‘Interaction is not happening’: Groups say access to Texas lawmakers more difficult during COVID-19

‘Interaction is not happening’: Groups say access to Texas lawmakers more difficult during COVID-19

Signage enforcing mask usage outside the House Gallery of the Texas State Capitol in Austin, Texas on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. (Lynda M. González/The Dallas Morning News) AUSTIN — In a regular legislative year, the halls of the Texas Capitol are filled with visitors from all parts of the state and from every political stripe. From the panhandle to the Rio Grande Valley and from El Paso to Beaumont, the visitors come. Some are tourists from out-of-state, others are schoolchildren on civics field trips. Many are everyday Texans who devote a few days of their lives to testify to lawmakers about issues close to their hearts. This session is different . Fear of contracting COVID-19 has tempered the number of Texans willing to go into an enclosed space with hundreds of other people. That has hit many advocacy groups hard. “It makes it more challenging for us to express the member voice,” said Kathy Greene, manager of outreach and advocacy for American Association of Retired Persons Texas. “They’re hearing from us and, yes, we do represent our membership but there’s no substitute for that first person member voice in advocacy.” While some groups argue that the Legislature’s COVID-19 protocols aren’t safe enough for their members to visit the Capitol, others argue that the rules are too restrictive. “I would prefer that anybody can go in,” said Chris McNutt, executive director of Texas Gun Rights. “It’s not a uniform standard throughout the Capitol. Anyone who enters can mingle with anyone […]

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