By Billy Howe
State Legislative Director
Monday, May 27, 2013 marked the end of my 10th session of the Texas Legislature, the seventh with the Texas Farm Bureau. Sometimes it is hard to believe it has been almost 20 years since a kid from Itasca, Texas moved to Austin to work in the Texas House.
Every session has had its own personality depending on the issues and the players. This session may be a historic one for the state if voters approve the creation of a dedicated fund to implement the State Water Plan in November.
From a Texas Farm Bureau perspective, I believe it was one of our most successful. We took on the most powerful industry in the state and won. We were forward-thinking in supporting funding for the State Water Plan. We were able to push for a better law to address endangered species issues that could have major impacts on private property rights. We fought for local control of groundwater. We limited the authority to implement an animal disease traceability program. We secured more funding for road repairs in rural areas impacted by oil and gas production. And, we were successful on many other issues that fly below the radar, but are important to our members.
This session reinforced for me the belief that politically effective membership organizations must have three critical pillars to their foundation:
- One, the financial stability and resources for the staff and infrastructure needed to support the membership’s political and public policy goals.
- Two, a strong political action committee (PAC) to support policy makers whose philosophies and values mirror our organization.
- Finally—the most important pillar—a strong grassroots leadership to provide the first two needs and to advocate the organization’s position as the actual constituent of the policy maker. Voters are always the most effective lobbyist for any issue.
Texas Farm Bureau’s success is a testament that these three pillars are strong in our organization. But, every session it becomes more difficult as the urban areas continue to expand. Our organization cannot rest on our laurels.
Many of the issues we fought this session will be back in two years and beyond. Protecting private property rights will always be a struggle as those rights conflict with “progress” as the state grows. Retaining local control of groundwater will also be a constant struggle as some try to take authority from the local districts. These are just two of many issues we will continue to face.
What can you do? Continue building membership, continue building AGFUND, continue being engaged in the policy development process and continue building relationships with your elected officials.
Legislators will be “home” for the next year and a half until the next session. Use that time wisely and we will be prepared for more success in the 2015 session of the Texas Legislature.