e-Texas e-Texassmaller smarter faster governmentDecember, 2000
Carole Keeton Rylander
Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts

Recommendations of the Texas Comptroller

Chapter 1: Electronic Government

Provide Online Services to New Businesses


A proposed Program Management Office in the Texas Department of Information Resources should coordinate a multi-agency project to design and create a customer-friendly, one-stop online service for new businesses in Texas.


The entire state gains from the emergence of new businesses. By creating jobs and economic growth, such enterprises increase the state’s tax base. Moreover, the services and revenue generated by a new business expand the state’s markets, strengthening its economy.

The amount of time needed for a new business to comply with state and local government requirements, however, only reduces state revenue and increases the frustrations of new business owners. Therefore, it makes good sense for local and state governments to become partners in meeting the needs of those trying to build new businesses. Demand is growing for one-stop shopping in government transactions. A recent poll found that 39 percent of business users would like to use the Internet to access government services and apply for business licenses and permits.[1]

Most business owners would welcome any streamlining of the licensing and permitting processes. To start a dry cleaning business in Texas, for instance, the owner needs permits from at least four state agencies—the Department of Licensing and Regulation, the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission, the Comptroller of Public Accounts and the Texas Department of Transportation. If the owner decides to incorporate, or wants to find out whether a particular business name is available, they must contact the Secretary of State’s office as well. A prospective dry cleaner also must contact the US Environmental Protection Agency and US Department of Transportation to ensure compliance with applicable federal laws. Many of these permits entail inspections and related scheduling delays.

Texas Department of Economic Development

Between January 1 and September 30, 2000, the Texas Department of Economic Development (TDED) reports that its Web site logged more than 432,000 visits. Of that number, more than 222,000 visited the agency’s Office of Permit Assistance. TDED does not issue permits, but operates as a clearinghouse to channel license and permitting applicants to the proper issuing agencies.[2]

About 90 Texas state agencies and licensing authorities issue 90 separate categories of licenses and permits.[3] As of May 2000, TDED had links on its Web site to information concerning over 400 licenses and permits.

The 1999 Texas Legislature passed SB 801 and SB 974, both of which call for improved Internet access and information. SB 801 requires state agencies to devise plans for receiving forms or payments via the Internet or other electronic means, and for state agencies to facilitate useful electronic links among their sites.[4] SB 974 established a cross-agency task force to assess the feasibility of a common Internet-based system to allow state agencies and local governments to send documents, receive license and permit applications, and obtain required payments online.[5]

This bill jump-started the Electronic Government Task Force and the Texas Department of Information Resources (DIR), which are developing a Web-based business portal site through which citizens can interact with government. The portal,“TexasOnline,” maintains a link to TDED’s site for “Starting a Business.” The portal would be the logical site for a more integrated and comprehensive site for business.

Business Portals in Other States

Pennsylvania and Washington have emerged as leaders in e-government, and both states have portals that can link citizens to online drivers’ license applications, permit applications, and comprehensive “starting a business” sites.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge has made having a one-stop business Web site a top priority of his administration. To lead the effort, the governor authorized his Office of Administration to create the site. Pennsylvania’s success provides useful lessons to states interested in following its example.

The first lesson is to involve the affected agencies in the process early on, and ensure that each agency’s input is made an integral part of all decision-making. The second lesson is to obtain input from stakeholders. Pennsylvania asked businesses about their experiences with government agencies and the types of services they need from government. The working groups also set realistic timelines to implement the project.

Pennsylvania’s “Open for Business” Web site was launched in mid-1999 and is being implemented in four phases:

Phase 1: “Starting a Business” forms are provided online.

Phase 2: An “Online Entrepreneur Interview” that asks entrepreneurs about the type of business activity they are proposing.

Phase 3: Ability to complete and submit forms online.

Phase 4: Data integration among state agencies. One of the largest hurdles in the reengineering process, this is currently in the preliminary stage in Pennsylvania.[6]

Pennsylvania’s system is seamless; customers completing online applications are unaware that their information is sent electronically to multiple agencies needing the information. At this writing, eight agencies are participating in the portal. The Pennsylvania Governor’s office was appropriated $1.5 million to set up the system.[7] The “Open for Business” Web site begins by registering the user with an assigned personal identification number and password. Based on a series of questions, links within the system take a business applicant to various forms that must be filled out. For example, if users indicate they will be hiring employees, the system will link the applicants to the appropriate employers’ form. The system builds a profile for the business and its needs and keeps all of the necessary forms in an electronic briefcase. The present system provides links to various agency forms, but for fiscal 2001, the goal is to move away from separate agency forms and toward a series of online questions that will provide the state with all necessary information.

