How to Use Grassroots Priorities
This is a pictorial help guide to using Grassroots America's Legislative Transparency Tool, Grassroots Priorities.
When you visit the website, you'll see the menu in the white bar near the top.
We'll go through each menu item and explain what you can with this powerful tool to help you understand more about the 88th legislative session and your representatives.
Let's start with the LEGISLATORS menu.
If you click it, you'll see a list of all of our Texas State members of the legislature, plus the Governor and Lieutenant Governor, who are part of the Executive Branch, but work with the legislature to create policy and law for Texans.
Here, you can browse the Representatives and Senators and click each one to learn about them.
We'll pick a legislator at the top of the alphabetical list, Steve Allison, and view his legislator page.
You see his picture, what district he represents, his contact information, and his social media handles.
Below that, you can see what committee assignments he has, and if he chairs or vice-chairs any of the committees.
View Campaign Finances
On a legislator's page, you'll see the top five contributors. This data was gathered from Transparency USA.
We often hear people wonder "who the money is" behind our politicians. We introduce you to the top five and encourage you to click the big red button "View All Campaign Finances" to learn even more!
At the Transparency USA website, you can learn about who donates and how that money was spent.
View Bills Authored by This Rep
On a legislator's page, you can see bills your Representative authored. You learn that by clicking the big red button, "View Bills Authored by This Rep."
You should know that a member can author a bill, joint author a bill, and co-author a bill.
The author is one who writes it and files it.
A joint author can help the author manage the bill through its journey in the legislative process. They can handle questions, deal with amendments, and so on. A bill can have up to four joint authors.
A Co-author is basically someone who heartily agrees with the legislation, and by co-authoring early, they signal their support for its passage.
At any point during session, a legislator can sign on to be a joint author or co-author, but the later in the session that happens, the less impact it has on helping a bill achieve success.
View Votes Cast by This Rep
On the Legislator page, you can see how a legislator voted. These votes are recorded in journals available to view at the Texas Legislature Online (TLO) website.
Each time there is a "Record Vote," that vote is recorded in the journal. For members of the House, these Record Votes are numbered. You can click the link we provide to go directly to the TLO website and see for yourself.
A Record Vote can be for a bill or an amendment on a bill.
Our Grassroots Priorities website works to connect the dots for you in a more easily understood way. We give you more context around each vote, such as whether the bill or amendment was Republican, Democrat, or Bipartisan. For amendments, we simply look at the political party of the authors of the amendment. For a bill, we look at the author and joint authors.
View Journal Statements of Vote by This Rep
On the legislator page, we also show you the journal Statements of Vote. These are the times that, after a Record Vote, a House member can indicate that they voted the wrong way, or had stepped away when a vote took place.
These statements are part of the journal. While they don't change the actual vote itself, the statements allow the legislator to tell the public that they made a mistake.
An abundance of statements should prompt us to ask our Representatives why they were away so much or why they made so many mistakes. We recommend that you ASK them rather than assuming why they changed their votes. Did they have an excused absence? Do they have a policy of prioritizing a scheduled meeting with a constituent even if it conflicts with what they consider to be a vote on a low priority bill? Are they working to move a major piece of legislation, which requires them to pre-schedule meetings? Asking questions is important to get down to the facts.
View Vote Differences with Other Reps
The last big red button on the legislator page allows you to see the other Representatives a legislator disagrees with most often.
For Steve Allison, he disagrees more often with other Republicans than he does Democrats. Why is that?
You should know that if you look at every Democrat's Vote Differences page, their vote differences are always with Republicans - not with other Democrats. But about half of our Texas Republican House caucus most often votes differently from at least one Republican than they vote against Democrats.
That fact might explain a lot about what we see in the painfully slow-moving conservative agenda in Texas. After twenty+ years of solid Republican leadership in the Texas legislature, we see other states move forward faster on "citizen first" common sense priorities, such as ensuring election integrity/ballot security, stopping expensive "magnets" that encourage illegal aliens, protecting children/advancing parental rights, securing gun rights, stopping the World Economic Forum WOKE push, and other critical issues.
If you click the big red button, "View Differences with Other Reps," you'll see the number of times that the Representative voted differently than others in the legislature.
For each pairing, if the two legislators voted Yea or Nay on a Record Vote, that number goes into the Total Votes column.
For every time that one voted "Yea" and the other "Nay," or the one voted "Nay" and the other "Yea," that goes into the Times Disagreed column.
By default, the list is sorted by percentage, with the Representatives who vote differently than the legislator most often at the top.
Republicans should disagree with Democrats most often, not Republicans. As mentioned, the Democrats are a solid block who always disagree with Republicans before they disagree with a Democrat.
If you click the Compare Votes button in the left column, you can look at the actual votes where the two disagree.
You might find this interesting to read through.
You can filter by a word in a bill's caption (short description of its purpose), or you can use the drop down to filter to Democrat, Bipartisan, or Republican bills.
If two Republicans disagreed frequently with each other, you want to see when they disagreed on Democrat bills, for example.
On the page where you view the vote differences with all of the legislators in that chamber, the default sort order is to view Most Differences first, but you can change that to Least Differences.
Here, you can see that a Democrat's vote record isn't much different than Steve Allison's vote record.
NOTE: Of the thousands of bills submitted for consideration, a large number of them are ceremonial in nature - commemorating a highway in honor of a deceased first responder or congratulating someone for an achievement.
