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Our Collective Impact This Legislative Session

With the support of North Texas change-seekers, we pushed for real change in the areas of education, income and health.

June 2, 2023

The regular session of the 88th Texas legislature has come to an end, and we are overwhelmed by the level of engagement and enthusiasm we saw from our fellow North Texas advocates this year.

At United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, our team worked closely with hundreds of dedicated change-seekers to speak up and speak out for meaningful change in our focus areas of education, income and health. And over the 140 days of the session, advocates like you stood up for our community, educated lawmakers and called attention to policies that will have a real impact in the lives of our fellow North Texans.

Thank you to everyone who was part of our advocacy efforts over the last several months. Here’s just a snapshot of our collective impact this session:

Engaging Directly with Lawmakers

We identified several opportunities to connect lawmakers directly with our advocates, our United Way team and the people in the North Texas community:

  • To kick off the legislative session, on March 1, United Way team members and supporters gathered in Austin for United Way Day at the Capitol, our largest and most impactful advocacy event during Texas’ legislative session. Throughout the day, our 24 advocates met directly with 30 local state legislators and their staff and voiced their support of our legislative priorities.
  • Over the past year, city, state and federal elected officials or staff attended United Way volunteer events to see our community impact work in action. More than a dozen local officials joined us at events that included Lunch with Legislators, Digital Connections laptop distributions and United Way Reading Day.
  • During the session, the United Way advocacy team worked directly with legislators to file two bills—the first time we have taken the lead on bills. We partnered with Rep. Yvonne Davis to file HB 4846, which sought to improve transportation options for individuals in job training programs. We also worked with Sen. Nathan Johnson to file SB 1822, which would seal evictions records if a tenant wins their case or their case is dismissed, and worked with two offices that filed similar bills in the Texas House. Although bills related to both of these issues failed to pass this session, together with our advocates and statewide partners, we helped to build interest and awareness on these important issues.

Tracking Hundreds of Bills

Lawmakers introduced more than 11,800 bills this session. Our team closely tracked 166 pieces of legislation that would directly impact our Aspire United 2030 goals so we could quickly and efficiently rally our advocates when these key bills were being considered.

Bringing Together Hundreds of Advocates—Many for the First Time

Throughout the legislative session, the Live United movement truly united around the issues that matter most in our community. Our group of dedicated advocates grew to 907 this year—and many of these change-seekers were advocating for the first time. We are so grateful to everyone who was a part of this inspiring effort.

Advocating Collectively at Key Moments

Our team sent a total of 17 Action Alerts this session, notifying our subscribers of important updates on our legislative priorities to let advocates know exactly how and when to contact their representatives to make the biggest impact possible. This collective advocacy is the best way to call attention to specific bills that may otherwise get overlooked.

Meanwhile, we also developed Action Alerts for the various coalitions we help lead, especially the Texas Fair Lending Alliance to protect the payday and auto-title lending ordinances. And we highlighted and directed calls to important legislation that our partners were championing, including HB 12 (which extends Medicaid coverage to postpartum mothers to 12 months) and HB 77 (which decriminalized a child voluntarily running away from home).

Informing North Texans About Important Policy Issues

Our advocacy work also involves providing North Texans with context about our legislative priorities that enables them to have a full picture of complex issues around education, income and health. Over the last year, that involved:

  • Organizing three regional pre-session webinars in partnership with four other local United Ways, with about 70 people in attendance at each event.
  • Hosting our annual Lunch with Legislators with Dallas Citizen’s Council, which was an opportunity for business leaders and community leaders to hear from local legislators about the 2023 session.
  • Co-hosting Dallas Delegation Day with the Dallas Regional Chamber and Dallas Citizen’s Council before session, which included five robust panel discussions with community leaders on key community issues.

Lending Our Expertise to Important Topics of Debate

Through our community impact work, our team at United Way has extensive experience and expertise on the challenges and opportunities impacting education, income and health in North Texas. This year, we were able to leverage that expertise in several ways:

  • By providing a unique perspective to the housing policy landscape based on our experience providing rental assistance. Through testimony and one-on-one meetings, we provided insight into the efficacy, administration and benefits of certain policies to help give legislators a well-rounded understanding of the obstacles facing tenants, and benefits and disadvantages of varying solutions.
  • By convening our local partners connected to home visiting programs to discuss how our region should collectively address proposed changes to the state’s approach to these programs.

Helping Achieve Several Legislative Victories

Thanks to dedicated advocates like you, this session we had key wins in education, income and health:

  • We helped secure an additional $65 million in funding for prevention and early intervention programs that help prevent child abuse and neglect.
  • We helped secure an extra $1.8 million in funding for Texas’ 211 Referral Helpline, which is an important community resource for low-income North Texans.
  • We pushed back against legislation that would have allowed more high-interest loans in our communities. These bills ultimately died.
  • We joined with hundreds of partners throughout the state to expand Medicaid coverage to 12 months post-partum. Advocates have been pushing this for multiple years, and with your help, it finally helped!

What’s Next?

Gov. Greg Abbott has until June 18 to sign or veto legislation passed this session. Advocates are waiting to celebrate their wins until after this veto period, so let’s try to not call attention to our issues or wins just yet.

Gov. Abbott called a special legislative session last week, which is already underway and deals with property taxes and border security. The governor has indicated that he will likely call several special sessions, though the topics are unknown at this time.

At United Way, we’ll continue to monitor education, income and health issues that are raised during these special sessions. Please watch for additional Action Alerts from United Way in the coming months so we can continue to speak up and speak out together to improve access to education, income and health in North Texas.


Advocate With Us 

Although the regular session has ended, there’s still work to be done. Join us as we speak up and speak out—together—on the issues that impact North Texas. Sign up for our Advocacy Alerts, and we’ll let you know when and how to contact your elected officials.