2021 Texas Legislative Session: Meet our AAUW lobbyist
The Texas legislature has reached the bill filing deadline; no additional bills can be filed this session. The final count on March 12 was 2,363 Senate bills and 5,104 House of Representative bills filed. Nearly 2,000 of those bills were filed during the last week.
All bills that can become law are being considered in committees. Any bill that is not reported out of committee before the end of April “dies” in committee. That will be especially true of a large number of bills this year as the Texas budget and the energy crisis are taking up much of our legislator’s time. Remember we have less than 80 days left in the 87th Legislative session.
Texas AAUW has hired a lobbyist, Kevin C. Stewart, to be our liaison with elected officials at the capitol during this legislative session. Mr. Stewart is an attorney and political consultant based out of Austin. He graduated from the University of Texas for both his undergraduate and law degrees. His law studies focused on health law, the legislative process, and statutory interpretation. Kevin is the author of the Texas Legislative Law Handbook and a member of the Legislative and Campaign Law Section of the State Bar.
Mr. Stewart has developed a detailed list of bills that match our Texas AAUW legislative priorities, including women’s health care, pay equity, and job training and advancement.
He has also helped us identify bills where our efforts are most likely to produce favorable outcomes and detailed how to accomplish our legislative goals by identifying individual legislators to approach.
Going forward, he will track the movement of the priority bills through the committee process and help us develop strategies to allow Texas AAUW to have the greatest impact. He will communicate Texas AAUW views and influence action by lawmakers in order to enact legislation though the following steps:
- Privately support a bill. On our behalf he will work behind the scenes with legislators and their staff to get a bill to the next stage of the process.
- Publicly support a bill. He will notify the committee members that Texas AAUW supports the bill. Our support will then be on the legislative record. That record is accessible to the public.
- Provide written comments. Together with our lobbyist a letter will be drafted to committee members regarding a bill. These are delivered in person or emailed by our lobbyist to staff.
- Engage our members in the process. AAUW members may be asked to reach out to legislators on specific bills. AAUW would only do this a very few times in a legislative session. Be ready for an alert should we need to promote a bill that is under consideration.
- Provide in person testimony. Our lobbyist would request AAUW to identify members who can provide testimony should we need it. This typically is done by a member who is eager and knowledgeable about the issues/topic and can appear in person to testify.
Mr. Stewart will make our public policy efforts more effective and AAUW more influential at the Texas capitol.
2021–23 AAUW Public Policy Priorities
The Public Policy Priorities underscore AAUW’s mission to advance gender equity for women and girls through research, education, and advocacy. The work of AAUW builds upon responsible public participation, and the following priorities provide a basis for AAUW members’ actions at the local, state, national, and international levels. Implicit in each is support for government agencies administering programs, including adequate appropriations, effective and accountable administration, and provision for citizen participation. We advocate public discussion to ensure enlightened decisions on these priorities. We work to increase the number of women, and the diversity of backgrounds they represent, including race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual identity,
and other underrepresented populations in policy- and other decision-making positions. Our positions are shaped by our commitment to being nonpartisan and fact-based, and to acting with integrity. We strive for our work to be inclusive and intersectional, collaborating with diverse allies and coalitions to achieve equity for all.
Basic to all of AAUW’s public policy efforts is the understanding that true equity requires a balance between the rights of the individual and the needs of the community. AAUW opposes all forms of discrimination and supports constitutional protection for the civil rights of all individuals.
AAUW believes that high-quality public education is the foundation of a democratic society and the key to improving economic prosperity and gender equality. We advocate equitable access to education and climates free of harassment, bullying, and sexual assault. We support academic freedom, civic education, protection from censorship, bias-free education, and responsible funding for all levels of education, including early childhood education and programs for students with disabilities. We advocate for increased and more equitable access to higher education, that is affordable and yields high quality credentials or degrees
especially for women in poverty. We promote intentional, equity-focused equitable efforts to close the persistent learning and opportunity achievement gaps that disproportionately affect students from low-income and minority groups. children and students from communities of color.
AAUW promotes the economic, social, and physical well-being of all persons. Essential to that well-being are an economy that provides equitable employment opportunities; reduction of poverty; a living wage; quality, affordable dependent care; paid family and medical leave; safe, livable, and affordable housing; quality, affordable, and accessible health care for all, including reproductive health care; and a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment. We support a Social Security system that provides inflation-protected, guaranteed lifetime benefits with a progressive benefit formula, spousal and widow benefits, and disability and survivor benefits. We support robust and strong Medicare and Medicaid systems and oppose any efforts to undermine them, including privatization and block grant proposals. AAUW recognizes that gun violence is a public health crisis.
