Phillip Martin

Marijuana Policy Reform in the 2015 Texas Legislature

This year, there are a number of bills in the Texas Legislature that provide opportunities for marijuana policy reform. One type of reform, reducing criminal penalties for small possession, is supported by a majority of Texans. While different bills have been filed to achieve this reform, there is one that stands out and appears to have some momentum in the Texas Legislature. Read more about Marijuana Policy Reform in the 2015 Texas Legislature

Session 101: How Committees Work

The committee process in the Texas Legislature goes far beyond what the public generally sees. It’s about providing public testimony and voting on bills, yes, but the work that goes into the process extends far beyond what we see. Visit this website to find a list of committees in the Legislature, examine what bills are sent to each committee, and to look at upcoming committee meetings.

Here’s a simple rundown of what goes on behind the scenes in committees of the Texas Legislature. Read more about Session 101: How Committees Work

Session 101: Important People & Dates

As the 84th Texas Legislature convenes in Austin, it’s not just lawmakers that will be swarming the halls of the Capitol. There is a large, robust community that works throughout the Capitol – thousands of people make state government work (or not work) on a daily basis.

Here is a primer on who comes to the Capitol, and a rough sketch of what we expect them to be doing while they are here. Read more about Session 101: Important People & Dates

Affordable Care Act Helps 1.2 million Texans - But State Still Has Nation's Worst Coverage Rate

More than 1.2 million Texans now have health coverage thanks to the Affordable Care Act, demonstrating a high demand in Texas for quality, affordable health coverage. This comes in sharp contrast to a bewildering claim made last week by former Governor Rick Perry who said that Texans want a large number of uninsured.

The latest enrollment period, which closed last week, ended with Texas enrolling and re-enrolling more of its citizens than any state except Florida. Overall, the state's uninsured rate dropped slightly to 22-24%, depending on which group's numbers you follow.  Read more about Affordable Care Act Helps 1.2 million Texans - But State Still Has Nation's Worst Coverage Rate

Interview: Rep. Joe Moody on His Bill to Reduce Penalties for Small Marijuana Possession

number of recent polls have shown that it's clear a majority of Texans support marijuana policy reform. As we track bills in the Texas Legislature filed to address this reform, one stands out: a bill by Rep. Joe Moody (D- El Paso) that would reduce the offense to a civil penalty, instead of a criminal penalty, for possessing small amounts of marijuana. Read more about Interview: Rep. Joe Moody on His Bill to Reduce Penalties for Small Marijuana Possession

We Offer Social, Traditional Media Trainings

One of the core services we offer at the Texas Research Institute are trainings on social and traditional media. We work with nonprofits, coalition partners, and legislative offices to ensure they are up to date on the best practices on everything from pitching stories to reporters to making content go viral on Facebook.

In the last year, we've done more than twenty of these trainings across the state. In the past week we provided one on social media to Capitol staffers (see photo below), and a Skype-based training to reproductive justice advocates in the Rio Grande Valley. Read more about We Offer Social, Traditional Media Trainings

Senate Rule Changes #Lockout Legislators, Texans

New changes to rules in the Texas Senate may effectively lockout the voices of Texas Senators and their constituents - making it harder for 60% of minorities in the state of Texas to have their voices heard and represented in the Texas Legislature.

The Texas Observer highlighted the changes in their recent story, "Dan Patrick Kills the Two-Thirds Rule":

Instead of two-thirds, the Senate will now require three-fifths of the Senate, or 19 senators, to bring a bill to a vote.

House Rejects New Rule to Guarantee Public Testimony

Last Thursday, the Texas House of Representatives passed the official rules of the House. The rules, as we explained in our latest Session 101 post, govern the procedures of how bills become law, the number of committees, and how the public can participate in the process.

During debate and discussion of the House rules, Rep. Boris Miles (D-Houston) offered an amendment that would guarantee that a member of the public that registered to speak on a bill in committee would be granted the opportunity to speak. Here’s the official text from his amendment: Read more about House Rejects New Rule to Guarantee Public Testimony

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