, “You got to know the process. You have enough people that are willing to show up and pay the price of activism. You know… put in the time, put in the work to get the job done.” In her example, after years of putting less than maximum focused effort with minimal participation, her group pushing gun rights organized, did block-walking, and kept interest up and alive in the media. The politicians in due course were led to recognize, “they had to do something, so they did!” Licensed open-carry was passed.
Additionally, to be effective for your cause, you must know how legislative procedures work and how a bill survives. “During session, a bill is only one jaw-snap away from a really painful bloody death. It’s a whole lot easier to kill a bill than it is to pass it.” For Texans, a people that value limited government, that’s not necessarily bad, but to reduce government that has grown too big, you must get bills passed. And the basic path for that is getting a bill through the House, also the Senate (though you could begin in either body, or both simultaneously), and lastly being signed by the Governor (if not vetoed or vetoed and over-ridden). Quicker bills pass easier. But there are many “check-points” along the road to passage where a bill can be killed, from pre-filing to the end of the session. You must be on top of your game, be ready to testify, etc., to better encourage passage.
Once armed with that knowledge, you must know how to understand these bills as written. You don’t have to be a lawyer, but some basic understanding about how to read a bill is a necessity. Texas laws must describe its intention, but then define the words used in the law. The example Malone gave was if they banned wearing red shirts, they’d have to define what a shirt was, the parameters of red, what the law may exclude, permits, etc. And if you don’t read to the end of the law, you may miss a phrase like changing the meaning of the initial bill, such as something nearly as ridiculous as “this law does not apply to anyone in Texas.” Occasionally, the Texas Legislature chooses to amend a law with a negating amendment than repeal. And though the language may seem a bit intimidating, reading a bill isn’t something that the average person can’t do. It just takes a little effort.
This session of TNM’s online workshop was so full of useful information, it would be impractical to include it all, but you can see the entire session by clicking below.