Hot List: Day 134 of the Legislature


The Lead:

It’s not every day you see the Texas Legislature vote to tighten ethics standards, but that’s what happened yesterday when the House initially approved the Ethics Commission sunset bill.

As first written, Senate Bill 219 made minor changes to the agency that oversees campaign and lobby disclosures. But House members added a series of amendments on the floor that transformed the legislation into one that, as the Observer’s Beth Cortez-Neavel reports, would “force Railroad Commissioners to resign from the position if they decided to run for other offices; mandating that lawmakers’ financial disclosure forms are posted online (without their home addresses); requiring that 501(c)(4) nonprofits report their donors if they get involved in Texas elections, and requiring legislators and their families to report any government contracts in which they hold more than a 50-percent stake.”

Rep. Charlie Geren added the amendment that would require politically active nonprofits—501(c)(4) groups like Empower Texans and its head Michael Quinn Sullivan—to disclose their donors. You might be thinking, “didn’t that bill already pass?” And indeed it. The amendment was a version of SB 346, which has already been sent to the governor, who’s expected to veto it. By attaching it to the Ethics Commission sunset bill, Geren may have found a way to circumvent Rick Perry’s veto.

 Yesterday’s Headlines:

1. The House voted for an amendment yesterday to ban Medicaid expansion. As the Texas Tribune‘s Becca Aaronson reports, Rep. Jeff Leach (R-Plano) added an amendment to a Medicaid bill that would ban HHSC from expanding Mediciad under Obamamcare. The amendment could always be stripped out in conference committee, but if it does survive, it could preclude any deal with the feds on Medicaid expansion.

2. Yesterday, Dan Patrick celebrated the imminent death of the curriculum management program CSCOPE. Patrick announced that “the era of CSCOPE lesson plans has come to an end,” the Observer’s Patrick Michels reports. And once again the land was safe from the menace of curriculum tools.

3. The Dallas Morning-News reports that the House’s initial approval of a ban on cell-phone tracking without cause has police associations none too pleased.

 Line of the Day:

“The big lesson here is that if you can generate a witch hunt that includes enough incendiary and distorted claims, then there are politicians at the Capitol who are ready to throw their supposed commitment to local control out the window,” —Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller in a statement this morning in response to CSCOPE administrators turning over thousands of financial documents to Senator Dan Patrick’s (R-Houston) office.

What We’re Watching Today:

1.  SB 11—the watered-down bill that would implement drug testing for some welfare applicants—is slated for debate on the House floor today.

2. Tommy Williams’ transparency bill—SB 14—is also set for debate in the House. The bill would institute a number of provisions to give the public more information on schools, taxes, and government spending.