Rally Round-Up for 2013

There are so many reasons to live in Austin. My list would include all the affordable, fun things to do as a family, the 10 months of sunshine, and the many big city offerings we get to enjoy, all with the more laid-back, smaller-town vibe Austin’s known for. Maybe your list includes great live music, fabulous restaurants, Longhorn football, or cedar pollen? (Kidding.)

But one thing we should all appreciate is our great good fortune to live in the state’s seat of power. OK, I know: telling your friends, “I live in the Texas state capital” might not have the caché of dropping that line about it being the live music capital of the world. But, hey, this comes with its privileges! Among them are a lot of opportunities to go to some inspiring events with fellow citizens, make our voices heard, and enjoy the statewide rallies, lobby days, advocacy events, and “days at the Capitol” that just happen to take place here. In fact, those are all different labels for the same thing: showing people in power we care about what gets done in our name.

Rally-going and parent duty can even go hand in hand. We’ve got ourselves a kid-friendly Capitol here, with free admission (including 2 hours of free parking), a dome and rotunda that kids love, and plenty of trees for climbing, plus hills for rolling down, out on the grounds. If event organizers are game, bring your little ones and see if the kiddos don’t surprise you, while maybe picking up a civics lesson or two along the way.

Here are some dates to have on your “things to do in Austin” calendar this year. Unless otherwise noted these events are all being held on the Capitol’s south steps.

Help End Violence against Women and Families

Feb. 14 One Billion Rising, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Feb. 15 “Keep Texas Safe” 2013 Capitol Day, 10 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

An estimated 1 billion women worldwide are victims of violence, so this Valentine’s Day is a day of action. Thursday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., join fellow Texans as they “walk out, dance, rise up and demand an end to violence against women.” Also, register online to join the Texas Council on Family Violence and the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault, as they rally and raise awareness Friday, while calling on lawmakers to fully fund programs that address violence.

Speak Up for Schools

Feb. 21 Texas PTA Rally Day – 1:30 – 2 p.m. rally

Feb. 23 Save Texas Schools Rally – Noon – 1: 30 p.m.

Last time the legislature was in town, many thousands of parents came to the Capitol to try to prevent lawmakers from cutting billions from the state education budget. Now we have a new legislature, and enough money on hand to undo those cuts—but lawmakers need to hear from you first. Today is a registration cut-off day for Texas PTA members, so don’t delay if you’re planning to attend their rally. Also, bring out the family the following Saturday, beginning with a march for Texas schools that starts at 10:45 on the Congress Avenue Bridge.

Campaign for Better Health and Mental Health Care

Feb. 28 – Mental Health Capitol Day – 12:30 – 1:15 p.m.

March 5 – “Medicaid Matters” Health Care Advocacy Day11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

In part because of the Newtown tragedy, a lot of lawmakers are taking a serious look at how to improve mental health care and services in our state. That makes this year’s Capitol Day from the Mental Illness Awareness Coalition a really important one. It’s also an incredibly important year for health care advocates, as Texas must decide whether more than 1 million of our fellow citizens can have Medicaid health care (entirely paid for through federal dollars through 2017, and almost entirely after that). Up to 1,000 people are expected at the March 5 rally and march, and families are welcome.

Restore Women’s Health Services

March 20 – Women’s Healthcare Advocacy Day

March 7 – Stand Up for Women’s Health! Lobby Day

The Texas Women’s Healthcare Coalition is a new, broad-based coalition that seeks to address drastic cuts and other changes to preventive women’s health services made in Texas in 2011. While there won’t be a rally on March 20th, there will be training and opportunities to visit with lawmakers. The event on March 7th is especially for Planned Parenthood supporters. Click on the links above to register for the event you’d like to attend.

Keep Kids from Being Harmed or Silenced

April 5 – Child Protection Day / Youth in Action Day at the Capitol

April is Child Abuse Awareness Month, and a great time to join the Texas Council of Child Welfare Boards in calling for the state to help protect kids in foster care and prevent children from being abused in the first place. For years, the Texas Network of Youth Services has held in conjunction with this day its own Youth In Action Day, when hundreds of kids in foster care and other state services, come to the Capitol to make their voice heard. Check back at the links above for more details about how to get involved.

Move Texas Forward

April 10 – Our Texas, Our Future RallyDetails coming soon

If Save Texas Schools was the mother of marches and rallies in 2011, this April event, previously called “Save Our State” and centered on the budget, was the runner-up. Nearly 5,000 participants (on a weekday!) turned out then to call for Texas to plan for the future better and fund needed services in our state, and in 2013, advocates hope to make those numbers even bigger, especially if parents turn out in support.

This is an incomplete list. Throughout the session professional associations, religious groups, and many other causes are holding their “days,” so keep an eye out for what interests you. Here are a few more general ones that might be of interest for LiveMom readers:

March 4 – Breast Health Advocacy Day

March 11- Equality Texas Lobby Day

March 14 – Texas Humane Lobby Day

March 20 – Alliance for a Clean Texas Lobby Day

March 26 – After-School Advocacy Day

What would you add? Let us know, and share your tips for rally-going as a family in the comments.

Christine Sinatra is the communications director for Texans Care for Children and mom to a kindergartener. Her past experience includes working as a reporter for the Austin American-Statesman and the Oakland Tribune company, being a Peace Corps volunteer for high school girls in Africa, and studying at UT’s LBJ School of Public Affairs.