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Contracting Overhaul Sails Through Senate

Amid an ongoing scandal over how the state awarded a multimillion-dollar contract to a private company, the Texas Senate on Tuesday unanimously approved a bill that would overhaul the state’s contracting processes.

Senate Finance Committee Chairwoman Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, confers with Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, during...

Amid an ongoing scandal over how the state awarded a multimillion-dollar contract to a private company, the Texas Senate on Tuesday unanimously approved a bill that would overhaul the state’s contracting processes.

Senate Bill 20 by Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, would require state agencies to record their contracts with outside vendors in a database run by the comptroller’s office. It would also prohibit state agencies from signing contracts with former state employees for two years after they leave their state jobs — an attempt to limit the revolving door between the private sector and state government.

The legislation would cap at $1 million contracts awarded through the state’s Cooperative Contracts program, which is used to purchase computer products and services. The Health and Human Service Commission used the program – run by the Department of Information Resources – in 2012 to sign a $20 million contract with little-known Austin software company 21CT, spurring investigations and allegations of corruption.  

With a 30-0 vote, the Senate sent the legislation to the House.

We have the responsibility to Texans who rely on state services to ensure that contracts deliver those services,” Nelson said. “Responsible contracting is a critical component for a responsible budget.”

The legislation also would require agencies to identify potential waste, fraud or abuse in contracting.

“This bill speaks to accountability and transparency, and hopefully we will restore some of the confidence we have lost from our citizens," said Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown. “We need a team to watch this, because this will be a thing that continues to crop up.”

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