A Brave New World: COVID-19, Social Media, and the Texas Legislature
Over the years, TTA has faced many legislative challenges and grown stronger. But COVID-19 is testing our country and TTA in new ways. Two factors are converging; that means TTA and our members must now work harder than ever before to save the Texas Universal Service Fund (TUSF):
- The fact that the TUSF is not financially solvent in the long run.
- The COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite the needed changes to how TUSF distributions were made in 2017, how revenue flowed into the TUSF has remained static. As a result, there has been insufficient revenue flowing into the fund to ensure it remains solvent for the long term. TTA has been very proactive in discussing this issue with the PUC Commissioners, PUC Staff, and the Governor’s office. While it’s possible they may still take action, each day that passes means this issue is more and more likely to be a legislative issue in the 2021 legislative session.
Of course, we don’t have to tell you how hard COVID-19 has affected the country. You and your employees live those hardships each day and are serving the people of rural Texas with great distinction. But COVID-19 is also affecting how state governments are doing business. States, including Texas, are exploring how to hold legislative sessions with the possibility of additional waves of COVID-19 outbreaks in the Fall or early 2021. Utah was the first state in the nation to conduct a legislative session while simultaneously adhering to social distancing protocols. The result: a new and heavier reliance on electronic communication, social media, and virtual meetings.
Therefore, it is of utmost importance that TTA members prepare for a new way of interacting with their legislators. While we have talked in the past about letting us know of your interactions with legislators and other local leaders, this is now critical. Charlie Cano, with Etex Telephone Coop, has kindly set up an electronic version of our legislative contact form and a short video on how to use it. You can find the contact form via this link: https://app.smartsheet.com/b/form/3507917738f240138275b82662714590. You can find the video explaining its use below.
We strongly encourage you to familiarize yourself with that form and use it anytime you interact with legislators and other local leaders (whether in person or virtually). That way, we can use that information effectively on your behalf in Austin.
We also strongly encourage you to actively participate in social media, particularly Twitter and Facebook. Legislators routinely use these social media platforms to interact with constituents and to learn what is happening in their districts. Telling your story on these and other social media platforms will make legislators aware of the good work you and your employees do, as well as the great service you provide to rural Texas. That is also the type of information that we can use here in Austin to help justify the continuation of TUSF.
Of course, we are always available if you have any questions. Please feel free to get in touch as we all begin to navigate these uncharted waters.
If you have any comments or questions, please contact TTA.