Dec. 18, 2020
It’s been a while since my last update, but I wanted to get in one more before Christmas and the New Year.
Here at TSCRA’s government affairs office, we’ve been busy getting ready for the 87th Texas Legislative Session, which convenes in less than a month. Even though the session doesn’t start until Jan. 12, more than 1,100 bills have already been filed. We review every bill that’s filed to determine if it will impact Texas cattle producers. If it impacts TSCRA members, even indirectly, we add it to the list of bills that we will monitor for the entire legislative session.
Some of the bills on our list are good, some are bad and others could go either way depending on how they are amended through the course of the legislative session. We will continue to keep a watchful eye on all of them, and in many cases, we’re already working with legislators to promote good legislation and raise concerns with legislation that might be harmful to our members. The issues that we prioritize and whether we support or oppose bills are guided by association members through TSCRA’s policy committees.
The deadline to file legislation is March 12, so we still have a long way to go. If recent history is any indication, legislators will file at least 6,000 more bills before that deadline.
In addition to monitoring bill filing, much of our time has been devoted to meeting with and talking to legislators and their staff over recent weeks. We do this year-round to ensure legislators are aware of our priorities and that we are aware of theirs, but they take on an even more prominent role as session approaches. Everyone’s priorities are more sharply focused as concepts become actual bills that can be analyzed and debated.
We’re also starting to get a little more clarity on how the legislative session will work procedurally amidst the coronavirus pandemic. Details are still in the works, but access to the Capitol building will be significantly reduced, both for the general public and advocates like us. Fortunately, we have built and maintained great relationships with a lot of legislators and staff over the years. That means we can continue to be engaged on important issues even if we cannot be physically present in the building as often as usual.
Though our focus has largely shifted to the looming Texas Legislative Session, there is still one important election that will be decided tomorrow. There is a special election runoff for Texas Senate District 30 (encompassing all or parts of Childress, Collingsworth, Cooke, Cottle, Crosby, Dickens, Fisher, Floyd, Garza, Hall, Hardeman, Haskell, Jack, Kent, King, Montague, Motley, Stonewall, Throckmorton, Wheeler, Wilbarger and Young counties).
Former State Senator Pat Fallon was elected to Congress, leaving his State Senate seat open. There was a special election earlier this year to identify his replacement, but no candidate received more than 50% of the vote, necessitating the need for a runoff election between the top two candidates.
The TSCRA PAC is backing current State Representative Drew Springer in the race. Springer is currently chairman of the House Agriculture Committee and has supported our priorities in previous sessions. If you’re in the district, please get out and vote tomorrow!
In Washington, most major news outlets are focused on presidential politics, the stopgap funding bill in Congress and a possible COVID-19 assistance package, including aid for agriculture if passed.
A lot is happening behind the scenes, too. The Biden-Harris Administration continues to announce major cabinet appointments, including Tom Vilsack, who will head USDA as secretary of agriculture. If the name is familiar, it’s because he served in the same capacity under President Barack Obama.
We pay close attention to these appointments because the administrative agencies led by political appointees, like Vilsack, have tremendous power to set rules and regulations that impact our industry. The Senate must still confirm appointees after the inauguration next year, which will allow us to provide input through our U.S. Senators.
Those same federal agencies are also continuing to work on proposed rules and regulations before the holidays, which has kept us busy writing comments on various programs and proposals.
That’s all for this time and this year! I’ll close by echoing the last paragraph of Hughes Abell’s latest magazine column:
“There’s no question that 2020 has been a tough year on many fronts, but it has also seen its share of accomplishments that cannot be forgotten as we look forward to 2021. So, here’s to the year ahead and building on the many success stories from 2020!”
I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Until next time,