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Online resources make it easy to follow Texas legislature

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The Texas Legislature, for the 82nd time, is meeting in a biennial regular session to fulfill its constitutional duties.  During this 140-day session, elected Senators and Representatives will be making decisions affecting all Texas families.

Government works best when it is transparent and encourages citizen involvement. The Texas Legislature has an award-winning website that makes it easy for those who want to follow the legislative process. This article will help you learn to access what happens in Austin on your computers and mobile devices.

Here are some reasons why you should take the time to tune in to this session.

As always, our most important job is enacting a two-year state budget that fits within our revenue expectations.  The economic downturn has reduced available revenue, meaning we cannot fund state government at existing levels.  We face tough choices, but I strongly believe that Texans who have lost their jobs or who are struggling to keep their small businesses afloat cannot afford higher taxes.  We must make sure that we spend the money we do have wisely on the core functions of government.

The Senate Finance Committee and the House Appropriations Committee are expected to quickly begin budget hearings.  I serve as Chairman of the Senate Health & Human Services Committee, which will consider important bills to protect children, seniors and individuals with disabilities.  Other committees will discuss legislation on a variety of issues vital to North Texas, including education, economic development and transportation.

During this session there will be special committees formed to begin the process of redrawing district lines for the 31 Texas Senators and 150 Texas House members, as well as our federal Representatives.  Our growing population has resulted in four new seats in Congress for a total of 36 districts, and North Texas is expected to earn at least one of those new districts.

I look forward to seeing many constituents from Denton and Tarrant counties in Austin this year.  For those who cannot visit the Capitol, the Internet has made it possible to track bills and watch committee hearings and House and Senate sessions.

The website, www.capitol.state.tx.us, is your window to following the session. This easy-to-navigate site allows you to do the following:

·         put in your address and find out who represents you

·         visit web pages of legislators and read their biographies and news releases

·         look up bills by bill numbers or search according to a subject

·         sign up for alerts on your email or mobile phones that tell you when a bill is set for a hearing or receives a vote

·         see the agendas for Senate and House committees and sessions

·         watch committee hearings as they happen or access them at a later time

·         learn how a bill becomes a law

The issues that interest North Texans are as diverse as our region.  Find the ones that captivate you and get involved in how they are being addressed by your Texas Legislature.

Senator Nelson, R-Flower Mound, represents Senate District 12, which includes portions of Tarrant and Denton counties.  She is Chairman of the Senate Health & Human Services Committee.

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