Bills To Pagal Hai (Those Crazy Bills)

Summary

In today's segment I discuss the political news of the week along with my experience at the Vietnam War Summit where I got to hear Former Secretary Kissinger and Secretary of State John Kerry discuss the foreign policy implications of the Vietnam War and how it affects our foreign policy today. 

I also provide an overview of how a bill becomes a law in the Texas Legislature and what we, as citizens, can do to try to stop a bad bill from passing. Tune in to hear all about those crazy crazy bills! 

 

Analysis

Vietnam War Summit

Two weeks ago the LBJ Library at UT hosted the Vietnam War Summit. Their goal was to, "...Shed definitive light on the war, and its lessons and legacy. It is also our intent to invite, include, and recognize the men and women who courageously served in Vietnam." The Vietnam War was one of the most controversial wars in American history and I listened to former Secretary Henry Kissinger (Secretary of State under President Nixon) and Secretary John Kerry speak about their experiences from the war. The two main takeaways I took from their speeches were:

  • Kissinger: Regarding current foreign policy/wars: As a nation, we do not know how to rebuild a nation after taking away their current form of government and that is why we are having a tough time to get out of Iraq.
  • Kerry: Do not ever confuse war with warriors, especially those who volunteer and are trying to keep us safe!
    • I appreciated this point because while many of us do not agree with certain foreign policy/war decisions made by our government, our military still deserves our utmost respect in trying to protect us to live our lives in peace.

Bills To Pagal Hai (aka The Bills are crazy)

There have been several times I am told about some legislative ideas that we should implement or how come we were unable to stop a bad bill from passing. What people fail to realize is how difficult it is to pass a bill and that once a bill is passed, it is even more difficult to overturn it. So I have decided that it is time for our community to understand our state legislative process so that we can properly politically engage ourselves in this upcoming legislative session.  In this segment, I give a broad overview of how a bill is passed and the things our community can do to stop a bill that could negatively impact our community and neighbors.

  • If you have idea for a piece of legislation, right now or in the next few months would be the ideal time for you to present your idea to your legislator.
    • I understand that many are busy with the upcoming November election but for the most part, the incumbent wins. 
    • Moreover, the legislator that is running for reelection will also come to understand your values and may try to work towards accomplishing them in the upcoming election cycle and therefore in turn the next legislative session.
    • Giving the idea to your legislators staff now allows them ample time to research and vet the bill for any concerns, backlash or positive gains the bill could have on their constituents. 
    • If you propose a bill in March of the legislative session, it is pretty much too late to see your bill get through.
  • Texas Session meets once every two years (odd numbered years) for 140 days.
  • Over 6000 bills are filed each session, a little over a 1000 are passed and a handful are vetoed by the Governor!
    • Not every bill gets to be debated on the House/Senate floor, several die in committee or get stuck on the Calendar after the deadline has passed.
    • The purpose of such a long and exhausting process is to ensure not too many bills get passed.
    • The American founders purposefully wanted the legislative process to be arduous in order to slow down the process of passing new legislation. 
    • Unfortunately, this doesn't mean crazy bad bills don't come through, they still do!
  • Once session begins in January and the bills are rolling through, what can we do to stop those crazy bad bills?
    • If the bill is in a committee hearing and you are able to travel to the Capitol and testify for/against a bill, make sure to try and bring a group of people in order to get your message across.
      • You can also livestream or watch previous Senate/House committee hearings here:
        • Senate: http://www.senate.state.tx.us/75r/Senate/events.php
        • House: http://www.house.state.tx.us/committees/
          • click on broadcast archives to view previous hearings!
    • Sometimes making it to Austin on a weekday is difficult, you can also research to see if a lobbying group is willing to lobby for your cause at the Capitol.
      • This does cost money. But, if a group of you pool your resources together, your message could get through!
      • **We badly need a South Asian lobbying group here in Austin though!**
    • If a bill is on the floor for debate or in the committee that your legislator presides in, make sure to contact your legislator and ask them to vote yes/no on the bill and provide reasons why you are either for/against it.
      • Please remember, if a bill is in a committee that your legislator is not in, they would be unable to kill the bill in committee, they could only protest against it once it reaches the house/senate floor.
      • This is why it is important for you or a lobbying group to testify against a bill (with strong arguments) at the committee hearing!
    • Once the bill reaches the house/senate floor, make sure to contact your Representative to tell them how you feel about the piece of legislation AND try to get your neighbors (who are in your district) to also call in and express their opinions!
      • It's all about numbers. The more a representative/senator hears from a number of their constituents, the more likely they are to listen and perhaps vote your way!
  • Finally, please note that if you are not a constituent of a particular legislator's district it does not make a major impact if you call them to complain about bills they have filed. The largest impact is to speak with your legislator and to consistently follow through with their office on the piece of legislation that you are for/against. 
    • Social Media note: While it is great to post on your social media about crazy bills coming through, it would be best to utilize your social media for a call to action!
      • Try organizing a phone bank or post on your social media account how everyone can become involved by contacting their local representative asking them to vote yes/no on a certain piece of legislation!
      • Most importantly, make sure to WiseUp so that you understand what the true intent of the legislation is about. Many people hear something, believe the misleading information to be true and then call their representative without the proper facts-don't do that!! 
      • You can always call your legislator's office and ask them to explain what a bill is about, they will surely explain it to you! 

I hope you all learned about how our State Legislative process works and I anticipate that ya'll will be much more involved in the 2017 Legislative session! Please don't hesitate to shoot me questions on my Contact page or send me an email: wiseuptx@gmail.com ! 

 

Azra Siddiqi