Where does the struggle for progressive change—and ultimately, progressive governance—actually occur? In this section, we describe six decision-making arenas—the target areas for organizing efforts to push, pass, and protect progressive policies and systemic change. These include the electoral, legislative, judicial, administrative, communications, and corporate arenas. Together these define the broad terrain where ideas, policies, and power are contested. This tool poses questions that identify rules, structures, and systems in each arena. While we have not yet identified metrics to answer every question, the metrics below help us start to uderstand the opportunities for, and roadblocks to, progressive governance in different states.
The electoral arena is where voters are the final decision makers: They shape policy indirectly through electing representatives or directly through ballot initiatives.
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How accessible is registration in the state? What is the availability of early voting, online voting, and vote-by-mail? Does the state have voter ID laws, and how strict are they? How long do voters have to wait at the polls before they can cast their ballots.
Voters in Texas waited an average of 11 minutes during the 2012 presidential election. Texas is tied for 29th lowest in terms of wait times at the polls.
Voters in Texas may vote as an absentee if they provide an excuse.
Voters in Texas may vote early (before election day).
Texas has strict voter ID laws
To what degree does the state enfranchise voters, particularly immigrants (through integration efforts) and formerly incarcerated (through state law)?
2.91% of eligible voters in Texas are disenfranchised due to the state's laws banning those with felony convictions from voting. Texas is ranked 14th in terms of the highest percent of eligible voters disenfranchised due to felony convictions.
Does the state provide public campaign financing to level the playing field for candidates?
The State of Texas does not offer any public campaign financing.
Does the state allow ballot initiatives? If so, how easy (or not) is it to get an initiative on the ballot? What form do they take (i.e., constitutional amendments, statutes, or referenda)?
Voters in Texas have no mechanism for introducing statutory ballot innitiatives.
Voters in Texas have no mechanism for introducing state constitutional ballot initiatives.
Voters in Texas may not utilize Popular Referendum—a process by which voters may petition to demand a popular vote on a new law passed by the legislature.
Who draws legislative district boundaries (e.g., elected representatives or committees of non-elected, non-partisan experts)? How gerrymandered is the state?
Lower scores represent less compact districts indicating that they are more gerrymandered. Texas is ranked 15th among states with the most potential gerrymandering, based on this metric.
In Texas, state legislatures are responsible for congressional and state legislative redistricting.
Does the state provide public campaign financing to level the playing field for candidates?
Texas has the following limits on contributions to state campaigns by various bodies:
|State Party||No Limits|
The legislative arena is where elected officials and policy makers are the decision makers as they propose, craft , and approve (or disapprove) laws.
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Does the state mandate public participation in legislative decision-making processes? How authentic are these processes and to what extent to legislators' decisions reflect their constituents' opinions? Does the state have mechanisms for direct democracy like participatory budgeting?
Texas was scored a 59 by the Center for Public Integrity. This score is like a "grade"—higher numbers indicate lower risk of corruption among legislators, based on a range of legislative accountability standard practices. Texas is ranked 36th highest in terms of accountability.
This metric measures how far the political leanings of a state's residents are from the actual policies passed in their state, and the relationship of this "proximity" to their income level. Larger positive values indicate greater political equality (i.e., people with lower incomes are better represented). Texas is ranked 29th in equality of political representation.
Texas does not have any local governments that utilize participatory budgeting. (At present, no state level governments utilize participatory budgeting.)
How does the structure of the legislature (part-time vs. full-time) dictate the capacity of legislators to get things done? Do legislators have term limits? How are legislative offices staffed? What are state legislators' compensation? How does all this affect the types of candidates who run for office (e.g., career politicians, corporate representatives, independently wealthy people, or "everyday" people)?
Texas was scored at 0.205 in Squire's (2007) legislative professionalism index. Greater values indicate more professional-level salary and benefits, time demands of service, staff and resources for members of each state's legislature. Texas is ranked 20th in terms of legislative professionalism.
Does the state regulate lobbyists in terms of transparency and ethics? For instance, are state legislators required to disclose gifts from lobbyists? To what extent do lobbyists and legislators follow state regulations?
According to the Sunlight Foundation, Texas scored a 3 on the Lobbying Disclosure Scorecard. The Scorecard compares and ranks each state (from -6 to 6) in terms of their rules and practices regarding lobbying activity, the transparency and reporting of individual legislator expenditures, public accessibility of documents regarding lobbying, and lobbyist compensation. The higher the score, the more transparent a state's lobbying disclosure.
Is the state legislature full-time, part-time, or a hybrid structure?
Legislators in Texas say they spend more than two-thirds of a full time job being legislators but do not typically make enough so as not to need outside sources of income. They have intermediate sized staffs.
The average legislative session in Texas is 4.6 months over a two-year period. Texas is ranked 18th in terms of the longest state legislative sessions.
The judicial arena is where decision makers are state-level courts and judges as they determine the legality of policies and practices.
