Government Contract Disclosure Bill Advances

A bill that would require Texas elected officials to reveal contracts they have with governmental entities — one of Gov. Greg Abbott’s major priorities this year — was overwhelmingly approved by the Texas House on Wednesday.

Rep. Giovanni Capriglione R-Soutlake waits to testify during a March 14th House Homeland Security & Public Safety committee hearing.

A bill that would require Texas elected officials to reveal contracts they have with governmental entities — one of Gov. Greg Abbott’s major priorities this year — was overwhelmingly approved by the Texas House on Wednesday.

The bill, HB 1294 by Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, R-Southlake, didn’t even get out of a committee two years ago. On Wednesday, with no debate, it passed on a vote of 143-0.

“By properly disclosing contracts with governmental entities … we put ourselves in a great position to make sure this body and this Legislature does what taxpayers want us to do, which is to be careful with their money, disclose, be transparent and only vote in the way that taxpayers want us to be able to vote,” Capriglione said after his bill passed.

The bill is expected to be sent to the Senate this week after a final, perfunctory vote. 

The legislation would require state elected officials to disclose to the Texas Ethics Commission any government contracts in which they or a close family member have a substantial financial interest. 

The issue arose in the 2014 governor’s race, when Abbott accused his Democratic opponent, then-Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, of profiting off her service in the Legislature through contracts between her law firm and public entities. Davis said her work for public entities, including the North Texas Tollway Authority, did not conflict with her role as a senator. 

Abbott, who trounced Davis in November, proposed far-reaching ethics reforms on the campaign trail and made it a major feature of his “state of the state” speech to the Legislature in February. That's when he gave ethics reform "emergency" status, putting it on the legislative fast track. A variety of other ethics initiatives, including more disclosure of lobbyist wining and dining and legislative conflicts of interest, are also under consideration.

Capriglione said Abbott’s push has given his bill a much better chance of passing. 

“The governor, of course, making it one of his key agenda items absolutely, he said hey, we’re going to do this scandal or no scandal,” Capriglione said. “You know it would be great to go home with a vote like this.”