Public Citizen has been a member of a coalition that has attempted to bring more sunshine, more transparency, and more good government to the implementation on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, otherwise known as “The Stimulus.” Two years since its passage much of the funding appropriated has been spent, but there is still more to do. Our groups yesterday released a report “It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over: The Texas Legislature and the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act” which can be found at http://www.txstimulus.com.
It is worth noting that the txstimulus.com website was originally used by a select committee in the Texas Legislature charged with keeping an eye on how Texas spent ARRA funds. Bee Moorhead in an interview with the Texas Tribune explained what happened to the website and all of that information the committee had been collecting:
During his days as select committee chairman, (Jim) Dunnam (chair of the select committee) set up a website — txstimulus.com — to provide documents and information on stimulus spending, culled from the committee’s hearings and correspondence with the Texas congressional delegation. In March, the domain, which was registered in Dunnam’s name, lapsed, taking all the information it contained therein.
Enter Bee Moorhead, executive director of Texas Impact, a statewide interfaith organization, and the new owner of txstimulus.com. “Legislative committees can use the internet really effectively, and there are great examples of committees doing that this year,” said Moorhead, citing efforts of the Senate Business and Commerce Committee, “but those websites contain government information, and they can’t just be handled like some individual’s blog.”
The coalition also released a set of recommendations to help Texas improve its transparency. #4 is my personal favorite and one of my pet issues, but all are important. These recommendations are explored more in depth in the press release accompanying this post, which is available in full after the jump.
1. Draw down the unemployment dollars.
2. Keep a legislative eye on the game till it’s over.
3. Move the low-income weatherization program from TDHCA to SECO.
4. Modernize Texas’ Freedom of Information Act.
5. Make the Texas Fusion Center’s budget transparent.
6. Require more project-specific information on TxDOT projects.
7. Be ready for more funding.
8. Target ARRA energy efficiency dollars to areas of greatest need.
9. Build on ARRA health infrastructure investment.
10. Protect the integrity of all state government-related websites.
Included in our report are in-depth analysis of spending on transportation, weatherization, energy efficiency, health care, and others. I highly recommend you read this important piece of research, or at least bookmark it for future reference. Please to enjoy.