The Texas Senate passed an ethics reform bill April 28.
Gov. Greg Abbott applauded Senate Bill 19 as “meaningful” reform that “reinforces the faith and trust that Texans deserve to place in their government.”
Now the bill rests in the hands of the House State Affairs Committee, and it’s likely to rest there for a few more days. The chairman of that committee, Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, calls it “one of the most superficial efforts I’ve seen.”
The Texas Tribune reported that Cook characterized the bill as an attempt to address problems that don’t exist without fixing the ones that do.
That’s trouble for Abbott, who in February called on legislators to “dedicate this session to ethics.” The governor has even laid out a blueprint of needed ethics reforms.
Cook particularly doesn’t like a couple of provisions in the bill.
One would require that all elected officials — state, county and local — take drug tests.
Another says legislators who want to become lobbyists should sit out one full legislative session.
Those must be the parts Cook believes to be solutions to things that aren’t problems.
Apparently he does see a problem with “dark money” flowing to politically active groups from undisclosed donors. He told The Texas Tribune “issues like that” need to be part of true ethics reform.
Some reform groups in Austin — Texans for Public Justice, Common Cause Texas and Public Citizen — called this week for a stronger ethics law.
But some powerful conservative groups say donor lists should be allowed to be private.
Adding a disclosure provision would make SB 19 significantly tougher to pass.
That could make ethics reform a nail-biting issue as the session draws to a close on June 1.
“If the House is going to take this issue up, we’re going to take it up in a meaningful way,” Cook told the Tribune. “We’re not going to [minimize] something as important as this.”