Speaking before a crowd of conservative donors and activists at the Texas Public Policy Orientation, State Sen. Van Taylor (R-Plano) released the details of what items will be contained in the ethics reform package he will be fighting to pass this session.
Taylor has the explicit backing of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Gov. Greg Abbott on the bill.
Though his efforts to pass a similar bill last session were defeated in the Texas House, Taylor has shrewdly designed a strategy to push forward with the legislation by using lawmakers’ own words and votes against them.
He’s also lined up a powerful partner in State Rep. Charlie Geren (R–Fort Worth) who has committed to preserving the bill from being hijacked as it was last session, when lawmakers killed the bill by attaching unrelated restrictions on free speech.
In a recent interview with the Texas Tribune, Geren argued that the legislature’s failure to pass ethics reform could be blamed on his colleague, State Rep. Byron Cook (R–Corsicana). Cook perverted the bill in his committee by gutting out its substance and attaching a provision that unconstitutionally attacked the free speech rights of citizens.
Although Geren often opposes conservatives, he has pledged to keep such a “poison pill” from being inserted into the legislation again. Adding the unconstitutional baggage to the bill allowed lawmakers to create a smokescreen they could use to kill genuine ethics reform.
“We’re going to have some single-shot bills that address individual issues and you’re not going to be able to decorate them like a Christmas tree with other subjects,” said Geren.
Taylor’s bill will include:
- Barring politicians convicted of a felony from holding elected office or drawing a pension
- Disclosing government contracts, bond counsel, and referral fees
- Greater reporting on lobbyist-legislator wining and dining
- Banning elected officials from being employed as lobbyists while in office and instituting and ending the “revolving door” by adding a one session cooling off period
A presentation of Taylor’s identified cornerstone reforms can be viewed here.