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Bipartisan Tech Caucus Triples in Size in Three Years

The state legislature's Innovation and Technology Caucus focuses on an educational mission, making sure that legislators have a place to learn more about what is happening in the tech economy.

IT Caucus and participants in August 2023
The Innovation and Technology Caucus of the Texas Legislature (IT Caucus) has an educational mission, making sure legislators have a place to turn to understand what is happening in the technology and innovation economy.

The 62-member bipartisan caucus facilitates an exchange of ideas and knowledge between industry experts and lawmakers who have a direct effect on how the state adopts and uses technology.

“We’re the largest bipartisan caucus in the Texas House. Other than the Republican and Democrat caucuses we’re the largest caucus,” chair Rep. Giovanni Capriglione (R-98) said during August’s State of Technology Industry Forum.

A legislative caucus’ membership is “exclusively members of the legislature” and “exists for research and other support of policy development and interest that the membership hold in common," according to the Texas Ethics Commission website.

The innovation ecosystem includes workforce, computer education, broadband and many other topics, Capriglione said last year in an interview. Emerging tech such as blockchain and cryptocurrencies are also important topics.

The caucus works with private-sector partners to bring programming and education to its members. In 2021 and 2022, the caucus held dozens of these events, according to its office.

As an example, the Texas Blockchain Council met in spring 2022 with caucus members — before AI superseded crypto as one of the state’s most-talked-about concerns.

They also go on “field trips.” For instance, the Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce hosted the caucus last year, when membership visited Rackspace Technology, the National Security Agency and the University of Texas San Antonio National Security Collaboration Center.

Briefings, usually in Austin, have included those from Accenture, AT&T, Google, the Texas Cable Association, IronNet and TechNet. There are also lunch-and-learns and site visits to places such as Samsung Austin Semiconductor, a virtual currency mine, Microsoft in Houston and Texas Instruments in Dallas.

“We’ve been able to help most members understand how [technology] impacts their constituents, how it's been huge for the economic drivers in their area,” Capriglione said during the August event. “So when they ask us … what, how does a data center help or how does the software help? They understand now why it makes sense to refresh our computer systems … . They do understand why it makes sense that they need higher bandwidth, or we need more cybersecurity to protect them.”

Former Rep. Dwayne Bohac of Houston and Rep. Donna Howard (D-48) founded the caucus in 2015, and it grew from 19 members in 2020 to 62 today. Capriglione has chaired since 2020 and will continue to do so.

The caucus' X, formerly Twitter, handle is @ITCaucus, and regularly posts its news.
Rae D. DeShong is a Dallas-based staff writer and has written for The Dallas Morning News and worked as a community college administrator.