Senate Committees Push Boundaries on Social Media
The bulk of social media and Web 2.0 use in Congress and state legislatures has until now largely been composed of personal tweets and posts by legislators and staff, pushing communications out without engaging in true conversations with constituents. Innovation in this area has lagged the private sector.One Texas Senate committee is changing that. Charged by Chairman John Carona to “push the envelope so hard it’s no longer stationery,” the Business and Commerce Committee is moving out with social media. They began by examining the legislative process and identifying each point where lobbyists and advocates have special access to information or legislators, then looked for technologies that would level the playing field, open the process to the public, or help generate consensus. As a testbed, the committee is currently tackling a tough issue –payday lending – and they’ll tell you what they’re doing, what’s worked and where they think Gov2.0 is going.
Conor Kenny is a consultant in public policy, technology and open government based in Austin, Texas. He has worked for the Texas Senate, Participatory Politics Foundation, Sunlight Foundation, Center for Media and Democracy and Public Citizen. Among other things, he currently works on OpenCongress.org, where he coordinates the wiki and the RaceTracker project. He recently earned his Master of Public Affairs from the LBJ School at the University of Texas and has criss-crossed the state in search of the perfect brisket.
At SXSW Conor will be presenting on his work with the Texas Senate Business and Commerce Committee to help it become radically transparent and participatory.
Steven Polunsky is the Director of the Texas Senate Committee on Business and Commerce, where he and his staff evaluate legislation, conduct policy studies, and perform oversight of state and local agencies. The Committee is chaired by Senator John Carona of Dallas and is responsible for legislation and policy relating to businesses and industries regulated by the State of Texas, including all sectors from utilities to banking to construction. At the Chair's direction to "push the envelope until it's no longer stationery," the Committee is testing a variety of technology uses to increase transparency and make government more accessible.
Steven plays percussion with the World Gone Mad Drum & Bugle Corps and the St. Edward's University Orchestra, chairs the Public Relations Committee of the American Radio Relay League as amateur radio operator W5SMP, gives presentations such as the story of the USS Somers mutiny to Nerdnite Austin, and is participating in the reconstruction of Afghanistan as a Mentor with the United Nations Institute for Training and Research, Hiroshima Fellowship for Afghanistan. He holds a Master’s of Public Affairs from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, is married with two children, and lives in Austin.