McAllen taxpayers will be glad to know a resolution to the 2015 controversy surrounding the city’s refusal to disclose how much they paid singer Enrique Iglesias is now in sight.
Gov. Greg Abbott recently signed into law House Bill 81 by State Rep. Terry Canales (D–Edinburg) and Senate Bill 943 by State Sen. Kirk Watson (D–Austin), two bills closing loopholes which previously allowed local governments to keep secret government contracts.
McAllen residents certainly remember the controversy that ensued after the city hired singer Enrique Iglesias to perform a concert in 2015, but refused to disclose how much they paid the singer. The city claimed disclosing such information would limit their ability to negotiate with other performers in the future.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton at the time concurred with the city’s privilege, pointing to a Texas Supreme Court ruling that expanded the width of permissible government conduct in relation to exemptions from public records law. It was later discovered the event cost the city a total of $771,000, with $583,000 being lost on the concert alone.
The exact number spent to bring Iglesias, though, is still hidden from taxpayers.
But after Abbott signed both aforementioned bills, local governments will no longer be able to hide this information by claiming doing so would put them at a competitive handicap.
HB 81 specifically targets contracts made for entertainment, amending Texas law to prevent governments from using public records law exemptions to cover any “receipt or expenditure of public or other funds by a governmental body for a parade, concert, or other entertainment event paid for in whole or part with public funds.” The bill also prohibits provisions that prevent disclosure from being added into municipal contracts.
However, McAllen residents will have to wait until 2020 to see just how much the city paid for the concert.
HB 81, which goes into effect immediately, is not retroactive and only applies to contracts initiated after the law goes into effect. However, State Rep. Giovanni Capriglione (R–Southlake) clarified in a tweet the city will have to abide by SB 943 when law goes into effect in 2020.
It will be five years late, but come 2020 that contract will be public information, and going forward, taxpayers across the state have a new avenue by which to hold their elected officials accountable.