Governor Abbott Vetos Bills That Included A Spousal Loophole In Elected Officials' Personal Financial Statements
Over the weekend, Governor Abbott vetoed over 40 bills. Perhaps the most notable bills to fall victim to Abbott’s veto was legislation by state Rep. Sarah Davis, R-West University Place, (HB 3511 and HB 3637) that were originally broadly geared toward ethics reform, one of Abbott’s five emergency items. Eleventh hour amendments added by Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, included a so-called “spousal loophole” that ultimately sank the two bills by Davis. Even the author of the bills, had started to urge a veto after Sen. Huffman added the amendment to allow officeholders to conceal the assets of their spouses.
Earlier in the year, a citizen from Katy filed a complaint alleging that Huffman did not disclose multiple business interests of her husband, Houston businessman Keith Lawyer. In fact, according to Huffman’s personal financial statements, she lives on roughly $12,000 per year derived from her Senate salary and some stock dividends.
Texans for Public Justice and Public Citizen had been calling on Abbott for weeks prior to the June 21st deadline urging him to veto HB 3736 and HB 3511 because “both contain amendments by Sen. Joan Huffman which would have allowed Huffman and other officials to exclude a spouse’s assets from Personal Financial Disclosures.”
Late Saturday, Tom “Smitty” Smith with Public Citizen released a statement saying that Abbott’s vetoes “closed the doors to a new wave of corruption.”
“This is a community property state and so what’s good for the goose is good for the gander,” Smith said. “If these bills had become law legislator’s spouses could have become enriched by those who wanted favors from the member and we’d never know if there was a payback.”
Below is Abbott’s statement on his veto of HB 3736.
Pursuant to Article IV, Section 14, of the Texas Constitution, I, Greg Abbott, Governor of Texas, do hereby disapprove of and veto House Bill no. 3736 as passed by the Eighty-Fourth Texas Legislature, Regular Session, because of the following objections:
At the beginning of this legislative session, I called for meaningful ethics reform. This legislation does not accomplish that goal. Provisions in this bill would reduce Texans’ trust in their elected officials, and I will not be a part of weakening our ethics laws. Serious ethics reform must be addressed next session – the right way. Texans deserve better.
Since the Eighty-Fourth Texas Legislature, Regular Session, by its adjournment has prevented the return of this bill, I am filing these objections in the office of the Secretary of State and giving notice thereof by this public proclamation according to the aforementioned constitutional provision.
Thank you Governor Abbott for standing up to efforts to weaken Texas’ ethics laws.