In an interview with KVUE News looking back on his first year as Governor, Greg Abbott unloaded on the legislators who killed his ethics reform agenda, calling their obstruction “reprehensible” and “shameful.”

The chief obstructions were House Speaker Joe Straus (R–San Antonio) and State Rep. Byron Cook (R–Corsicana), who convinced 92 other members of the Texas House to turn Abbott’s Ethics measure into an assault on the First Amendment rights of Texans.

Indeed, Abbott labeled the House’s action “unconstitutional.”

In an interview aired on January 27, 2016, KVUE political reporter Mark Wiggins asked Abbott about the items on his to-do list for next year’s legislation session. Abbott responded:

“We need to ensure that the one priority I had this last session passes this next session and that is genuine ethics reform. It’s reprehensible that the members of the legislature tried to water down ethics reform and violate their compact with their fellow citizens, their voters who put them in office. I think it is shameful for these legislators not to pass ethics reform. They are cheating their own voters. I demand that they pass ethics reforms this next time.

Abbott also had harsh words for the failure of lawmakers to pass a ban on sanctuary cities. He pledged to make a sanctuary city ban a priority again in 2017.

But the Ethics measure was the clearest example of the divide between lawmakers seeking to serve citizens, and those who believe citizens serve the government.

The Texas Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 19, a comprehensive ethics reform bill that would have ended the revolving door between the lobby and the legislature and increased transparency for legislators when they do business with the state.

Gov. Abbott praised the bill when it left the Senate.

When the bill went to the Texas House, Straus ensured that Rep. Byron Cook could butcher the measure. Cook removed the provisions of SB 19 aimed at legislators, and replaced them with provisions targeting the First Amendment rights of Texans.

After the session Abbott called the House amendments to Senate Bill 19 “unconstitutional.”

The House members who voted for the “reprehensible” and “shameful” House assault on Abbott’s agenda and the First Amendment were:


Trent Ashby, Jimmie Don Aycock, Cindy Burkett, DeWayne Burns, Angie Button, Giovanni Capriglione, Travis Clardy, Byron Cook, Tony Dale, Drew Darby, Sarah Davis, Gary Elkins, Wayne Faircloth, Marsha Farney, John Frullo, Rick Galindo, Charlie Geren, Larry Gonzales, Patricia Harless, Dan Huberty, Todd Hunter, Kyle Kacal, Jim Keffer, Ken King, Linda Koop, John Kuempel, Lyle Larson, J.M. Lozano, Morgan Meyer, Doug Miller, Rick Miller, Jim Murphy, John Otto, Tan Parker, Larry Phillips, Walter Price, John Raney, Debbie Riddle, J.D. Sheffield, Ron Simmons, Wayne Smith, Ed Thompson, Jason Villalba, Paul Workman, John Wray,


Alma Allen, Roberto Alonzo, Carol Alvarado, Rafael Anchia, Diego Bernal, Cesar Blanco, Terry Canales, Garnet Coleman, Nicole Collier, Yvonne Davis, Joe Deshotel, Joe Farias, Jessica Farrar, Helen Giddings, Mary Gonzalez, R.D. Guerra, Ryan Guillen, Roland Gutierrez, Ana Hernandez, Abel Herrero, Donna Howard, Celia Israel, Eric Johnson, Tracy King, Oscar Longoria, Marisa Marquez, Armando Martinez, Trey Fischer, Borris Miles, Ina Minjarez, Joseph Moody, Sergio Munoz, Elliot Naishtat, Poncho Nevaraez, Rene Oliveira, Joe Pickett, Richard Raymond, Ron Reynolds, Eddie Rodriguez, Justin Rodriguez, Ramon Romero, Toni Rose, Senfronia Thompson, Chris Turner, Sylvester Turner, Gary VanDeaver, Hubert Vo, Armando Walle, Gene Wu

Not surprisingly, a majority of House Republicans voted correctly – trying to stop the “unconstitutional” assault.

After the House killed Abbott’s Ethics package, senators scrambled to pass portions of the reforms in a piecemeal fashion. But even those efforts were derailed by Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston), when she amended legislation to allow lawmakers to hide the business interests of their spouses and family members from public scrutiny. Abbott was forced to veto the measures because of Huffman’s changes.

Tony McDonald

Tony McDonald serves as General Counsel to Texas Scorecard. A licensed and practicing attorney, Tony specializes in the areas of civil litigation, legislative lawyering, and non-profit regulatory compliance. Tony resides in Austin with his wife and daughter and attends St. Paul Lutheran Church.