Arenas of Change

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—and this tool is designed to help facilitate a systematic understanding of where the roadblocks and opportunities lie.

How does a particular state fare in the Judicial Arena? Does it have accessible elections? Are its legislators working full-time? Or dow they need to supplement their income? Explore the Arenas of Change in whatever state you wish!


Electoral Arena - Texas

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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Ease of Voter Registration and Voting

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.

Voting Wait Time

11 Minutes

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.

Absentee Voting

Absentee with excuse

Voters in Texas may vote as an absentee if they provide an excuse.

Early Voting


Voters in Texas may vote early (before election day).

Voter ID Laws

Strict voter ID laws

Texas has strict voter ID laws

Fairness of Electoral Laws

To what degree does the state enfranchise voters, particularly immigrants (through integration efforts) and formerly incarcerated (through state law)?

State Felon Disenfranchisement Rate


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.

Availability of Public Campaign Financing

Does the state provide public campaign financing to level the playing field for candidates?

Public Campaign Financing


The State of Texas does not offer any public campaign financing.

Existence of Ballot Initiatives

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)?

Statutory Ballot
Initiative Process


Voters in Texas have no mechanism for introducing statutory ballot innitiatives.

Constitutional Ballot
Initiatives Process


Voters in Texas have no mechanism for introducing state constitutional ballot initiatives.

Popular Referendum Process


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.

Fairness of Re-Districting

Who draws legislative district boundaries (e.g., elected representatives or committees of non-elected, non-partisan experts)? How gerrymandered is the state?

Gerrymandering Index


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.

Redistricing Process


In Texas, state legislatures are responsible for congressional and state legislative redistricting.

Availability of Public Campaign Financing

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:

Contributor Limit
Individuals No Limits
State Party No Limits
PACs No Limits
Corporations Prohibited
Unions Prohibited

Legislative Arena - Texas

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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Level and Authenticity of Community Engagement

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?

Accountability Score


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.

Equality of Political Representation


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.

Participatory Budget?


Texas does not have any local governments that utilize participatory budgeting. (At present, no state level governments utilize participatory budgeting.)

Capacity and Professionalism of Legislators

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)?

Legislative Professionalism Index


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.

Strictness in Lobbying Rules

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?

Lobbying Disclosure Ranking


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.

Structure of Legislature

Is the state legislature full-time, part-time, or a hybrid structure?

Full or Part Time Legislature


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.

Legislative Session Length

4.6 months

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.

Judicial Arena - Texas

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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Method of Judicial Selection

Are state-level judges appointed or elected across high, appellate, and trial courts? Are there term limits?

Court Selection Type
State High Court Grants Life Tenure or Reappointment
Intermediate Appellate Court Grants Life Tenure or Reappointment
Trial Courts Grants Life Tenure or Reappointment

Fairness of Sentencing Laws

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?

Incarceration Spending


Texas spends 3.4% of its budget on incarceration. Texas is ranked 10th in terms of incarceration spending.

Racial Disparities in Incarceration


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.

Enforcement of Ethics and Monitoring Money

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?

Accountability Score


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.

Public Financing?


Texas has no public campaign financing in state judicial elections or no judicial elections.

Accessibility of Courts to Consumers and Workers

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?

Access to Justice Index


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.

Judicial Diversity

How diverse is the judiciary? Are people of color sitting on the bench? Are women? How does the method of selection affect this?

Judicial Diversity Index


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.

Administrative Arena - Texas

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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Enforcement of Ethics

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?

Ethics Commission?


Texas has an ethics commission with oversight of local, non-elected officials.

Civil Service Management Score


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

Rule Making and Resource Allocation

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?

Executive Accountability Score


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.

Public Transparency Grade


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.

Capacity and Resources of Agencies

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
K-12 40%
Higher Ed 15%
Medical 23%
Public Assistance 0%
Coorrections 7%
Transport 0%
All Others 15%

Communications Arena - Texas

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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Diversity in Media Content and Ownership

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?

Nonprofit News Services


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.

Public Accessibility to Information

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?

Statehouse Reporters


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.

Corporate Arena - Texas

The corporate arena is where business management and corporate stakeholders make decisions that directly affect workers and families.                                                                                                                                                                                

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Level of Regulation

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?

Equality Index


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

Presence and Influence of Unions and Unionized Employers

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.