Monday, January 10, 2005

What to do right now about appropriations

The 79th Texas Legislature convenes at noon tomorrow (January 11). For the following 140 days, legislators will consider 5000 or so bills and pass a budget for the next biennium--2006-2007. Most of the bills will die somewhere in the legislative pipeline, and a lot of attention will be given, both in the press and on the floor of both houses, to critical state issues relating to school finance and reform of child and adult protective services. Even so, at the end of 140 days, the legislature must pass an appropriations bill.

We can expect to have several opportunities to influence the decisions to be made regarding the appropriations bill. Indeed, Texas AIDS Network has already been active in testifying at hearings during the past several months to advocate for increased funding for HIV. There are, however, a number of things that individuals and organizations can do right now to help legislators to focus on HIV and its funding needs in Texas.

  • Make sure that concerned persons in your community are aware of the impending shortfall in HIV funds in the next biennium. Tell them that the Texas HIV Medication Program needs $15.9 million in new state funds in order to maintain services at the current level. Concerned persons would include:
  • People living with HIV/AIDS
  • Their family members and caregivers
  • Health professionals
  • City Council members
  • County Commissioners
  • Hospital district
  • Local AIDS service organizations
  • Ryan White planning groups
  • Faith-based organizations
  • Allied organizations (e.g., Red Cross, PFLAG, etc.)
  • Gather a group (4 or 5 at most) of people from diverse backgrounds (so you can share different perspectives on the issue) and visit the local district office of your state legislators. Meet with the staff who support the legislator in the district to talk about how HIV/AIDS affects the district (or local area/city/county) and how important the Texas HIV Medication Program is to clients in the area. Request the legislator's support for $15.9 million in new state funds for HIV.
  • Note that legislators usually stay in Austin Monday-Thursday during the early weeks of a legislative session, so that it may be possible to meet with your legislator in the district on a Friday. However, staff members are critically important in helping legislators understand the importance of some issues. You should not hesitate to meet with staff members if the legislator is not available.
  • Try to leave something in writing so that your facts and figures don't get forgotten. Providing contact information for follow up questions is also a good idea.

These are two activities that would be most helpful in the next two or three weeks. If you take any of these actions, be sure to let us know by email or in the comments.

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