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Are state-level judges appointed or elected across high, appellate, and trial courts? Are there term limits?
|State High Court||Grants Life Tenure or Reappointment|
|Intermediate Appellate Court||Grants Life Tenure or Reappointment|
|Trial Courts||Grants Life Tenure or Reappointment|
To what extent do people of color—particularly, Black and Latino men—disproportionately end up in court and get harsher punishments than their white counterparts? To what extent does this same group disproportionately make up the state's incarcerated population?
Texas spends 3.4% of its budget on incarceration. Texas is ranked 10th in terms of incarceration spending.
The ratio to which Texas incarcerates Black individuals to white individuals is 4.7 to 1. Texas is tied for 35th in terms of the largest disparities in incarceration of Black to White individuals.
Does the state have campaign spending limits in judicial elections? On what grounds do states require judges recuse themselves from cases, if at all? Do these recusal rules apply to campaign contributions?
Lower Accountability Scores indicate higher risk of corruption. The score is an aggregate of information on ethics standards and practices for state courts, including state judge recusal processes, judge use of private/state assets, access to courts and transparency, judges documentation of reasonings for decisions, and other accountability measures. Texas is tied for 40th in terms of judicial accountability.
Texas has no public campaign financing in state judicial elections or no judicial elections.
What are the rules and resources around self-representation? What legal resources exist for low-income people, people with disabilities, and people who do not speak English?
Higher value on the Access to Justice Index indicates greater access to justice. The index comprises four sets of indices of legal access measuring attorney access, language assistance, self-representation resources, and assistance for those with disabilities. Texas is ranked 36th in terms of public access to justice.
How diverse is the judiciary? Are people of color sitting on the bench? Are women? How does the method of selection affect this?
19% of Texas's judiciary is composed of people of color. This data includes state courts of last resort, appellate level courts, and trial courts of general jurisdiction, and takes into consideration methods of selection variables, and state population variables. Texas is tied for 5th in terms of diversity of the judiciary, as measured by the percentage of judges who identify as persons of color.
The administrative arena is where executive officials and government staff are the decision makers. They oversee and implement laws and rules, coordinate regulatory bodies, and administer public participation processes.
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What types of ethics enforcement rules exist to hinder corruption within government agencies? Are there bodies that audit and provide oversight of agencies? What structures exist to ensure public transparency in administrative decision-making processes?
Texas has an ethics commission with oversight of local, non-elected officials.
Texas was scored a 55 on Civil Service Management by the Center for Public Integrity. This score is like a "grade": Higher numbers indicate lower risk of corruption among state's civil servants. The score aggregates and scores information on civil service management, including asset reporting of civil servants, disclosure of civil service records, protections for whistleblowers, and internal disclosure of corruption investigations. Texas is tied for 39th in terms of civi service management
To what extent does the governor have decision-making power over the state budget, legislative enactment, department and committee appointments, and other oversight measures? Under what circumstances can the governor use veto power, if at all? What more informal power and political weight does the governor hold?
Texas scored a 50 on executive accountability by the Center for Public Integrity. Higher numbers indicate lower risk of corruption among executive branch officials. The measure aggregates and scores information on judicial review of executive action, use of executive orders, asset/disclosure of executive and cabinet, and the existence and use of other measures to regulate the power of executive branch. Texas is ranked 44th in terms of executive branch accountability.
Texas scored a earning it a grade of A- from U.S. PIRG in terms of public transparency. This grade is based on the amount of detailed information on state budgets available to the public.
Do agencies have adequate capacity and resources to achieve implementation of policies passed by the state legislature? What indicators and measures do government agencies utilize to guide decision making? To what extent do government departments and agencies collaborate? What structures exist to engage the public in decision- making processes?
|Expenditure||% of General Fund|
Communications as an arena of change is about the power to influence the values, worldviews, and understandings of the public at-large.
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Who owns the major media outlets in the state? What alternative (non-profit, non-corporate) media outlets exist? How much airtime do progressive organizations get in these outlets?
Texas has a total of 9 nonprofit news agencies with an editorial focus based in it. Texas is tied for 3rd among states according to the total number of nonprofit news agencies.
How many reporters cover statehouses and local politics? Do residents have affordable, broadband, and high-speed internet access? How does the state fare in terms of computer, internet, and social media literacy/use?
Texas has a total of 107 statehouse reporters, including full-time, session-only, part-time, students, and others. Texas is ranked 1st among states according to the total number of statehouse reporters.
The corporate arena is where business management and corporate stakeholders make decisions that directly affect workers and families.
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What individual rules govern different sectors and industries? How are these regulations monitored and executed? How are these regulatory agencies funded? How does the public participate in shaping regulations? How do these align with or differ from national and regional/local regulations?
The Tax Inequality Index measures the effects of states' tax systems on income inequality. It rank states from the most regressive to the least regressive. Texas received a -8.5, meaning it is ranked 3rd amongst the most regressive states in the country
What is the state's private sector union density? What sectors are unions the strongest in, and what weight do these sectors have in the state's economy? What democratic practices exist in these unions? How are these unions tied to broader social and community movements?
In Texas 5.6% of total private and public sector workers are represented by unions. Texas is ranked 46th in terms of percentage of workers represented by unions.