Library Advocacy and the Texas State Legislature
Proposition E, allowing the city to issue $37 million in bonds for new and renovated libraries, passed easily in the recent election. Houstonians proved they know how much their public library adds to the quality of life in the city.
Now it’s time to become library advocates on the state level. The 80th Legislature convenes in Austin at noon on Tuesday, January 8, 2007, and will end on Monday, May 28. During the 140-day session lawmakers will appropriate funds that will affect libraries throughout the state. Don’t wait until January to let your legislator know how important libraries are to Houston and Texas.
Now, before they become involved in the rush of daily business during the session, is the time to get in touch with your state senator and representative. You may see them at a local event or even at the grocery store. Or you might call or make an appointment at their local office.
However you do it, let them know right now the issues that are important to you. State funding for libraries in Texas falls far below the national average. If you think great libraries are important to the future of our city and state, let your lawmakers know that now.
And then prepare to go to Austin on February 5 and 6 for the Texas Library Association’s (TLA) biennial Legislative Day. That’s when library employees and library supporters visit their own elected representatives to lobby for funding and other measures to benefit libraries. When you participate, you’ll receive a packet on issues and talking points, as well as a briefing, before visiting the legislators from your district. TLA leaders will make appointments in advance. Don’t worry about not knowing what to say. You’ll have had the briefing and you’ll be in groups with librarians and library supporters from many types of libraries. TLA isn’t a rich lobbying group, but they are known among legislators for being well organized, concise, and knowledgeable. TLA is developing their legislative agenda right now. You can check on their progress by going to http://www.txla.org/html/govt_aff.html.
Not sure who your legislators are? This site has a section to help you. Click on Legislator Lookup to find the Texas Legislature Online, where you can enter your address and get a list of all your elected officials. The Legislative Reference Library of Texas Citizen Resources (http://www.lrl.state.tx.us/citizenResources/ContactLeg.html) gives complete information on contacting your representative and how to address government officials.
If you need more information about Legislative Day, contact the Friends office at 832-393-1387. We’d like to see a huge group of the Friends of HPL in Austin on February 7.