P.O. Box 12068, State Capitol
Austin, Texas 78711
Tel. (512) 463-0112
Fax (512) 463-0923
GUIDE TO THE TEXAS SUNSET REVIEW PROCESS
Every taxpayer has interacted with state government -- and you deserve to know that its operations are transparent and efficient. The Sunset process, created in 1977, gives Texans an opportunity to put state government under a microscope, compelling agencies to prove that they are necessary, operating efficiently, and being responsive to the citizens who support them with their hard-earned tax dollars.
Under direction and oversight from elected members of the Legislature, our state agencies' functions range from public safety to protecting children in the foster system. With few exceptions, every state agency, board and commission has a "Sunset" date -- a date after which it will be abolished unless the Legislature votes to continue its functions.
As former chair of the Sunset Advisory Commission, which includes members of the public and members of the Texas Legislature, I encourage our community to share input about the 24 agencies up for review this cycle. Among the agencies being assessed are the Texas Education Agency, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, and the Public Utility Commission.
When we convene for the next session in 2013, one of the first orders of business will be to fulfill our Constitutional requirement to balance the state's budget. As a member of the Senate's Finance Committee, I will be paying close attention to the outcome of agency Sunset reviews. Our focus has to remain on investing tax dollars where they are most needed, spent wisely, and administered efficiently. Texas' budget has no room for programs that do not meet those criteria.
Aside from budgetary concerns, Sunset reviews address a number of issues designed to protect citizens. They remind us that these public agencies are created by Texans, through their elected representatives, and that they operate for Texans. Sunset reports will detail if agencies have successfully achieved their missions; operated within their statutory authority; avoided undue bureaucratic burdens; and encouraged an open, public rulemaking process.
If reviews identify problems within an agency, the Legislature can immediately respond with Sunset legislation during the following session. These bills either abolish or propose solutions to improve each agency. Like the review process itself, these measures are subject to months of public debate before they can pass into law.
A full list of the current reviews and information on public hearings is available at www.sunset.state.tx.us. The success of this process rests on public participation, so please consider sharing your input if you have ideas for improving one of the agencies under review.
SENATOR JANE NELSON represents District 12, including portions of Tarrant and Denton Counties. She served as Chairman of the Sunset Advisory Commission in 2003. Currently, she is Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health & Human Services.