Even between the most left-leaning Democrat and the most right-leaning Republican, they still agree close to 40% to 50% of the time because of these ceremonial bills.
BEWARE! Don't let someone try to fool you about these differences and similarities. The right question to ask is "Why is anyone in our Republican House caucus siding with Democrats and their agenda before siding with every Republican?"
Let's move to the BILLS menu.
No one has the time to browse over 11,000 bills. You'll want to use the Filter button.
The Filter button narrows the number of bills that you see according to criteria that you select. If you click it, it will take you to a new page.
The Filter page allows you to select criteria to search what you need to see.
You can search by GOP Priority.
You can search by authorship. Again, if a bill or amendment has only Republicans as its authors, we call it Republican. If a bill or amendment has only Democrats as its authors, we call it Democrat. If a bill or amendment has both Democrats and Republicans as its authors, we call it Bipartisan.
You can search by author/joint author.
Or by just the lead author, the one who filed it.
You can sort by bill status. Upon request, we can show you the process by which we categorized bill status.
Really, it's pretty simple though. Some bills never went to a committee, such as HR 14 (https://capitol.texas.gov/BillLookup/History.aspx?LegSess=88R&Bill=HR14), so it has a bill status of "Never Made It to a Committee."
Some never got a public hearing, such as HB 10 (https://capitol.texas.gov/BillLookup/History.aspx?LegSess=88R&Bill=HB10), so it has a bill status of "Died in Committee with No Public Hearing."
But let us know if you want to understand our algorithm.
Bills are assigned subjects when filed. These are the topics / issues addressed by the bill. You can search by these.
And you can search by text in the caption or the bill number itself.
The results will allow you to page through them - if the result is that large.
There is a description of your search at the top of the page.
Each bill displays its status, what committee first received it, whether it was a Democrat or Republican-Chaired committee, whether it was a GOP Priority, who authored it, and you can see its caption.
You can also click into the text box on the page if you want to copy a link to the results to share with others.
Looking at a Bill in Grassroots Priorities
If you click into the bill itself, you'll see a presentation of what transpired during the life of the bill.
It's particularly noteworthy to see who signed onto a bill as a coauthor and when.
In this example (see below), the bill was left pending in committee with no further action in late March, but over a month later in May, a Representative decided to finally show support for this bill.
(We probably need a search function for Coauthors... we'll consider that in a future enhancement.)
LEGE DONORS Menu
If you click into the LEGE DONORS menu, you see the heaviest contributors to our Texas Legislature. We hope this spurs conversations in your district.
The COMMITTEES menu shows you the committees in each chamber.
If you click into a committee, you'll see the members of the committee.
Further down, you'll see when it met and what actions it took.
You can also sort by bill, as sometimes a bill before committee is discussed more than once.
During session, many people make their way to the various committees to lobby for or against a bill. On the TLO website, if you look at the committee meetings for the House and Senate, you'll find the witness lists.
This section of the website gives you information about who visited what committee to influence lawmakers for which bills.
Not every bill had someone lobby for it, but these pages help you see who did. To see that, click into a bill.
By default, it shows you, by date, what lobbying occurred. You can change the sort order to the person or the organization lobbying.
The links for organizations will take you to Google to learn more about the organization.
If you see a person with a purple link, that person is a paid lobbyist with at least six clients, and the link will take you to their TransparencyUSA page - or a page that helps you know who they are.
The Search page allows you to select criteria to filter the list of bills to what you need to see.
There are thousands of people and organizations who lobbied, so rather than make you scroll through an enormous list, if you're searching for a person or organization, you first need to load those matches.
Let's say that you're looking for our friend, Tom Glass. Just type in a few characters of his last name and click Load Matches.
When you do that, the drop downs will load with all of the people and organizations that match what you entered.
Then you select them from the list and click the Search button at the bottom of the page.
The Lobbying page will then displays the bills that match the search criteria.
If you do search for a person or organization, you'll be able to see how often their efforts returned the desired outcome.
If they lobbied for a bill and it passed the House and Senate, that's success. If they lobbied against a bill and it failed to pass through both chambers, that's also success.
The number of successes against the total number of bills they lobbied determines the percentage.
PLEASE NOTE: correlation doesn't assert causation. It could just be coincidence. Nonetheless, the desired outcome percentage is a good number to know.
And of course, you can search by the other criteria as well.
The VIDEOS menu shows you short videos that champion and promote our conservative values. Feel free to view and share.
EMAIL MEMBERS Menu
The EMAIL MEMBERS tool lets you send an email to your state rep and senator.
Lastly, the FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) page addresses a few questions we're often asked.
Grassroots Priorities is Owned by Grassroots America - We the People. This website is free to use. Our hope is that it helps you collect critical facts to help launch important conversations about HOW you are being represented in Austin and thus be empowered to make important decisions about who represents you in Austin.
Like any good organization, the code and data are backed up and available if we need to mirror the site. We've done this because we love Texas, and we cannot sit quietly and idly by while too many willfully profit from politics at the expense of Texans.
Yes, some "influencers" and their consultants like to keep the problems around to continue raising money off the "failures." We reject the "discord for profit" model and believe that itís in the best interest of Texans, future generations, and Liberty to solve problems.
Now, YOU can do your own "opposition research" to verify what's being pushed out in campaign posts, websites, ads, and mailers. We hope our accountability tool will help you cut through the "How do we fool them today?" spin from the Left and the Right, which only serves to enrich the profiteers who do not care about the Texas we love or the values we hold dear.