by Pam Greenberg
“In the good old days, we did not have to compete in a world market. We did not have to keep up with technology, that changes daily, or learn skills that even seasoned teachers did not have, in order to be the innovators and inventors of the 21st century,” says Christy Garcia, a participant the Texas Red Tape Challenge. The Red Tape Challenge is an innovative site created by the Texas House Government Efficiency and Reform Committee, chaired by Rep. Bill Callegari.
Garcia’s comment, in response to a discussion topic about assessments of academic readiness (or “Testing, Testing and More Testing,” according to another participant) is part of an active crowdsourcing site that encourages public input. In addition to posting comments, participants can vote on others’ ideas with an “agree” or “disagree” vote.
The web-based project, which was launched in early July, currently focuses on four topics: public school mandates, state agency rulemaking, manufacturing in Texas, and occupational licensing (there’s a lively debate going on about the licensing of geoscientists).
According to Callegari, the challenge is "an extension of my longstanding philosophy that good ideas may be found within the wealth of expertise and experiences of all Texans. And that those ideas may contribute to meaningful changes in our laws and regulations."
There’s also room for “Off Topic Ideas” like the top-ranked “Put lawmakers’ financial disclosures online” suggestion, with a feedback score of +15, or the suggestion to "Eliminate the Texas Senate" (score: 0).
According to Jeremy Mazur, Chief of Staff for Rep. Callegari and site moderator, the rate of public participation on the site has exceeded their original estimates, and continues to climb. The committee will consider ideas and recommendations from the project in a formal hearing in the Texas Capitol in November.
House Speaker Joe Straus is encouraging Texans to visit the site, which he says will “help the Legislature make state government more efficient, accountable and responsive to taxpayers. ”