Rarely are lawmakers so candid in their opposition to transparency as members of the State Affairs Committee were on Wednesday. Several revealed their own personal vendettas against anyone looking to shine more light on the contracts they may have with government entities.
Freshman State Rep. Giovanni Capriglione made transparency a key plank of his campaign, and so far he’s following up his promise to his constituents. Among several bills filed to address needed transparency measures for pension systems and school districts, his first bill – HB 524 – seeks to require disclosure of government contracts entered into by lawmakers, their immediate family members, or any business they have a majority stake in.
Knowing what potential conflicts-of-interest your elected officials may have is critical to holding them accountable and maintaining good governance. It’s also something constituents of Rep. Capriglione know better than most. After all, their former legislator Vicki Truitt was awarded no-bid government contracts with the Tarrant County Hospital District the year after she was assigned to the Public Health Committee in 2003.
It’s no wonder she’s now their former state representative.
But when HB 524 came up for a public hearing in the State Affairs Committee, State Reps. Patricia Harless, Dan Huberty, and Harvey Hilderbran attempted to make Capriglione’s bill look like it was a post-election grudge against Truitt – calling the bill “a campaign vendetta brought to the Legislature,” “sour grapes,” and seemingly “associated with bad motives.”
Nevermind that Mr. Capriglione won his primary election against Ms. Truitt by a 10-point margin. Or that’s the center of his campaign was based around promoting better governance.
What were some of the arguments against the bill, you ask?
Rep. Harless (chair of the Environmental Regulations Committee) thinks that only government contracts entered into by the legislators themselves should matter, because legislators are somehow inoculated from human nature and don’t consider their spouse’s financial interests and their own interests to be one in the same.
[side_text]Let your legislators know how much YOU value additional transparency by sending a letter to their offices! CLICK HERE and we’ll hand deliver them for free![/side_text]Rep. Huberty seems to think that having this information obtainable by open records requests is enough for you pesky taxpayers. Never mind the litany of governmental entities you’d have to ORR (assuming you even knew where to look) to get the same information you could find on a disclosure form if this bill passed!
And Rep. Hilderbran (chair of the Ways & Means Committee)… well he didn’t give much of a reason at all to oppose the bill. Instead, he spent most of his time attacking Mr. Capriglione for his line of work and old campaign websites before strangely trying to push the conversation away from legislators and onto consultants!
(Ironic, given Mr. Hilderbran paid Murphy Turner Associates – a former consulting firm that specialized in manipulation and deceit — nearly $50,000 for their services in 2012.)
It says a lot about the establishment when Republicans like Patricia Harless, Dan Huberty, and Harvey Hilderbran show such a vendetta against transparency, while conservative freshmen (and even Democrats!) have signed on as joint or co-authors of HB 524.
Just remember, nobody forced them to run for office.
NOTE: HB 524 is considered priority legislation and is subject to scoring on the Fiscal Responsibility Index.
Video of HB 524’s public hearing can be viewed via RealPlayer HERE. Fast-forward to the 1:59:00 mark.