Members of the Texas House have turned in their committee preference cards and are anxiously awaiting assignments from Speaker Dennis Bonnen. But one lawmaker’s employment is raising questions about whether he can continue to serve on the Ways and Means Committee.
State Rep. Drew Springer (R–Muenster) has been rumored in the Capitol to be angling to keep his spot on the House Ways and Means Committee this session, a committee he has served on during the previous two legislative sessions. The powerful committee oversees tax policy governing Texas businesses and citizens.
When he entered the legislature in 2012, Springer worked primarily in financial services. But since early 2017, Springer has also been employed by lobbyist Brint Ryan of Ryan Associates.
According to a testimonial on their website, Ryan Associates delivers clients “timely and effective legislative advocacy strategy and support.” In other words, businesses can hire Ryan Associates to lobby state officials for carve outs, economic incentives, and other special tax deals. It’s a lucrative business and one that arguably stands to make even more money should Springer, the firm’s “Director of Client Services,” continue to serve on the House committee that oversees tax policy.
The connection is causing some to ask whether or not Springer can fairly be a member of the committee without a major conflict of interest.
Springer has so far refused to respond to questions from Texas Scorecard on the subject of his employment and the apparent conflict of interest it presents.
The situation is similar to one faced by State Rep. Jim Murphy (R–Houston) last year, when an investigation found the lawmaker was receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to consult for the Westchase District, a special purpose district that overlaps with his legislative district, all while serving as chairman of the Committee on Special Purpose Districts. In his position, Murphy received bonuses for securing taxpayer funds for the district’s “special projects.”
At the start of this legislative session, Bonnen eliminated the Special Purpose District Committee, opting to move legislation on that topic to the Committee on Land and Resource Management. Inside the Texas Capitol, the move is widely viewed as having come in response to the Murphy scandal.
Bonnen is expected to appoint committees in the next couple of weeks. Eyes will be on Springer’s committee placement to see how Bonnen navigates conflicts of interest in the chamber.