Government Should Be Transparent and Accountable
Government works for the people, and not the other way around. Texas must begin to strengthen our ethics laws to bring much needed transparency and accountability to government. In this age of instant answers, the public should have access to more information about their elected officials. If an elected official is using his or her position chiefly to enrich him or herself, the public has a right to know, and we need to help arm voters with necessary information.
Governor Greg Abbott made this a priority issue for legislators to tackle this session, and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick gave ethics reform a low bill number, signaling that it is one of his priorities, as well. Senate Bill 19, by Senator Van Taylor, is a strong ethics reform bill, and I plan to amend it to make it even stronger.
The first amendment I will offer will remove the proposed grandfather clause that exempts current legislators from the bill's waiting period before a former legislator becomes a lobbyist. The revolving door of the legislator turned lobbyist is a problem, and we legislators in Austin should not be excluding ourselves from the solution. Texans are tired of legislators making special rules for themselves. That's why the waiting period before a former legislator can lobby must apply to all legislators, even those of us currently serving.
The second amendment I will offer to SB 19 will discourage legislative actions for personal profit by prohibiting members of the Legislature and statewide elected officials from employing or contracting with another legislator or statewide elected official. As employees of the taxpayers of Texas, legislators and statewide elected officials should not be using their position of influence and access to privileged information for personal gain through employment or contracts with one another. Former office holders must wait 2 years to minimize undue influence. This amendment will give Texans a greater assurance that public officials are acting in the public interest and not for personal gain.
I have personally made myself a citizen legislator by not accepting a salary, pension, or health care from the state of Texas. I will always strive to be a great public servant.
I hope you will stand with me as we work to improve Senator Taylor's already very strong ethics reform bill. I also need your ideas and input. What ethics laws do you think should be changed to help promote government transparency and accountability? Click here and share your answers!