To be informed voters, research what your candidates have acted on, what have they sponsored and importantly … ask how did they vote the issues that concern you and your interests.
I watch what has been done for seniors first, and then follow the needs of my district in general.
The Silver-Haired Legislature members gather information related to senior needs and concerns and convey them to the legislators while encouraging senior constituents to talk about The Silver-Haired Legislature’s pending resolutions to the staff in their own legislator’s offices, both home and the Capitol.
Since our membership is close to 100, representing seniors from Panhandle to coast and border to border, we have a good idea of where the votes have favored seniors.
We attend town meetings, political rallies, church groups, clubs, etc., and we gather information, then we research the issues.
We also plan and conduct town meetings specific to seniors, which consists of obtaining a sponsor, providing a site, transportation, snacks or full lunches, speakers and surveys of needs. The information is shared with local legislators.
If we find that, indeed, a problem exists and has not been addressed by law, then we write a resolution, which is our format for presenting these issues to the state legislature.
We advise seniors to take their issue to the appropriate committee chair rather than simply to someone they know; it is helpful to enlist a colleague as a sponsor who is a constituent of a member of the committee hearing related concerns.
Several thousand bills are introduced every two years. Many are defeated or vetoed. The Silver-Haired Legislature writes about 150 distinct resolutions, which are mostly accepted.
Once passed by committees as in the state legislature, they are argued in the House chamber in April of election years.
The tone is passionate but not as intense as proceedings by the legislators, under pressure from their party, constituents, advocacy groups and lobbyists.
They meet for five months each odd-numbered year. We meet for one week, but do the math — 150 issues debated over five days as opposed to 8,000 in 140 days — grueling no matter the numbers.
The Silver-Haired Legislature members attempt to gain support for our resolutions from a member of the state legislature.
Once a sympathetic legislator is identified, we commit to testifying on the bill in committee. We work diligently, without financial or clerical support, to improve the quality of life for seniors.
Our members hail from military, education, business, health care, law enforcement and legal firms, farmers and ranchers, insurance agents and ministers — even former state legislators — giving us a sound base to know what we are supporting.
We “look like” Texans; many colors, creeds, ethnicities, sexes and national origins.
Our “sameness” is only in our age and determination to demand fair and equal rights for seniors and the right to be respectfully heard … and we are.
Next, I will write of the resolutions we have written that have become important laws for seniors (and others) and I will share the six or seven items I am presently working on.
They must be submitted by March 17. If you have an issue, write the editor of this paper. Stay well.
Betty Streckfuss is a part-time resident of Jamaica Beach. She is speaker pro tem with the Texas Silver-Haired Legislature and a retired registered nurse.