by Tyler Anderson, intern in the Texas Legislative Study Group
We’re four months into this legislative session and if there’s one thing I can say about the Texas House of Representatives, it’s that, oftentimes, hope can seem scarce. It seems that every day a different bill advances that would strip basic human rights or harm a certain vulnerable population; most times, these populations are the same ones that we as social workers hope to work with and protect throughout our careers. I could easily name 30 bills filed this session that would hurt women, immigrants, people of color, people living in poverty, veterans, children, and even animals – as policy analysts, we see these bills up close every day and are intricately familiar with how easily they become the laws that govern people’s lives. While being so close to the process has its advantages, more often than not, it leaves me feeling frustrated, disillusioned, and hopeless. For the past month or so, I’ve been in a major rut because of these feelings; it becomes more difficult to perform to the best of your ability when you feel like your advocacy efforts fall on deaf ears.
For the past couple of weeks, however, I’ve been reflecting on times when I have seen hope in the legislature. I’ve seen advocates show up tirelessly, week after week, in order to speak for vulnerable communities. I am reminded of the children who have bravely testified in front of legislative committees against bills that would negatively impact their families, such as SB 4 and HB 2899. I look to members such as Representative Victoria Neave, who boldly embarked on a spiritual hunger fast for four days in opposition to SB 4. I come back to members such as our boss, Chairman Garnet Coleman, who filed HB 2702, “The Sandra Bland Act,” a bill that seeks to make meaningful and necessary reforms to our criminal justice system at a time when people are dying at the hands of this system every day. I think about the courtesy and respect I’ve seen members with opposing political views give each other during heated floor debates. I look to my social work colleagues here in the Capitol who are putting everything they have into this job in hopes of influencing policies that will have lasting impacts on Texas families.
All these examples don’t fully negate the hopelessness I feel. At the end of the day, many of these harmful bills will pass and become law. They also do not eliminate the real consequences these bills will have on people throughout the state. I would be remiss, however, to not take time to recognize and appreciate these examples and the solace they bring me. With five weeks left in session, I will continue to draw motivation from the strong, caring people I work with and the families I hope I am able to help. I will tell myself that it’s ok to be overwhelmed by the scope and ramifications of these harmful bills. I will continue to look for ways I can advocate both within my work and outside of it. Most importantly, I will continue to remind myself that there is hope in this House, and it’s ok to focus on that from time to time.