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The Brief: The Legislature went after ethics reform this session. Did they do enough?

Lawmakers passed broad reforms this year that would increase transparency and conduct among their own ranks. But watchdog groups say they didn't go far enough.

Gov. Greg Abbott signs several bills reforming Child Protective Services in a ceremony with state legislators at the Department of Family and Protective Services headquarters on May 31, 2017.

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What you need to know

The Texas Legislature took a heavy swing at ethics reform this year. Several years after Gov. Greg Abbott called on lawmakers to improve their own conduct and increase transparency, he finally got some bills that met his demands on his desk. Abbott declared the issue a legislative "emergency" in the last two sessions. Here's what you need to know.

Lawmakers passed broad reforms this year. Under the new measures, elected officials who committed felonies while abusing their office can say goodbye to their public pensions. State officers and politicians who make money from government contracts must disclose those relationships. Those who swing through the revolving door from legislator to lobbyist — using fat campaign accounts — will be restricted from using that money to support themselves. The governor is expected to sign all three proposals.

• But a lot of ethics bills fell through the cracks. Three bills on the governor's priority list, which all focused on lobbyists, didn't make it. Other ethics bills died, too: Legislation that would require officeholders' personal financial statements to be published online, along with a measure that would bar the governor from appointing his big donors to state posts and one that would shed light on the sources of so-called "dark money" candidates racked up from politically active nonprofits. 

• The proposal that would require candidates to disclose the sources of their dark money pitted watchdogs against Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. Patrick said such a law would violate free speech rights. A bill that would restrict the influence of big gubernatorial donors passed the House but stalled in Patrick's Texas Senate. Carol Birch of Public Citizen of Texas, a liberal watchdog group, called the outcome "disheartening."

Other stories we're watching today:

• U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., is visiting Texas today to campaign for Phillip Huffines, the Dallas County GOP chairman running for state Senate. Paul is scheduled to attend an evening fundraiser in Plano for Huffines, the twin brother of state Sen. Don Huffines, R-Dallas. Phillip Huffines is seeking to replace state Sen. Van Taylor, R-Plano, who is expected to run for Congress in 2018.

Tribune today

• University leaders, who worried about tuition freezes, funding cuts and other major changes, didn't have it as rough as they thought they would this legislative session. 

• State Rep. Mark Keough, a Republican from the Woodlands, won't be seeking a third term in the Legislature. He's trying to become Montgomery County Judge instead.

• U.S. Sen John Cornyn predicts congressional Republicans will repeal and replace Obamacare very soon — passing legislation by the end of July.

The governor signed a package of bills designed to address the state's child welfare crisis — one of his four emergency items for this session. 

News from home

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What we're reading

Links below lead to outside websites; we've noted paywall content with $.

What has Rick Perry been doing, E&E News

Texas city police investigating KKK fliersThe Galveston Daily News

Planned Texas A&M center would combine senior living, child care, The Eagle

English learners were hurt the most when Texas limited special education, NPR

Could the death of one abused child have saved the life of another, Fort Worth Star-Telegram ($)

Reversal: ICE confirms fielding a call about Texas Capitol protesters, Austin American-Statesman ($)

A broken trustThe Dallas Morning News ($)

For your calendar

Today: Catch a conversation with UT System Chancellor William McRaven in person or on our livestream.

Tomorrow: Join us in Dallas for a conversation about public education, immigration, health care, spending, taxes and other more.

Quote to note

"This isn’t about decorum. I’m a sailor; I can take the salty language. This is about whether we sit idly or stand up in the face of ethnic scapegoating, racial profiling and abusing the power of the state to intimidate the less powerful."

— State Rep. César Blanco, about the scuffle on the House floor following a protest of the new immigration law.

The Brief is written and compiled by your morning news baristas, Bobby Blanchard and Sanya Mansoor. Patrick Svitek contributed to this version of The Brief. If you have feedback or questions, please email

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