A Week in Austin during the Legislature
This picture is taken with two of my law school classmates – Mark Bentley and Jim Phillips – who work in the General Counsel’s office of the University of Texas system in Austin. I met them for a visit this week, and also with the knowledge that the picture below would end up on the appropriate Facebook walls. Indeed, Mark had it up while we were just beginning our visit in Jim’s office downtown after taking the picture at the Capitol.
Mark Bentley, Jim Phillips, Ken Raggio, UT School of Law class of 1974
There may be bills about Facebook pending before the legislature now; I do not know. But I do know a whole lot about the bills that have been filed that affect Family Law.
I spent the week in Austin as a volunteer lobbyist for the Texas Family Law Foundation to help good legislation to be promulgated by the legislature. Experienced family law attorneys volunteer to spend a week in Austin to aid with that effort. Sometimes bills will be heard before the Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence Committee of the House or before the Jurisprudence Committee of the Senate. During the 2011 session, I testified before both the House and the Senate committees. I refer to the week that I, along with Heather King and Charla Bradshaw, testified as the “Superbowl” week of the 2011 session for Family Law, as the Fraud on the Community bill, the Alimony bill, and the Paternity Fraud bill all had hearings that week. Those three bills, all of which became law, were a main part of the Family Law Section’s – and Foundation’s – 2011 legislative package.
This week in February 2013 found the committees of the Senate and House just getting organized and not yet conducting hearings on bills. So my job this week was to assist the Foundation’s lobbyists, Steve Bresnan and Glenn DeShields, in reviewing bills and explaining some bills to either the staff of the committees, to the legislative aides of senators or representatives, or, in fact, to legislators themselves.
Steve would talk to the appropriate party, and would arrange a meeting . We would explain our request for refinement, clarification or express our concerns about a bill. I believe that the Texas Family Law Foundation and its lobbyists are well respected in Austin, due in part to the fact that the Family Law Bar speaks with one voice. Not to mention skilled and knowledgeable lobbyists.
An example is that a certain legislator’s bill would have caused an impermissible retroactive modification of a family law judgment. Steve notified the legislator’s staff of our concerns and arranged a meeting with the legislator and we were accompanied by a member of the Attorney General’s staff to the meeting. After our visit and by the end of the day, we were able to suggest insertions and deletions into the bill with which the legislator, the AG’s represenative and the Foundation were all very comfortable.
So not only did I get to see how “sausage is made” but I got to participate just a little bit in that process. And hopefully made for a little bit better sausage.