Straight out of the gate, State Representative Giovanni Capriglione (R-Southlake) is taking aim at one of those insidious bipartisan problems in government – conflict of interest. His House Bill 524 is a transparency bill requiring lawyers who happen to be legislators to waive attorney-client privilege when they represent companies doing business with state agencies.
Rep. Capriglione knows well what he’s aiming at – some may recall former Rep. Vicki Truitt’s issues with conflict of interest when it was discovered her company had contracts with a local hospital district. This is an extremely interesting piece of legislation. Disclosure forms required by the Texas Ethics Commission don’t go far enough in terms of requiring transparency of this nature, and HB 524 would require the disclosure of state government contracts within a lawmaker’s family as well. So it’s not just aimed at lawyers – this would include any legislators, or their families, who are doing business with state agencies, local taxing entities, and more.
What’s more – and this is a great component – the bill requires disclosure of the exact dollar amount in the contract, and not just a range such as what is reported by lobbyists or in lawmakers’ disclosure of stock amounts.
This legislation is making news this week in part because Rep. Capriglione is partnering with a freshman Democrat, Rep. Mary Gonzalez (D-Clint) to bring it forward, and similar legislation was filed in the Senate by Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) (that last one is….interesting). But that fact just highlights the need for such transparency. When such opposing ideologies agree on a basic principle like this, you know it must be important.
Our legislators need to be upfront with their constituents about who they are doing business with. When they are voting on important legislation, such as the budget, we should have no reason to be concerned that there may be a benefit for them personally in how they vote. The best way to clear up suspicion and doubt is to require full disclosure. HB 524 goes a long way toward ensuring that.