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State Representative Mike Villarreal
Texas House of Representatives
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 14, 2013
Contact: Peter Clark
Phone: 512-463-0532 (o), 512-417-9262 (c)
Austin - Today Representative Mike Villarreal passed four amendments to the House Rules to improve transparency and citizen participation during the 2013 legislative session.
The first amendment provides citizens a new option for participating in legislative debates and influencing House Committees. It directs the legislature to begin establishing a system to allow citizens to submit video testimony regarding bills under consideration in House Committees and make the videos available to the public. When fully implemented, Texans will have a new option for testifying to the legislature without travelling to Austin.
The second amendment gives the public access to Committee documents that are currently available only to legislators. The amendment directs the legislature to make certain documents available to the public online to the greatest extent possible. The amendment applies to testimony and presentations by state agencies as well as committee substitutes and bill amendments under consideration in House Committees.
"Our democratic system works best when more citizens are informed and engaged," said Rep. Villarreal. "We need to keep working to bring the legislature into the 21st Century and use technology to get the public involved."
The third amendment will give legislators and the public more information about the financial cost or benefit of legislation. Currently, the Legislative Budget Board (LBB) provides an analysis of the fiscal impact of legislation through Fiscal Notes, but often it simply reports that it cannot make a precise estimate. The amendment directs the LBB to provide a range of the estimated fiscal impact in those cases, to the extent possible.
Finally, the fourth amendment takes an additional step to ensure the public and legislators know that a bill will have a financial cost or benefit. Fiscal Notes include an analysis of the fiscal impact over a five-year period. Legislators have attempted to avoid the scrutiny of a fiscal note by filing legislation that changes tax collections after the five-year period. The amendment would require Fiscal Notes to include a clear statement of whether the bill in question will change revenue collections at any point in the future.
"Our tax code is full of special interest tax breaks that drain resources out of our education system," said Rep. Villarreal. "By shining a light on these tax breaks, we can have a more informed debate about the direction of our state.