A pattern is emerging in the Texas House: moderate Republicans seem to be setting their sights on killing commonsense transparency measures during the committee process before they have a chance to see the light of day on the floor. They’re being joined by school districts and local taxing entities trying to keep taxpayers in the dark.
Yesterday, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Budget Transparency and Reform held a public hearing on HB 14, the Comptroller’s proposed legislation to increase transparency among local taxing entities. Among other things, the bill would require information about debt and bonds proposed by local government entities to be aggregated on their websites and on ballot propositions.
Currently, all of the information addressed in HB 14 is available via open records request. But those who’ve submitted ORR’s to government entities before know it can be a long and arduous cat-and-mouse game to get the information you need.
HB 14 would bring local government code into the 21st century by requiring this information be put online in a searchable format. That’s great for taxpayers who live in a digital age where information is just a quick Google search away. That’s not so great for local cities, counties, school boards, and other districts that seek to put taxpayers on the hook for more debt in order to fund massive spending projects.
Enter yesterday’s Appropriations subcommittee meeting:
Representatives Bennett Ratliff (R – Coppell) and Drew Darby (R – San Angelo) took turns attacking the premise that taxpayers should have easier access to information already made available to them upon request.
Taxpayers should attend city council and school board meetings when this information is discussed, so taxpayers don’t get confused by potentially misleading information.
In other words, taxpayers are too dumb to figure out if more debt and more spending is appropriate. They should have that information sanitized by local officials and bureaucrats before making a decision.
Also poking a head up against transparency was Austin Democrat Donna Howard, who has often criticized Republicans for playing games with the budget. Apparently keeping taxpayers uninformed is OK when it comes to local government debt.
Worth noting that Subcommittee chairman Myra Crownover (R – Lake Dallas) was all too eager put herself on the record saying Ratliff “knows what he’s talking about.” Curiously, Mrs. Crownover is an original co-sponsor of the bill.
If yesterday felt like a déjà vu moment, perhaps it’s because this same attack on transparency took place in the House State Affairs Committee a few weeks ago.
Are these conspicuous attacks by moderates in the House an attempt to kill these transparency measures before they have a chance to see the light of day? It sure seems like it.
Make sure your legislators know how you feel about it. Tell them to support commonsense reforms to increase transparency and promote good governance!