Ethics Reform Still Needed in Texas

August 2, 2017

Ethics Reform Still Needed in Texas

Public Citizen Echoes Call for Governor to Add Ethics Reform to Special Session

AUSTIN, Texas — With Texas ranking as of the worst states in the nation for transparency, campaign finance, ethics and public disclosure laws, the governor should follow through with his pledge to make major ethics reform a priority, Public Citizen said today.

State Representative Sarah Davis (R-West University Place), chair of the House Committee on General Investigating and Ethics, today called on Gov. Greg Abbott to add ethics reform to the 85th special session call. Public Citizen agrees with Davis.

Ethics reform was one of four emergency items identified by Abbott at the beginning of the 85th legislative session. By the end of the session, only scant reform made it into law.

A handful of bills to increase transparency and minimize conflicts of interest have been filed in the special session so far, and more are anticipated. For example, Rep. Lyle Larson’s (R-San Antonio) HB 33 would ban gubernatorial appointments of individuals who had donated $2,500 or more to the governor or a committee supporting the governor in the prior year. Bills filed by Rep. Davis would close the revolving door for legislators (HB 15) and extend the prohibition on campaign contributions during regular sessions to special sessions as well (HB 19). Public Citizen hopes that additional legislation could be filed, as many items that passed both chambers in past sessions have not been revisited this year.

These and any other ethics bills that might be passed by both chambers cannot become law unless ethics reform is added to the governor’s special session call.

“Governor Abbott has called major ethics reform a priority before,” said Adrian Shelley, director of Public Citizen’s Texas office, “We haven’t seen major ethics reform in Texas yet. There’s still time for the governor to add it to the call.”

Carol Birch, legislative counsel for Public Citizen, agrees.

“During the regular session, the governor again proved himself to be all hat and no cattle when it comes to ethics reform. Since the legislature is back in the saddle at his request, he should go ahead and bring the whole herd.”