Understanding and Getting Involved
in the Interim
The time between Texas’ legislative sessions is known as the interim. This 19-month period gives state agencies and boards the opportunity to implement newly approved legislation and provide legislators with time to study issues and prepare for the next
Even though the interim is the calm between the storms so to speak, it is actually the best time for
you and your political action team to be proactive in forming relationships with legislators and providing your input on education issues. The interim offers ATPE members several great opportunities to get politically involved.
The work of state agencies
All agencies and boards derive their power from statute. Agencies have the
authority and responsibility to make any rules necessary to fulfill their
purposes as set by the Legislature, a process referred to as rule-making. Agencies must
propose rules to accomplish their own broad purposes.
According to statute, the purpose of the Teacher Retirement System (TRS) is “to establish a program of benefits for members, retirees, and other
beneficiaries of the retirement system and to establish rules for membership in and the management and
operation of the retirement system.” To fulfill that purpose, the TRS had to create a whole set of rules (ranging from membership requirements to guidelines on creditable service), and as long as a rule is pertinent it is within TRS’s
The 77th legislative session’s public school employee health insurance bill explicitly required TRS to
create rules to implement the program. The Legislature set up the main structure of the program, but the agency was responsible for the details.
Agencies are required to notify the public when considering proposed rules. The public usually has 30 days after that notice to submit written comments on the proposed rule. The public can also request a hearing so the agency can hear input. Agencies are required to consider all public testimony and written comments when making rules.
Because of the opportunity for public input, the rule-making process offers yet another chance
for ATPE members to get politically involved. Your experience and knowledge can help agencies create rules that benefit Texas educators and schoolchildren. Call ATPE Governmental Relations if you would
like help formulating testimony or comments on a proposed rule.
The major agencies and boards that make
education-related rules are the Texas Education Agency (TEA), State Board of Education (SBOE), State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) and TRS. These agencies and boards often appoint task forces, hold stakeholder meetings and establish
focus groups to gather input, formulate rules and gauge public response to proposed rules and
regulations affecting public education. Appointed committees and groups often have public members, including educators.
For this reason, it’s a good idea to establish rapport with the people who represent you at the state agencies and on the boards. By maintaining good relationships with these agencies, your chances of being included in committees and meetings increases substantially, providing you with a greater opportunity to have your concerns and ideas heard by those with the power to make positive changes in education.
Legislators’ work in the interim
While agencies are hard at work defining rules to implement laws passed during the last session,
legislators are also busy with interim activities. A large part of a legislative session’s work is done
during the interim, when agencies, special interest groups, legislators and their staffs review issues such as education and decide which policies or laws need to be changed or created.
The lieutenant governor and speaker of the
House appoint interim committees after every legislative session to research and make recommendations on specific issues. These committees are mostly
composed of legislators, but at times public members with specialized knowledge of the issues are appointed to them. Interim committees’ recommendations
frequently become the basis for legislation.
ATPE works closely with all education-related interim committees and encourages ATPE members to submit input to these committees as
well. The Legislative Alert Network (LAN) keeps members informed about the meetings and activities of these committees and
alerts them of opportunities for involvement.
During the interim, legislators also work in their districts, trying to address the needs and concerns
of their constituents. As such, the interim is the time when your legislators are in closest proximity to you and have the most time available to meet with you.
Visiting your legislators in their district offices lets them know you are a constituent, not just a
random person trying to garner their votes at the Capitol. It also lets them know you understand the nature of the legislative process and that issues get the most attention during the interim. The Legislature is in session for a short time, so getting your issues heard and on your legislators’ agendas during the interim can make a world of difference as to whether or not a law can successfully be passed in the
Also, remember that your legislator may be preparing to run for re-election during the interim session. Volunteering for his campaign is a great
way to build a relationship with your legislator. (See
Participating in the Process for details on the election process
and how to get involved in it.)
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