Politics & Government

Texans: Don’t forget the hashtag

This is a hashtag.
This is a hashtag. www.twitter.com

#Areyouready?

A state lawmaker is determined to pull this state into the 21st Century, to join the many Texans who use social media nearly 24/7 to stay up to date on all the things in which they are interested.

So it’s only fair that there be an official hashtag for Texas.

And if one is good, three is even better.

State Rep. Kenneth Sheets, R-Dallas, has proposed three official hashtags for the state: #Texas, #txlege and #TexasToDo.

“Social media is transforming the way people the world over share their beliefs, ideals, wit and fancies,” he wrote in one of the proposals. “And the followers of #Texas are provided with an always fascinating and never-ending parade of what people talk about when they talk about Texas.”

For anyone not familiar with the term, a hashtag is a word or phrase that begins with the number sign and is geared to label, summarize or brand a message.

“Our style of communication is evolving,” Sheets said. “We are using social media more and more. This is a way to encourage the younger generation to get involved in government.”

So he’s proposing #Texas for the state’s official hashtag, #TexasToDo for Texas Tourism’s official hashtag and #txlege for the Texas Legislature’s official hashtag.

These hashtags are already commonly used, but they are not official state hashtags.

“The legislation highlights the increasingly prominent role of social media in the political process, with a large majority of Texas legislators now on Twitter, some enthusiastically and some grudgingly,” said Mark P. Jones, a political science professor at Rice University in Houston.

“And, without question, [the] designation of #txlege as the official hashtag of the Texas Legislature is very appropriate, since it is without question the go to hashtag for everyone who follows the Texas Legislature on Twitter.”

It’s a long-time tradition to give out official designations, for instance, naming the cowboy boot as the state shoe and designating tortilla chips and salsa as the official state snack. The bluebonnet is the state flower; the pecan is the state tree.

It’s all about Texas

Sheets said he just wants to update the way people communicate in Texas.

A constant user of social media, he said the idea to create official hashtags for the state just “popped up” in his mind one day.

“I’m on Twitter all the time,” he said. “And one time the thought came to me that it might be a good way to promote Texas with hashtags.”

After he filed the bills, he found out that a few other lawmakers had similar proposals in mind, so he added them on as co-sponsors of the bills.

By using these hashtags, Sheets said, he feels people can better spread the word about Texas, the state Legislature or state tourism if lawmakers approve these proposals.

“In a dynamic, ever-changing stream that runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week, users of Twitter and other online platforms anywhere on the globe may use #Texas to see what people are saying about Texas and to address other followers of the hashtag on anything and everything pertaining to our great state,” Sheets wrote in the bill proposing the #Texas hashtag.

“At any given moment, this unfiltered discussion can range from serious political discussions to wisecracks, from advertising to comments about the heat in Houston, from complaints and praise about Texas sporting franchises to celebrations of Texas writers, artists and musicians.”

#plentyoftime?

All three hashtag proposals have been assigned to the House Culture, Recreation & Tourism Committee for consideration, although none have yet had a hearing.

Some political observers aren’t sure how big an impact these bills will have.

“In the event these [measures] pass, I doubt most Texans will ever be aware of the official designation of the respective hashtags,” Jones said.

But maybe the hashtags are a sign of the times, said Allan Saxe, an associate political science professor at the University of Texas at Arlington.

The “Texas Legislature [is] merely trying to be very modern and responsive and transparent,” he said. “[It may be] perhaps a bit overdone, but no harm done with their actions.

“If it passes, we will be at the top of transparency and modernity.”

Sheets said he believes there’s plenty of time to pass these measures before lawmakers wrap up the 84th Legislative Session on June 1.

“Right now, we are focused on bread and butter issues,” he said. “But these resolutions will get their day.”

Anna Tinsley, 817-390-7610

Twitter: @annatinsley

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