Friday, October 19, 2007

So There Are Democrats in Texas

When I moved to Texas from New Hampshire almost 4 years ago, Texas' reputation seemed to precede it, at least politically. It's a bright red republican state - hopelessly so to a "Northeastern Liberal Elite" like myself. Obviously I knew about the history of LBJ and long-standing Democratic dominance here, but that was a different party I surmised. Texas was now "doomed" to being the preeminent conservative state in the union. You can imagine my surprise when I looked at the Dallas Morning News this week and saw this: Battle Brews as Democrats vie for Texas House

Of course I knew there were some Democrats in Texas like here on this blue island in Austin and down in the valley, but I was genuinely surprised to find that the Democrats are a scant 5 seats away from evenly splitting the House between they and the GOP. I would also guess that I'm not the only one a little taken aback by this in the place Americans associate with the Bushes, Tom Delay, etc, etc.

Obviously the article points out that it's hardly a shoe-in for the Dems, but the fact that they're within striking distance and trending in the right direction is quite the revelation. And if the Democrats are making waves locally, one would think they can't be that far behind in contests in Texas' 34 US congressional districts and eventually Senate and other statewide elections. I'm getting ahead of myself, but when you're talking about Texas it means 34 seats in the US House and 36 electoral votes. That's a huge impact on the nation that I had taken for granted as being forever lost as though Texas voting Republican were endemic. I guess Texas Democrats might be climbing out of this grave I'd assumed they were in.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Look Ma, No Red Tape

The state legislature passes a lot of pretty mundane laws and resolutions. In fact, most legislatures pass some stuff that's pretty ineffectual or just plain leaves you shaking your head. It seems like one thing they got done last session actually was pretty worthwhile and at the very least, neat.

The bill, penned by Mark Strama, mandated that state expenditures be listed online by the comptroller's office so that ordinary citizens can look at them at their leisure. "From Dollars to Doughnuts..."

Government has always seemed like something of an exclusive country club to the American masses, but the statement made by that is even stronger today when most of America not knowing how politics works means hundreds of millions of people in the dark about who's making the decisions that affect their lives. There's partisan bickering and representatives debating resolutions that don't effect the law and countless other wastes of time that people get fed up.

With all that going on, it's just nice to see a bill put through the legislature by members of both parties working together. What's more, the bill adds a transparency to government that's usually missing. Like the article says, anyone with a computer can see where their money is being spent pretty easily with just a few keystrokes. It's nice to feel like we know what's going on every once in a while. After all, it is our money.