THE BIG CONVERSATION:
Dormant since campaign season, one of the year's biggest ethics flaps is back.
With the next legislative session quickly approaching, attention has turned again to longtime state Rep. Joe Driver, the Garland Republican who was revealed earlier this year to have double-billed his campaign and the state for travel expenses, pocketing at least $17,000. Driver, who kept up this practice for years, has said he didn't know he was committing any wrongdoing.
The controversy dogged his re-election bid, but Driver hung on, securing his 10th term as a Republican tide swept the state. But now, as the Houston Chronicle reports, investigators have begun a criminal probe of Driver's expense practices.
"We were presented a complaint that appeared to be sufficient to require additional investigation to determine whether or not the law was violated. Now that the election has passed the review, and the investigation is taking place," Assistant Travis County District Attorney Gregg Cox tells the Chronicle.
The ramped-up review comes as the Legislature looks toward cracking down on such ethics violations. Over the weekend, double-dipping made headlines again in light of a complaint targeting House Republican Caucus leader Larry Taylor, who, like Driver, records show as having billed both his campaign and the state for expenses. (Taylor says he repays his campaign.) In response to the complaint, House Speaker Joe Straus said he'd direct the House to tackle ethics reform quickly. "The public trust is No. 1," Straus told the Chronicle. "And without that, we couldn't even begin to address these other challenges that we have."
State Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, has also said he'll meet with the Texas Ethics Commission this week to address ethics rules governing reimbursements.
- Opponents of red-light cameras in Houston have accused the city of skimping on its defense of the Nov. 2 voter referendum that rejected the cameras. Last week, a judge ordered that the cameras remain in place until litigation between the city and the company that operates the cameras is concluded.
- An open-records program has discovered that teachers in the Texas A&M University System who instruct their students to submit public information requests can be disciplined or even fired. "On its face this appears to be aimed at preventing journalism professors from teaching future journalists how the Texas Public Information Act can, and should be, used as a checks and balances to obtain information some might prefer to be kept secret and out of public view," a public information advocate tells The Associated Press.
"He’ll either be goat or hero, depending on the person." — Don Reay, executive director of the Texas Border Sheriff's Coalition, on Hudspeth County Sheriff Arvin West, who arrested singer Willie Nelson for marijuana possession last week. Some say the sheriff has embellished tales of border violence to attract millions of state and federal dollars, as the Tribune's Brandi Grissom reports.
- Atheist-themed ads appear on Fort Worth buses, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
- Investigators find thousands of Mexico's patients living in squalor, Houston Chronicle
- Sheriff's Willie Arrest Not His Only Claim to Fame, The Texas Tribune