Riding off into the Sunset...
How Texas helps keep state government efficient and small
The unfortunate nature of government is to grow larger as more laws are passed, more agencies are created, and new programs are added. While good government often requires new approaches, innovation and efficiency can be strangled in the red tape of bureaucracy.
In Texas, we try to keep state government efficient and small through the sunset process. Unlike their federal counterparts, state agencies in Texas are not allowed to exist indefinitely. Instead, the existence of an agency must be legislatively justified on a regular basis, usually a period of every 12 years. If an agency or board is not continued through legislation, it will automatically be discontinued.
The Texas Sunset Advisory Commission, on which I proudly serve, makes recommendations not only for which agencies to continue to operate but also how agencies might operate more efficiently and better serve the public. The commission meets and votes year round, not just during session.
Since 1977, when Sunset began in Texas, 78 agencies have been abolished including 37 agencies that were completely abolished and 41 that were abolished with some functions transferred to other agencies. In 2011, the Legislature completely abolished two agencies and transferred the duties of four others. I guarantee you won't miss them. Sunset reforms from the last legislative session are estimated to have saved the $161 million in the state's current budget.
The goal of Sunset is not just to save taxpayers money, which it does. The goal is also to hold agencies accountable and make their processes as fair and transparent as possible. For example, during the last session legislators restructured youth justice programs in response to abuse experienced by young inmates. The Sunset Commission also makes across-the-board recommendations for all agencies such as policies to prevent conflicts of interest by board members.
Beginning in January, the Sunset Commission will review and make recommendations for 24 agencies. These include the Texas Education Agency, Ethics Commission, the Higher Education Coordinating Board, and the Board of Pardons and Paroles.
Part of what makes Sunset so effective is input from the public. Not only do two members of the public serve on the Sunset Advisory Commission, but public input is welcomed throughout the entire Sunset process. Anyone can communicate concerns to Sunset staff who review an agency, testify at a Sunset meeting, or testify at a legislative hearing. To learn more about how you can directly participate, you can visit the Sunset Web page at: http://www.sunset.state.tx.us/. Of course, you may also contact my Capitol office directly at 512-463-0103. As a member of the Sunset Advisory Commission, I am especially eager to hear from the people of Senate District 3 how state agencies may better serve you.