The Internet has transformed the way we get information. There is so much available and this is especially true for the world of politics. The mainstream media does not give much coverage to the State Legislature so if you want to learn more, it has probably never been easier. It is easy to get overwhelmed or sidetracked so the following websites are some that I recommend.
The single best source is the Texas House www.house.state.tx.us. This site merits multiple visits due to its depth and complexity. Some of the main research areas are members (bills, committees, contact info); research (bills by topic, status reports, vote histories); links (sunset, visitor info, schedules) and video which features both live coverage as well as recorded coverage of floor proceedings and committee meetings. And to be fair to our colleagues across the rotunda, all this same information is available on the Senate website www.senate.state.tx.us.
Looking beyond the Capitol, there are two sites that reflect a more conservative viewpoint. The Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) www.texaspolicy.com, focuses its research on topics that include energy and the environment, education, fiscal policy, health care, and the Tenth Amendment. They also have numerous publications and host conferences and meetings around the state. Texas Conservative Coalition Research Institute’s (TCCRI) www.txtccri.org, mission rests on four core principles of limited government, individual liberties, free enterprise and traditional values. TCCRI is a leading state-based think tank and has been very successful living up to its mission of shaping public policy through a principled approach to government. It is less global in perspective that TPPF and tracks and takes positions on legislation.
You might want to visit two websites that reflect a more liberal point of view. The Center for Public Policy Priorities (CPPP) www.cppp.org, is a progressive nonpartisan, nonprofit policy institute committed to improving public policies to better the economic and social conditions of low-and moderate-income Texans. In addition to their research, they are active participants in the legislative process. The Equity Center has become the largest research and advocacy organization of its kind in the nation and the only education association in Texas that exclusively represents the interests of children in low income school districts. They have a more narrow mission than the CPPP but they too are engaged in lobbying us here in Austin.
A very specialized website that might be of interest to you is the Texas Ethics Commission (www.ethics.state.tx.us). It warehouses our campaign finance reports and has information on lobbyists and their activities. This site will be a lot more interesting as we head into campaign season.
The Legislative Budget Board (www.lbb.state.tx.us)is a permanent joint committee of the Texas Legislature that develops budget and policy recommendations for legislative appropriations for all agencies of state government, as well as completes fiscal analyses for proposed legislation. They are our “go to” folks when we need to know the financial impact of proposed changes.
And I tip my hat in closing to two blogs. There are many to follow but I think Harvey Kronberg’s Quorum Report (www.quorumreport.com) and Paul Burka’s Texas Monthly (www.texasmonthly.com/blogs/burkablog) are particularly good. They are not as detailed as these other sites but are quite a bit more entertaining.
But please, don’t forget that my staff and I, along with all of us who represent our community, welcome your calls and input. As good as these web sites are, they can’t do what we can, so let us know how we can help you.