Lawmakers Close To Compromise On Disclosure Bill
by: Emily Ramshaw, The Texas Tribune, March 17, 2013 2:03:00 am
This is one in a series of occasional stories about ethics and transparency in the part-time Texas Legislature.
Weeks after freshman state Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, R-Southlake, was publicly scolded over an ethics bill he brought before the powerful House State Affairs Committee, the lawmaker says he has found middle ground with the veteran legislators who rebuked him.
Capriglione said there is an agreement that would get House Bill 524 — which would require legislators to disclose government contracts with businesses in which they or their family members own at least a 50 percent stake — passed out of committee and on to the House floor. He said the biggest change in the bill is how many relatives lawmakers would have to report. Under the compromise, which is still being negotiated, it would be immediate family: parents, children and spouses, and a best effort at including siblings.
Any such compromise seemed like a pipe dream as recently as last month, when state Rep. Harvey Hilderbran, R-Kerrville, and other committee members painted Capriglione's bill as a "vendetta" and "sour grapes" against their former House colleague Vicki Truitt, who Capriglione defeated last year after a bruising campaign.
At the time, Hilderbran suggested that Capriglione had "bad motives." Hilderbran couldn't immediately be reached for comment on Friday.
After the hearing, Truitt sent out an email to "selected friends" to tell them that her former opponent had been "spanked in a very public way.”
“He had been making the rounds at the Capitol telling members he was going to right the wrongs of his predecessor’s ills, and presumed he would win the day with his pristine legislative proposal,” she wrote. “What happened to him in the State Affairs Committee was not what he expected.”
Since the hearing, Capriglione said, both media attention and grassroots campaigns from open government proponents have kept the bill in the forefront of lawmakers' minds. On Thursday, the influential conservative group Empower Texans launched automated phone messages in the districts of the committee members most vocally opposed to Capriglione’s bill, urging them to ask their representatives to reconsider.
Capriglione said he has now spoken with his toughest critics, who told him they "wanted to ask tough questions," but added that he had done "a good job answering those questions."
While they didn't apologize for their initial response to his measure, Capriglione said, "they’ve been really open about working with me on this."
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This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://www.texastribune.org/2013/03/15/lawmakers-close-compromise-disclosure-bill/.