Staying in touch with our elected officials
As we reported in last month’s issue of Texas Banking, access to the Texas Capitol will be restricted when the 87th Session of the Texas Legislature convenes Jan. 12. This means that TBA’s biennial Texas Bankers Blitz, which usually occurs the first week of March, will look a lot different this year. Typically, in odd-numbered years, TBA staff would be busy preparing for the Blitz, which is our opportunity as bankers to gather in Austin and present a unified front to our legislators on issues important to our customers, our communities and our staff and shareholders.
Because of the pandemic, 2021 is not going to be like traditional legislative years. Even though the session will look and feel different, we still have work to do on behalf of our industry. Despite the challenges, it is still important that we meet with our elected officials to discuss our legislative priorities: enhancing the criminal mischief statutes for ATM “smash and grab” attacks, codifying a COVID-19 liability protections bill and amending the rule against perpetuities.
Last month, the Government Relations Council met virtually and developed a plan that will allow us to continue to push ahead with our legislative issues and remain in constant communication with our legislators. The plan includes four points:
- Continue with our Monday Legislative Forums with elected officials. These sessions, which kicked off last summer, have been hugely successful and have allowed bankers to have “face-to-face” (albeit virtual) conversations on a variety of issues of importance to our industry and our state.
- Because legislators are rumored to be home more than in Austin the first 30 days of the session, convene in-district meetings with legislators and members of the TBA Government Relations Council so TBA’s issues can be covered by constituent bankers. These meetings will serve as mini-Blitzes in that TBA staff will set the appointments, prepare all briefing materials and, when possible, have a member of the Member Relations Team on hand to help facilitate the discussions. The GRC members were very excited about moving forward with these meetings, stressing the importance of reaching out early and remaining flexible to accommodate the legislators’ schedules.
- Continue utilizing TBA’s Grassroots Action Center, which enables bankers to send emails and social media posts to elected officials on banking-related legislation. This platform has been very successful; to date, more than 5,000 emails have been sent using this platform.
- Expanding TBA’s bimonthly legislative update calls to include members of the GRC and the Regional Bankers Council. The participants on the calls discuss the status of bills during the week and bills coming up the week ahead.
Kudos to the members of the GRC for developing this plan and making sure that our issues will be heard during this challenging year. Our legislators are going to be busy passing a budget, redistricting, addressing issues related to COVID-19, expanding broadband access and debating reforms to the criminal justice system. With all this on their plate, it will be challenging to get them to focus attention on our issues.
The GRC’s plan will maximize our exposure to our legislators during this critical time and will go a long way to helping us make lemonade out of lemons.