Representative targets bills in weekly Facebook videos

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Photo Credit: Courtesy of Sticklen | Daily Texan Staff

State Representative Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, is taking a novel approach to derailing legislation he doesn’t like: Once a week, he castigates a bill with a Facebook video series titled “Bad Bill of the Week.”

Stickland, a conservative Republican, targets sponsors as he derides bills in the videos. He ends by asking viewers to call the sponsors.

He criticized House Bill 1, the proposed state budget, as too free-spending in his latest video. He told viewers to call the bill’s author, Rep. John Zerwas, R-Richmond, and “let him know we need to get back to conservative, limited government.”

“I think in general it’s harnessing the grassroots who are concerned about things, and they don’t know what to do about it,” Stickland said. “We’re just trying to fill that void and give them a clear understanding of something they can do to have an impact, and they seem very eager to do it.”

The videos typically receive about 30,000 views. Empower Texans and Texas Right to Life, two conservative nonprofits, feature Stickland’s videos on “The Jim & Michael Show,” a Sunday night Facebook Live program hosted by Empower Texans President Michael Quinn Sullivan and Jim Graham, Texas Right to Life executive director.

Following the Sunday night program, Stickland posts the videos to his official Facebook page Monday mornings. 

Stickland said hundreds of viewers have called or emailed him to say they contacted legislators after watching his videos, but Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, said she considers the videos a side issue with little impact.

In a video posted Feb. 6 that accumulated more than 47,000 views, Stickland criticized Howard’s House Bill 391. The bill allows universities and other public institutions to opt out of the campus carry law, which allows licensed holders to carry concealed handguns at public universities in Texas.

Howard said she received phone calls in opposition to and support of the bill and suggested on social media that her constituents call Stickland’s offices. Stickland confirmed he received calls from Howard’s constituents and said he views the attention as an indicator the videos are working. Howard said she thinks otherwise.

“It’s really kind of an expectation among most members here that Representative Stickland is going to use these kinds of tactics to rally the small base of support that he has,” Howard said. “In the longer, greater scheme of things here, it’s not going to have much of an impact.”

Mark Jones, political scientist and Rice University professor, ranked Stickland the most conservative representative in Texas during the 83rd Legislature in 2013. In previous sessions, Stickland authored bills restricting abortion and prohibiting individual email accounts from search without a warrant. 

Melissa Conway, director of external relations for Texas Right to Life, said Empower Texans and Texas Right to Life jointly produce the videos at no cost.

“Jim and Michael use the bad bill of the week to shine a real key spotlight on what is happening in the dark recesses of the Capitol and to really allow Texans to then have a voice,” Conway said.