Going to the "Big Pink Building"
January 25, 2017, 9:00 PM

Sunday I loaded the back of my Ford Edge with a full suitcase, a computer bag stuffed with UMW Resource and Year books, snacks, water, and a silent auction basket and headed down I35E towards Austin. The fact that I experienced NO heavy traffic OR construction cannot go unmentioned. Anyone who travels this route knows that this is truly miraculous and undoubtedly a good sign.

My destination was the Holiday Inn Austin Midtown to meet with other United Methodist Women and Texas Impact for the 25th annual Legislative Event. We learned that 190 of us registered and of those there were 69 Newbies!!! That is very exciting! To add to our joy, I have to say that the increased number of young women attending was so uplifting and encouraging. They were a vocal and energetic group and a delight to have in our midst. They listened and contributed in a very meaningful way to discussions of some very heavy legislative issues.

After listening and learning on Sunday and Monday, we met as UMW conferences- 6 of them- to caucus and reach consensus on THREE legislative priorities for our conference. There were 42 women in the Central Texas Conference, led by our Social Action Coordinator, Rebecca Lucas. She successfully moderated a brainstorming of issues that we felt were key, helped us narrow our selection to three, and then craft statements about what we hoped our legislators will do during this session to address those issues.

Following our Conference Caucuses, the 6 Social Action Chairs met to combine the results of caucusing and develop the final 2017 Texas UMW Legislative Priorities. You can find those by going to http://texasimpact.org/UMW .

That evening I honed a new skill I learned that day- using Twitter. I searched for the representatives I was assigned to visit and learned a little about them- their campaign platforms, personal interests, hot topics, home towns, and favorite sports teams. Then I fell into bed for a much needed sleep before a way too early get up time to allow for breakfast before getting on the bus at 7 AM!

Armed with our pink page of legislative priorities, a list of legislators to visit, a cheat sheet that revealed some of their interests and previous votes in support of UMW priorities, and a map of the big pink building, we boarded the buses for the trip through Austin traffic to the Capitol. One cannot help but be impressed as you turn the corner to see that big pink building. It is pretty awe-inspiring. 

We met for a pep talk with long time supporter and UMW cheerleader, Representative Donna Howard. She sent us on our way as optimistic as possible.

As you walk into the halls of the Capitol, for the first, second, third, or in my case, fourth time, the feeling is always a bit overwhelming. The first hurdle is simply figuring out where you are going, which direction you are supposed to turn, which elevator will actually go to the wing that you need, and which labyrinthine hallway is the right one to take. It can be pretty daunting. It made me wish for a GPS or an APP for that!! But, I made it, and happily all three of my representatives were on the same floor, in the same wing on two parallel halls. AND, there was a bench nearby that was comfortable enough for sitting to write thank you notes and legislative visit evaluations between visits.

Visiting legislators is to be highly recommended as an exercise in courage and character building! Not to mention that it can be very empowering and encouraging.

Here are a couple of nuggets I came away with.

First, your representative needs to hear from you. They have an enormous log of bills to read and make decisions about. If there is a bill that you care about -even a little bit- you should share your opinion. Emails matter. Phone calls matter. Letters matter. They get categorized and counted. They can be used to defend a difficult decision you support that is unpopular with a vocal minority back home.  If you don’t know the contact information for your legislators, check here http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/Home.aspx . Most Legislators have a local office and staff. Go visit. Get to know the staff and help them get to know you and your priorities.

Second, in order to share your opinion when it matters, you have to pay attention! Sign up for Texas Impact’s Weekly Witness. http://texasimpact.org/Weekly-Witnes. Texas Impact will be meeting every Monday from 12-1 and these meetings are open to you if are able to go to Austin FUMC, AND if you are not, you can watch live on Facebook, or later on a podcast.  Another way to keep up is to sign up for the Texas Impact Newsletter here https://visitor.r20.constantcontact.com/manage/optin?v=001Qllubg_SeqKgPO4tyCPLjTxJ2XjRrz-E 

Finally, remember that all of this takes time. Sometimes the process will take more than one session. Sometimes good happens incrementally. Be patient and persistent.

Be informed, be involved, and be an influence for good for women, children and youth at the legislature.

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