While the Texas House is finally passing various ethics reforms, lawmakers approved legislation last week that would chill the rights of citizens in the Lone Star State.
The legislation, House Bill 3305, by State Rep. Lyle Larson (R–San Antonio,) places stifling restrictions on who the governor can and cannot appoint to state boards or commissions.
Billed as a solution for the “pay for play” problem that has seen governors for years use appointments as a reward for big campaign donors, the bill unfortunately attacks that issue in an unconstitutional way.
If the bill were passed into law, Gov. Greg Abbott (and future Texas governors) would be barred from appointing individuals to serve on the various state boards and positions if they had donated over $2,500 to his campaign or a supporting organization. In an absurd twist of the law, if a person gave a campaign contribution over the limit and then were appointed to a position by the governor, the person who was appointed would be found to be in violation of the law (not the governor) and would be subject to civil penalties.
That not only violates the First Amendment rights of potential appointees, it is arguably an unconstitutional restriction on the governor’s appointment powers.
The bill still has yet to receive a vote in the Texas Senate, where it is not expected to pass. Even if it were to defy the odds and pass that chamber it would be subject to a veto by Abbott.
A majority of the Republican caucus in the House voted against the bill, but it was passed by a coalition of liberal Republicans and most Democrats.
Texans should demand that the Texas House act on the series of ethics reforms aimed at putting restrictions on them and their practices, rather than attempting to spin the problem and attack the Governor and the free speech rights of Texans.