Texas lawmakers face century-old issues

AUSTIN (KXAN) — World War I was on the horizon, Woodrow Wilson was President and the Texas oil industry was in its infancy in 1913. But a century ago, the state’s legislature faced many of the same issues lawmakers must confront today.

"Back in 1913, statehood - when we became a state - was as far away to those people of 1913 as World War II was to us today,” said Amy Batheja, library clerk at the Legislative Reference Library.

On Monday, Batheja posted the first of what she hopes to be many historic blog posts regarding the 33rd Texas Legislature – fifty sessions ago.

Check out the LRL’s “What’s New?” blog.

"This is the most recent post that came up this morning about the history about what they were facing 100 years ago,” Batheja said, as she scrolled across the library’s computer screen.

Most Texans back then lived in rural areas of the state, and the House and Senate makeup reflected that population spread. Built in 1888, the Capitol building itself was only 25 years old, and Gov. Oscar Branch Colquitt had held his office for just two years.

"Things change, times change, circumstances change and the economy of our nation changes,” said Rep. Larry Gonzales, R-Round Rock, commenting on the blog.

But Monday’s entry lists a string of issues from 1913 that Gonzales and his colleagues are also tackling now: school funding, veteran care, drought and water rights, the border with Mexico, women’s rights and hazing at universities. Even the House Speakers then and now - Chester Terrell and Joe Straus - shared a home – Bexar County.

“Though Prohibition would not being until 1919, various states had passed bans on liquor and the Texas legislature would take up the issue during the 33rd session,” the blog states.

"That's why you just don't convene a political body once, like once it gets everything right you just put everything on autopilot for the rest of eternity,” said Rep. Mark Strama.

Batheja said that 100 years from now, the current session will be studied, too. And what happens in the next few months might make an impact on how history plays out..

"Everyone can learn from the past,” she added.

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