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Texas Politics - The Legislative Branch
Jack Gullahorn discusses the importance of interest groups and lobbyists. Jack Gullahorn discusses the importance of interest groups and lobbyists.
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Kip Averitt discusses regional interests and the legislative process Kip Averitt discusses regional interests and the legislative process
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10.2    Opportunities for Citizen Participation

Despite the persistent and often persuasive arguments for reform, the Legislature as we know it is designed to be a means of representation, and does offer opportunities for political participation.

First and most obviously, citizens can vote, campaign for a specific candidate, or run as a candidate. Additionally, they can write to their legislators and schedule meetings with them. In general, legislators are pleased to be presented with opportunities to speak with and meet their constituents. The input they receive from citizens usually is heard, if not always heeded. Legislators need to know what their constituents think about public policies so that they have a broader view of the alignment of forces supporting and opposing specific proposals. If they don't hear from citizens, they are left assuming that the issue has little importance for the people back home.

Texans can join interest groups or form their own groups to pressure the Legislature - veteran lobbyist Jack Gullahorn suggests that interest groups and their lobbyists reason for existing is to fight what each group thinks are bad ideas. In an appearance in the Texas Politics Speaker Series at UT - Austin, State Senator Kip Averitt argued that when legislators know what their constituents feel strongly about, they are very likely to follow those preferences, particularly if many of their constituents feel a particular way and make their preferences known to legislators.

The Getting Involved features throughout the Texas Politics site provide many suggestions for influencing the legislature. Additionally, citizens can pursue their preferred policy outcomes through the other branches of government, and may be able to influence the Legislature indirectly through other government actors. They can sue for preferred interpretations of laws, or the outright overturning of laws, in both the state and federal court systems. Or they can seek to pressure the bureaucracy to implement state laws in particular ways.

As the Texas Politics discussion of the nature of collective action suggests, and anyone who has been involved in sustained efforts to influence the legislature can attest, political involvement can be costly in terms of time and resources. This gives well-organized and well-funded interest groups seeking economic advantage substantial leverage in the legislature. But the same rules that provide them access guarantee access also to individuals and grass roots groups, however difficult it may be to sustain efforts at influencing legislators. This difficulty continues to fuel talk of reform of the very structure of the Legislature; but in the meantime, millions of Texans remain involved in trying to influence the legislative process.

Texas Politics:
© 2009, Liberal Arts Instructional Technology Services
University of Texas at Austin
3rd Edition - Revision 115