The Pennsylvania Governor’s office leads a committee of executive representatives from state agencies that provides support, direction, and vision for the project. A steering committee made up of agency representatives knowledgeable in their various functions offers direction, plan development, and implementation strategies for the portal site. The committee makes recommendations to state agency executives about project initiatives, develops project planning timelines, and provides feedback to the core group.[8]

Another recommendation in this report proposes the establishment and staffing of a Program Management Office (PMO) within the Department of Information Resources (DIR). This office would afford an ideal level of coordination to the state agencies that play a role in helping businesses establish themselves in Texas.


State law should require the Texas Department of Economic Development, the Secretary of State’s office, the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission, the Comptroller and Texas Department of Transportation to work with the proposed Program Management Office (PMO) to create a one-stop online service for new businesses in Texas.

The one-stop Web site would allow new businesses to complete forms essential to starting a business and obtain permits and assistance. It would be a comprehensive system that, when complete, would serve business start-up needs in a seamless manner.

Ideally, this “Starting a Business” site would erase, to the user’s eye, the existing boundaries among agencies. Texas already has a TexasOnline Web site with a link called “Starting a New Business”; this site would provide a good starting point for the expanded site.

The expanded site should offer two options: 1) “Steps to Starting a Business,” which would coach a startup business through the steps needed to complete the required paperwork, and 2) “Information on Starting a Business,” which would provide a broad range of information such as general business regulations, business licenses and permits, and important phone numbers.

Another recommendation in this report would establish a PMO within the Department of Information Resources (DIR) to coordinate cross-agency technical projects. This recommendation assumes that with the funding recommended below, the PMO could develop a plan for the new system, define a detailed scope for the project, identify agency resources that could be dedicated to the project and any additional resources that may be needed.

Once a more detailed business plan that outlines a business case for the proposed new system is developed, the PMD can build the core foundation for the one-step solution to the extent resources allow. Among the activities that could potentially be undertaken are the addition of the web site of common forms that could be completed and sent online, the addition of business related forms that could be downloaded, the resolution of common programming problems encountered by agencies due to different systems, and the establishment of a universal sign-on password process that would enable businesses to access their own personal records and/or the defining of common data for agency forms.

This recommendation further assumes that this initiative will be fully integrated with the TexasOnline Web portal, and that available funds will be used to begin any technical implementation feasible.

The PMO should make a recommendation to the 2003 Legislature as to the further implementation of this proposed system.

Fiscal Impact

The PMO should be appropriated a one-time amount of $500,000 to begin the planning, coordination and initial implementation, if feasible, of the recommendation above. Another e-Texas recommendation in this report proposes staffing for the PMO; therefore, none is recommended here.

To the fullest extent necessary and possible, the staffing resources within the participating agencies should be contributed to the project. Further, the Texas Department of Economic Development already provides related service on the Internet and should offer staff and Web development resources to this effort.

Savings/(Cost) to the
General Revenue Fund


[1] National Information Consortium, Benchmarking the eGovernment Revolution: Year 2000 Report on Business and Citizen Demand, by the Momentum Research Group of Cunningham Communications (Overland Park, Kansas, July 26, 2000), executive summary.

[2] Interview with Regina Gallatin, economic researcher, Texas Department of Economic Development, Austin, Texas, October 10, 2000.

[3] Interview with Regina Gallatin, economic researcher, Texas Department of Economic Development, Austin, Texas, October 10, 2000.

[4] Texas SB 801, 76th Leg., Reg. Sess (1999).

[5] Texas SB 974, 76th Leg., Reg. Sess (1999).

[6] National Governors’ Association, Information Technology: Creating Real Change for Small Business, by Jeffrey Blodgett (Washington, DC, 2000), pp. 12-13 (http://www.nga.org/Pubs/IssueBriefs/2000/smallbiz.pdf). (Internet document.)

[7] Telephone interview with Debbie Wise, Pennsylvania Office of the Governor, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, June 1, 2000.

[8] Telephone interview with Debbie Wise, Pennsylvania Office of the Governor, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, June 1, 2000

e-Texas is an initiative of Carole Keeton Rylander, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts
Post Office Box 13528, Capitol Station
Austin, Texas

Privacy Policy