Published January 19, 2021
Welcome to your weekly update on the Texas Legislature, sustainable agriculture, and local food!
After establishing the rules for proceeding this session (see item 4 below), both the House and the Senate are staying home this week. But there are still things for you to do!
1. Keep up with legislation and share with your family and friends.
The first of FARFA’s priority bills has been filed! SB 336 would allow farmers to sell ungraded eggs from their own flocks to restaurants and retailers – expanding consumer access to locally raised eggs, and helping small farmers gain new markets without unnecessary permits and hassles. Thank you to Senator Nathan Johnson for filing the bill! Our other 4 bills are in drafting and should be filed shortly.
One of the most difficult parts of the legislative process is keeping up with the sheer number of bills, most of them written in confusing legalese. More than 1,500 bills have already been filed, and many more will be filed and considered in the coming weeks. But don’t let that scare you! FARFA will provide updates on the good, the bad, and the ugly bills throughout the session, so just keep an eye out for our emails.
If there’s a specific bill you’re interested in tracking yourself, you can use the Texas Legislature Online system to follow its progress by creating a free “My TLO” account.
Make sure to tell your friends and family about the bills you care about, too. The more people who know what is happening and are involved, the more change we can make!
2. Call and email your legislators.
Have you called your legislators yet? Whether it’s in support of one of FARFA’s priority bills, or for or against another bill that has caught your attention, it’s important to make your voice heard.
Many people believe their opinions are ignored, but that’s not true. Legislative offices keep close track of who is contacting them and what issues they support and oppose.
This isn’t like gun rights or abortion, where legislators have staked out firm, often immovable, positions. Many legislators simply don’t know anything about agriculture or food, and they welcome the input from constituents who care about the issue and can help them decide which way to vote.
If you’re not sure who your representatives are, use our Who Represents Me page to find out. This is an easy way to find their phone number and email address (click on the envelope icon to send an email). Some will also include a link (in the shape of a speech balloon) that goes to an email form on that legislator’s webpage. Your email doesn’t have to be formal or in-depth (although it can be) — all you have to do is tell your legislator that you support or oppose a bill or issue. Explain briefly why the issue is important to you — even a sentence or two matters.
3. Testify on a bill.
While the logistics may be more complicated this year (see next paragraph), members of the public can still come to the legislature in person and testify during committee hearings. And that testimony can really influence whether the bill moves forward or dies! If you are interested in possibly testifying on any of FARFA’s priority bills, please email Judith@FarmAndRanchFreedom.org. We can give you more information on the how’s and why’s.
4. Can you go to the Capitol in person?
Whether it’s to testify at a committee hearing or to meet with legislators and staff in person, the Texas Capitol will be open to the public during the session. Masks and social distancing will be required. Only the north entrance will be open, and a tent outside will provide free rapid COVID testing. The House and Senate have adopted different rules:
The House will not require COVID tests, although some House offices may require a daily test in order to visit their office. Although the committee chairs can allow virtual testimony for “invited” witnesses, the default rule will be in-person testimony only. This means that the only way for regular members of the public to testify will be to visit the Capitol in person. You will be able to register on/for/against a bill (“drop a card”) only by visiting the Capitol and using the website or the kiosks behind committee rooms. The only concession for virtual participation by members of the public is that written testimony will be taken online via Texas Legislature Online, with the exact procedure to be determined.
The Senate will require all visitors to pass a daily COVID test before entering a committee room or the Senate gallery. Tests will be provided for free in the tent by the north entrance. Capitol staff will escort off the premises anyone who tests positive. Those who test negative will receive a bracelet that will allow them Senate access for the day. Those who have been vaccinated will be treated as if they have tested negative, although wristbands will only be given to those who test negative with a daily rapid test, and some Senate offices may refuse entrance to anyone without a wristband.
These rules will be reviewed in 60 days.
With 133 days left to this session, we have a lot of work ahead of us to support small farmers and local food producers. Please consider joining or giving an extra donation to help us in this fight. Whether it’s financial support, making calls, writing emails, testifying at a hearing, or spreading the word to your friends and family – THANK YOU for being part of this work!