Stripping Away Transparency

During the special session, State Representatives Erwin Cain (R-Como) and Bill Zedler (R-Arlington) successfully added amendments to SB 1, the omnibus fiscal matters bill, which respectively increased transparency in the state budget and local school districts. Unfortunately, those measures were stripped out when the bill was considered in a less than conservative conference committee.

Amendment #67 by Rep. Cain was the same one he successfully added to SB 1811 (amendment #45) during the regular session, which later died at the hands of Democrat Senator Wendy Davis’ filibuster. The amendment would have reformatted the state budget to address the uncertainty of where money is coming from and where it is spent. In other words, it would have make the task of reading the state budget more user-friendly.(Click here for details.)

Amendment #166 by Rep. Zedler added transparency to school districts financial records by requiring them to post their annual budget, end-of-year financial report, and checking account transaction register (minus payroll checks) on their school district website. (Our previous analysis can be found here.)

Both of these amendments were adopted during the debate in the House on SB 1, yet both failed to make it out of the conference committee. Why?

Without any ability to observe the back room deals typically made in conference, there’s no definitive answer. But, given the new Fiscal Responsibility Index ratings of the conferees, it shouldn’t really come as a surprise:

House Conferees:

  • Jim Pitts (R – Waxahachie) – D
  • Rob Eissler (R – The Woodlands) – D+
  • Charlie Geren (R – River Oaks) – C+
  • John Otto (R – Dayton) – C+
  • Mike Villarreal (D – San Antonio) – F

Senate Conferees:

  • Robert Duncan (R – Lubbock) – F
  • Bob Deuell (R – Mesquite) – F
  • Juan Hinojosa (D – McAllen) – F
  • Florence Shapiro (R – Plano) B
  • Tommy Williams (R – The Woodlands) – D+

Only 1 of the 10 conferees (Sen. Shapiro) was recognized as a Taxpayer Advocate for voting in taxpayers’ interest at least 80% of the time, despite the near “super-majority” of Republicans in the Legislature this session.

Dustin Matocha is the Social Media Coordinator for Empower Texans / Texans for Fiscal Responsibility.

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Dustin Matocha

Dustin Matocha is the Executive Vice President of Empower Texans. Dustin graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a BBA in Management, a BA in Government, and a minor in Marketing. He’s a self-described Corvette enthusiast, baseball purist, tech geek and growing connoisseur of local craft beer.

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