Interest groups in Texas

In this essay I will compare and contrast the different legislative agendas of various interest groups involved with the Texas Government. An interest group (also called an advocacy group, lobbying group, pressure group, or special interest) is a collection of members that are determined to encourage or prevent changes in public policy without trying to be elected.

The essay will discuss the four kinds of interest groups, trade, professional, single and public, as well as provide one detailed example of each type. It includes examples from the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers, Texas AFT, MADD and TexPIRG interest groups, which are just a few of the many groups in existence out, but it provides an idea of what different types of interest groups are available and how they effect our government in Texas. The Texas Alliance of Energy Producers represents the interests of the oil and gas industry at both the state and federal levels of government and it is the largest state independent oil and gas associations in the nation.

The Alliance is committed to ensuring the energy policy of the future will be one in which our members can grow and prosper. It also brings together members in 300 cities and 29 states for the common purpose of protecting the oil and gas industry and developing programs, such as insurance and public education, to make them more profitable.

The Alliance's effectiveness relies upon speaking with one, unified voice to represent the opinions of all its members. In addition to the “unified voice” strategy, the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers utilizes government contacts and supporters, including the Governor’s office, Texas House members, Texas Senate members, the Texas Railroad Commission, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and other contacts throughout the federal government, to push legislation through in their favor.

Association members testified before a U.S. Commerce Department hearing on the threat of crude oil imports to national security under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act, but despite the DOC declaring the level of imports were a threat to national security in 1989 and again in 1994, nothing was done by our federal government to change the trend in increased oil imports.

Despite their failure to change the trend in crude oil imports, the Texas Alliance worked on a number of important regulations dealing with naturally occurring radioactive materials, pits, inactive wells and bonding, which lead to the Texas Alliance Energy Producers winning a temporary restraining order against the RRC regarding its bonding regulations.

The second interest group is a professional group, Texas AFT, and is mainly known for its ties to the educational profession. “Texas AFT is a statewide organization that exists to serve its members and local unions, also called “local units” or “affiliates.” (acconline.austincc.edu) Texas AFT currently has 64,000 members and growing.

Texas AFT also provides a range of publications, such as the Texas Teacher magazine, specialized publications, and the PSRP Report. In addition, Texas AFT maintains a website and two e-mail newsletters, the weekly Inside Education and daily Legislative Hotline. Texas AFT believes the local union is the key to promoting the interests of educational employees.

“The mission of the American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO, is to improve the lives of our members and their families, to give voice to their legitimate professional, economic and social aspirations, to strengthen the institutions in which we work, to improve the quality of the services we provide, to bring together all members to assist and support one another and to promote democracy, human rights and freedom in our union, in our nation and throughout the world.” (tx.aft.org)

Part of this year’s legislative strategy for the Texas AFT was a letter to President Linda Bridges, a moment of opportunity to reform testing and reinvest in public education and they are ready with specific proposals, reinvesting in public education, improved working conditions, `improved learning conditions, and a call to action.

The Texas AFT wants to influence the legislator because the school districts have been left to try to make up for inadequate state aid by raising local tax rates, even as the state has continued to make it much harder for them to accomplish this. Basically, all they want to do is handle the budget crisis in the school districts of Texas. To analyze the successes and failures of Texas AFT in influencing legislation is short and sweet; school systems are still under budgeted and local taxes are still being raised to help the schools. The only break educators have received was in 2006 with “surplus” dollars tax swap for which the bill is now belatedly coming due.

The third interest group of topic is a single interest group called Mothers Against Drunk Driving, also known as MADD. A single interest group is a group of persons working on behalf of or strongly supporting a particular cause, such as an item of legislation, an industry, or a special segment of society. (Answer.com) Mothers against Drunk Driving (MADD) is a non-profit organization seeking to stop drunk driving, support victims of drunk driving, prevent underage drinking, and push for stricter alcohol policy overall.

MADD was incorporated on September 5, 1980, the purposes of MADD as stated in its Articles of Incorporation were “To aid the victims of crimes performed by individuals driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, to aid the families of such victims and to increase public awareness of the problem of drinking and drugged driving. (madd.org) The strategy employed by MADD to influence legislation is crystal clear; they want to stop drunk driving, especially by underage drivers, and they will use any legal means necessary to accomplish their agenda. T

hey make this statement repeatedly, in various forms, on different areas of their website, in their mission statement and in educational pamphlets. Throughout the years they have been fighting against drunk driving, some laws MADD has inspired and/or influenced are mandatory BAC testing for drivers who survive, .08 Per Se, mandatory alcohol education and Child Endangerment. These are just a few and every year they fight for more, and usually stricter laws, like mandatory BAC testing for drivers who are killed, sobriety checkpoints and mandatory alcohol assessment/treatment.

For the final interest group we will discuss a public interest group. These groups vary considerably in size, influence and motive; some have wide ranging long term social purposes, others are focused and are a response to an immediate issue or concern. Texas Public Interest Research Group (TexPIRG) takes on powerful interests on behalf of Texas's citizens, working to win concrete results for our health and our well-being. (acconline.austincc.edu)

TexPIRG's mission is to deliver persistent, result-oriented public interest activism to protect consumers, encourage a fair, sustainable economy and fosters responsive, democratic government. Some strategies employed to influence legislation are the safe food, healthy kids’ petition, toxic-free communities, transportation issues for Texas, financial security, healthcare, higher education, taxes and budgets, media\Internet reform freedom, and Elections and Government Reforms.

The success is the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced tougher safety standards for ground beef served in school. The new standards will end a practice of selling beef products to the school lunch program that would be rejected by fast food chains. A failure of the TexPIRG is the smoke-free Texas petition, an attempt to ban smoking in any public place. This petition did not successfully pass through legislation.

This essay discussed the comparisons and contrasts of how every individual interest group effects or has tried to effect legislation. Some pass and others fail, but all interest groups can influence our government. We learned about a business interest group called Texas Alliance of Energy Producers, a professional interest group identified as Texas AFT, a single interest group acknowledged as MADD, and a public Interest group known as TexPIRG. As Kinky Friedmen said, “I don't care much about big corporations, frankly. Most politicians never met a special-interest group they didn't like.”

Works Cited

AFL-CIO. "Political Action." Texas AFT - Home. Web. 08 July 2010. .

"Interest Group: Definition from Answers.com." Answers.com: Wiki Q&A Combined with Free Online Dictionary, Thesaurus, and Encyclopedias. 2010. Web. 08 July 2010. MADD National Home. "MADDTEXAS." - Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Web. 07 July 2010. MADD National Home. "Mothers Against Drunk Driving - Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving - Laws." - Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Web. 08 July 2010. Quotesea.com. "I Don't Care Much about Big Corporations, Frankly...." Home - Quotesea.com. 2010. Web. 08 July 2010. Texas Alliance of Energy Producers. "Welcome!" Texas Energy Alliance. 2010. Web. 08 July 2010. TexPIRG. TexPIRG. 2010. Web. 07 July 2010. .