"Late in the day on June 1, a house/senate conference committee manufactured new law out of thin air, and then convinced both the senate and the house to require city officials in cities over 100,000 in population to file detailed personal financial disclosure forms.
The bill (H.B. 1606) is a wide-ranging "ethics" bill. The house version applied the financial disclosure requirements to cities over 350,000 in population; the senate version had no financial disclosure requirements at all. The conference committee, rather than choose one version or the other, used a legislative trick known as "going out of bounds" to write a completely new provision behind closed doors and with no public input.
Such last-minute treachery is virtually impossible to stop; on most occasions it is impossible to detect until the damage is done. The league contacted virtually all senators and dozens of representatives in the short time available to oppose the conference committee report. It was to no avail. The senate adopted the conference committee report unanimously, and the house approved it 133-8.
For cities over 100,000 in population, H.B. 1606 will:
Require each mayor, each member of a municipal governing body, each municipal attorney, each city manager, and each candidate for municipal office to file an annual financial statement with the city clerk or secretary. Require that the financial statement include an account of the financial activity of the covered individual and the individual's spouse and children, if the individual had control over that activity. Require that the financial statement include all sources of income; shares of stocks owned, acquired, or sold; bonds, notes, or other paper held, acquired, or sold; any interest, dividend, royalty, or rent exceeding $500; each person or institution to whom a personal debt of $1,000 or more exists; all beneficial interests in real property or businesses owned, acquired, or sold; certain gifts received; income in excess of $500 from a trust; a list of all boards of directors on which the individual serves; and more. Require that financial statements be made on a form designed by the Texas ethics commission. Provide that the statements are public records. Provide that failure to file a statement is a class B misdemeanor, which is punishable by a fine of up to $2,000, imprisonment of up to 180 days, or both. This bill will undoubtedly lead to a sharp drop in the number of citizens willing to run for municipal office, and possibly the number of current municipal office-holders willing to complete their terms.
Representative Wolens, the sponsor of H.B. 1606, chairs the committee. The other members are:
Dawnna Dukes (D-Austin)
Mary Denny (R-Aubrey)
Pete Gallego (D-Alpine)
Ruben Hope (R-Conroe)
Carl Isett (R-Lubbock)
Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham)
If you feel strongly about this legislation, we encourage you to write to the governor and urge him to veto H.B. 1606.
(Note: some lawmakers will undoubtedly claim that the bill was impossible to stop because it was an omnibus bill that "needed" to pass. No bill is impossible to stop for the right reasons, and this bill was no exception.) "
From the Texas Municipal League