Announcing what he called an "unprecedented effort" to involve the private sector in public policy, Lt. Gov.-elect Dan Patrick said Thursday he had appointed a 55-member special council made up of Texas business and industry leaders to provide recommendations to lawmakers throughout the legislative session.
"Very often the private sector is asked for help by a candidate ,but after they get elected, there's not much follow-up," Patrick said. "This is for them to provide us with insight and new ideas that either we haven't thought of — or when we have an idea, a piece of legislation, we'll say, 'How will this work?'"
The Lieutenant Governor's Advisory Boards of Private Citizens will have individual committees on water, transportation, tax policy, energy, economic development and economic forecasting. Among its members are energy tycoon T. Boone Pickens, San Antonio real estate developer Gene Powell, Midland oilman Tim Dunn and Brint Ryan, the owner of a Dallas-based tax firm.
Patrick said he hoped the board's members would be able to use their experiences to educate lawmakers in both chambers about the consequences of proposed legislation. Issues like immigration, health care and education would be considered by the committees, he said, and those topics might also be added as separate panels in the future.
"Why would you want a legislative body to disconnect themselves from the private sector? That's what Washington has done, and why the United States has major issues," he said. "And secondly, we are a citizen Legislature. All of us, including the lieutenant governor, make $600 a month. We are all in business."
Committee members would schedule their own meetings, Patrick said, which would not be open to the public.
"Each one of these committees is going to play a vital role in helping us as we move through the session," he said, adding that the board's members would be able to use their experience to educate lawmakers in both chambers about the consequences of proposed legislation. "I've always been a person who believed it's good to surround yourself with people who are more knowledgeable than you are in certain areas."
Though the board includes several of the state's biggest political donors, Patrick noted that many of its members had not supported him in either the primary or runoff.
"This is not about 'Dan's team.' This is about bringing the best and brightest in the state to advise us on these issues," he said.
Disclosure: T. Boone Pickens has been a major donor to The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.