AAUW believes in the right to privacy and freedom from violence. We firmly believe in the separation of church and state. We support a fair, balanced, and independent judiciary. We support public budgets that balance individual rights and responsibility to the community. We see an urgent need for meaningful campaign finance reform, open and fair elections, and nonpartisan voter education efforts that will promote equitable political participation and representation in appointed and elected office.
supports believes in the need to end white supremacy and address structural and systemic racism. Efforts to improve racial, ethnic and gender justice must be embedded into every initiative and will work to eradicate intersectional bias as well. This includes working to eradicate intersectional bias and creating a diverse culture of involvement, respect, inclusion, and connection, where the richness of diverse ideas, backgrounds, and perspectives is fully appreciated, understood and utilized.
AAUW believes that global interdependence requires national and international policies against human trafficking and that promote peace, justice, human rights, sustainable development, and mutual security for all people. We support the civil and human rights of all immigrants, including a fair and just path to legal status. We support a strengthened United Nations and its affiliated agencies. We advocate implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action from the 4th World Conference on Women and subsequent declarations. We affirm our active participation in the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women and our commitment to ratification of the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). We support international family planning programs that are consistent with AAUW policy.
Biennial Action Priorities
National priorities inform state and local action. Biennial priorities for national action are chosen according to the criteria of viability, critical need, strong member support, and potential for distinctive AAUW contribution or leadership.
Based on the National Board’s adoption of the 2018 strategic plan for AAUW, national pubic policy priorities are focused first on our major areas of focus: education and training, economic security, and leadership. Additional policy priorities are also critical to ensure equity for all. No further order of importance for the additional priorities is implied.
To support a strong system of public education that promotes gender fairness, equity, diversity and inclusivity, and to address the barriers and implicit biases that hinder the advancement of women and girls, AAUW advocates
- Vigorous enforcement of Title IX and all other civil rights laws pertaining to education
- Adequate and equitable funding for and access to quality public education, including early childhood education, for all students
- Opposition to the use of public funds for nonpublic elementary and secondary education and to charter schools that do not adhere to the same civil rights and accountability standards as required of other public schools
- Increased support for and protection of programs that meet the needs of girls and women in elementary, secondary, and postsecondary education, including strong promotion of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education and comprehensive sexual health education
- Increased support for and access to affordable higher education for women, including alleviating the debt burden that disproportionately impacts borrowers of color and exacerbates the racial wealth gap.
and disadvantaged populations.
- Support for practices that halt the flow of students from schools to prisons, including reforming school disciplinary practices that disproportionately punish girls and students of color
To achieve economic security for all women, AAUW advocates
- Pay equity and fairness in compensation and benefits
- Equitable access and advancement in employment, free from systemic barriers and biases, including vigorous enforcement of employment discrimination statutes
- Closing the gender and race gaps in leadership opportunities for women of all backgrounds
- Greater availability of and access to a high standard of benefits and policies that promote work-life balance, including quality and affordable dependent care and paid family, medical, and sick leave
- Programs that provide women with education, training, and support for success in the workforce, including nontraditional occupations and women’s entrepreneurship
- Strengthening programs, including welfare and career and technical education, to improve
- postsecondary education access, career development, and earning potential
- Strengthening retirement benefits and programs, including pension improvements and protecting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid from privatization
- Access for all women to the full range of health care services to ensure economic security
- Increasing the number of quality jobs that pay a living wage
To guarantee equality, individual rights, and social justice for a diverse and inclusive society, AAUW advocates
- Vigorous enforcement of and full access to civil and constitutional rights, including affirmative action and expanding voting rights
- Complete, accurate and timely collection of data, disaggregated by race, ethnicity, and gender identity to inform policy decisions and the apportionment of political representation
- Self-determination of one’s reproductive health decisions
- Universal access to quality, affordable health care and comprehensive family planning services, including expansion of patients’ rights
- Freedom from violence and fear of violence, including hate crimes, in homes, schools, workplaces, and communities
- Support for U.N. programs that address human rights and women’s and girls’ concerns
- Freedom in the definition of self and family, including protection from discrimination and a guarantee of civil rights for all family structures
- Passage and ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment