In 2011, Paul Hastings, THSC’s director of public policy at the time, was the only legislative liaison for THSC. He actively worked with THSC President Tim Lambert to monitor and testify on various pieces of legislation.
THSC learned in 2012 that one of its leading opponents, the Family Law Foundation, was introducing legislation to expand certain Texas statutes that allow in-laws to sue for access to or possession of children. THSC decided to strengthen its legislative capabilities by recruiting five homeschool graduates to help Paul and Tim defend homeschooling and family rights.
Immediately after the 2012 elections, Paul recruited David Huber, Nathan Exley, Trent Williams, Jeremy Newman and Ben Snodgrass. They would become known by the Texas homeschool community as the THSC Watchmen.
Each of the THSC Watchmen was assigned duties that best used his unique talents. For example, Ben was appointed to the position of lead policy analyst and Nathan became the publicity manager. The THSC Watchmen also divided the state legislators into groups among themselves. They focused on building relationships and effectively communicating with the legislative offices in each of their respective groups.
The THSC Watchmen reviewed every single bill filed in the Texas legislature, looking for anything that directly affected or could potentially involve the homeschool community or family rights.
The THSC Watchmen testified on and registered THSC’s support for, or opposition to, numerous bills. For many important pieces of legislation, they were highly instrumental in contacting and procuring witnesses for key hearings.
Finally, the team maintained open dialogue with many other conservative organizations and activists by attending meetings and networking. In total, the THSC Watchmen team worked over 5,000 hours during the 2013 session. They were described by some conservative leaders as the most effective lobbying team of the 83rd Texas Legislature.
In January 2015, the next group of THSC Watchmen arrived in Austin, including homeschool graduates Jeremy Newman (now THSC’s director of public policy), Isaac Sommers, Stephen Howsley, Ryan Parke, Joshua Newman and Gregory Guggenmos.
Using the knowledge and experience of the 2013 team, the 2015 THSC Watchmen continued to defend and advance the rights of Texas families to direct the care, control and upbringing of their children.
They fought to veto SB 359, a bill which would have allowed hospitals to overrule family rights by detaining patients (including minors) without a warrant. The THSC Watchmen also passed SB 1543 to end discrimination against homeschool students at state colleges.
In 2017, Chief Legislative Analyst Joshua Newman led the largest and most diverse THSC Watchmen team ever. The 2017 team members were Meagan Corser, Anna Little, Paul Exley, Emma Little, Vida Mata and Josiah Newman.
Building on the successes of previous years, the 2017 THSC Watchmen made several breakthroughs and 2017 was THSC’s most successful legislative session yet.
The 2017 team stopped 21 bills and amended 14 bills that specifically threatened family rights. They were also able to pass their top priority: nine CPS reforms that will protect families from government overreach.
In 2019, the newest THSC Watchmen, Matthew Lawson and Mason Prewitt, joined the three other THSC public policy team members on staff. That session, the THSC Watchmen were able to stop HB 575 before it passed. HB 575 would have allowed estranged in-laws to sue families for access to their children over the family’s objection. The Watchmen brought 131 people to the hearing to register against the bill and it ultimately died in committee.
With these successes under our belt, THSC and the THSC Watchmen will continue to fight during every legislative session to protect the rights of Texas homeschool families.
Consider donating today to help the THSC Watchmen as they continue Keeping Texas Families Free in Austin in 2020!