Students get involved in Texas state government as new legislative session begins

Lauren Goodman

UT students are working with state legislators in many forms this semester during Texas’ 87th Legislative Session.

Over 1,800 bills have been introduced so far for the 87th Texas Legislature’s regular session, which began Jan. 12 and will end May 31. 

Kevin Roberts, vice chair of the Longhorn Lobbying Commission, a commission affiliated with University Democrats, said they convene every legislative session to advocate for bills their organization supports. Roberts said the students in the commission are advocating for numerous bills related to raising the minimum wage to $15, voter registration and women’s rights.

“I'm looking forward to the session,” government sophomore Roberts said. “A lot of the focus will be on COVID-19, redistricting and the budget, but I'm definitely optimistic that we can get some of these bills passed this session.”

Government junior Hector Mendez said he is keeping track of education-related legislation with a Twitter bot he created called TXLege Student Watcher, which automatically retweets any tweets related to the hashtags #TxEd and #TxLege every hour. Mendez said the bot is nonpartisan and began as a personal project for him. 

“I'm hoping that more (students) will be able to follow (the legislative session),” Mendez said. “There's a lot of bills that pertain to college students that I think would be very important for them to learn and find out.”

Mendez said he is personally following the progress of H.B. 93, which would designate polling places on college campuses. Hook The Vote, a nonpartisan agency in UT Student Government, brought the bill to representatives to increase voting access for students. 

“It's a big deal for me to make sure that college students have a voting site that is close to them on campus so they don't have to go out of the way to go to other voting places,” Mendez said.

Government freshman Carter Moxley will work directly in the Texas Capitol as an intern for state Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, who is chairman of the House Redistricting Committee, which will draw district boundaries based on 2020 U.S. Census data.

“I wanted to give back to my community since they provided so much for me through financial aid and scholarships,” said Moxley, a member of UT’s chapter for the Young Conservatives of Texas. “I love my community and District 61. To tell you the truth, it's very humbling to be able to come here and represent them in the office of District 61.”

Moxley said he responds to constituents’ letters and phone calls as a legislative intern. He said that it’s been an amazing experience getting to work at the Texas Capitol.

“On the Texas House Capitol, I am blessed beyond words,” Moxley said. “I love the hustle and bustle of government work and all the intricate parts and how it works.”

Mendez said more students should be paying attention to state and local legislatures because bills and resolutions can directly affect day-to-day life more than national politics.

“If (students) want to know what's going on, and even voice their own opinions about it to have some change, they should absolutely be paying attention to the Texas Legislature,” Mendez said.