01/15/19

The Session is Here. What Do You Want?

All eyes are on Austin, as Texas politicians have gathered for the once-every-two-years legislative session. We thought we’d 1)let you know what we’ll be covering, and 2) ask how we can best serve you. We know that time is your most valuable asset. How can we make it easy and efficient for you to get the answers you need about the money in Texas politics? 

Here’s an overview of what we plan to cover during the session:

Hot Topics

In contrast to the acrimony that has plagued Austin in recent years, this session has opened with a united front among the so-called “Big Three” – Governor Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, who presides over the Texas Senate, and new Speaker of the Texas House, Dennis Bonnen. They have agreed on two legislative priorities that Abbott even called, “absolute musts:” reforming the school finance system and limiting increases in (or potentially cutting) property taxes. 

So far, all that has happened on these issues is “agreeing to agree.” It’s likely that some of the kumbaya will fade as the House and Senate dig into the details about what “reform” actually looks like. It’s relatively easy to agree there’s a problem. It’s another thing entirely to agree on a solution.

At Transparency Texas, we’ll be keeping an eye on the school finance and property tax debates, as well as other important issues as they arise. We’ll let you know about the key players, both inside and outside the capitol, and the money backing them.  

New Features

On our front page, you’ll soon be able to see the latest totals of money being donated to Texas Democrats and Republicans.

In the 2018 election cycle, $343 million dollars were donated to Texas candidates and PACs — an unprecedented amount of money that was particularly astounding for a year without a presidential election. That money helped propel a so-called blue wave across Texas, electing a dozen new Democrats to the Texas House, two new Democrats to the Texas Senate, and a host of Democrats to judgeships around the state, including a clean sweep in Harris County (Houston). 

Although Republicans still hold every statewide office, from Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, and Comptroller, to Land, Railroad, and Agriculture Commissioners, many saw their winning margins cut in half or more compared to previous elections. Republicans also hold majorities, albeit more narrow ones than in years past, in the Texas House and Senate, but the November elections gave Democrats new hope for an end to the Republican regime. 

Our tracker will show you the latest totals to see who’s winning in the race to raise campaign cash. Are Democrats or Republicans ahead in the gambit to control Texas?

Simple Explanations

What drives politics? Ideology for sure, but money makes it happen. Money is the most important, and too often the least understood, element in politics. Politicos use this to their advantage, throwing around insider terminology and high dollar amounts to intimidate citizens. Our mission is to make it easy for you to understand how the money works and to put the numbers in context. 

So when you see those big campaign numbers growing in the tracker we mentioned, you’ll have the tools and context to interpret the numbers for yourself.

What do you want?

Here’s where we would like you to weigh in:

What would you like to know about money in Texas politics, or specifically about money in the 86thTexas legislative session? If you have a question or something you’d like us to explore, let us know.

Email us at [email protected]. Reach out on Twitter @TransparencyTX or Facebook @TransparencyTexas. If you are a subscriber to our emails, you can also respond with questions there. We look forward to hearing from you!

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