Matthew McConaughey stole a bit of Galveston County’s thunder Wednesday.
Minutes before county commissioners were set to be introduced as part of a proclamation announcing Galveston County Day in the Texas Legislature, the Oscar-winning actor was introduced in the House chamber.
He was there to celebrate a proclamation honoring the Longview Lobos, a high school football team that won UIL 6A Division II state championship in December. McConaughey is a Longview native.
For the 300 or so people from Galveston County who flocked to the Capitol on Wednesday, McConaughey’s surprise appearance was an example of how unpredictable a Texas Legislative session can be.
Galveston County Day at the capital is, above all, a marketing day, officials said. The hundreds of people were split into groups and then sent about the statehouse to make introductions and quick presentations to representatives and senators or, more frequently, to members of their staffs.
The day of meetings culminated in a dinner at a local event center featuring oysters, red fish, beer and spirits from Galveston County businesses.
Lobbying days can seem hectic, given the normal hustle and bustle of the capital. But the appearance of constituents does mean something to the legislators who get visits, said state Rep. Mayes Middleton.
“It means so much more for other legislators to see people from the district up here,” Middleton said. “A lot of times, they’re hearing from third parties or lobbyists, and it just means a lot more when people have a real stake in it.”
Chambers of commerce in Galveston, League City, Texas City, La Marque, Santa Fe, Friendswood, Hitchcock and Dickinson organized the trip. The delegation included elected leaders from every city, as well as representatives from school districts, colleges and the Port of Galveston.
Local leaders did get some face-time with some top state officials. Gov. Greg Abbott joined the group for a photograph at the beginning of the day, and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick met with a smaller group including County Judge Mark Henry, League City Mayor Pat Hallisey and Friendswood Mayor pro-tem John Scott.
Hallisey told the Abbott and Patrick that Galveston County needed more help with flood recovery. He reserved critiques of the Texas General Land Office’s performance since Hurricane Harvey for a more appropriate setting, he said.
“If you don’t put your best foot out there, you’ll never know,” Hallisey said.
Patrick and a group of state senators introduced three of hurricane recovery bills hours later.
Disaster recovery is one of two issues that Galveston County is inexorably connected to this legislative session, along with the school safety proposals that have come up after the mass shooting at Santa Fe High School on May 18.
But while those two topics were among the things the Galveston delegation broached Wednesday, they were far from the only topic.
Teams advocated for more coastal protection, and for certain kinds of bail reform, for pro-tourism legislation and against unfunded mandates. A reminder included in packets handed out to the lobbying participants told them to “be realistic” about how much they’ll be able to accomplish in the short meetings, and not to be argumentative with legislators.
The ultimate goal of the lobbying day might not be to change hearts and minds, but to find allies in Austin, or to plant the seeds of future relationships.
“The more legislators that meet and the more people we bring up here, I think it builds and it helps a little bit,” County Commissioner Stephen Holmes said. “Maybe you get the one or two votes to get your bill passed.”