On Tuesday House Bill 1606 erupted a political firestorm. An ethics bill that requires full financial disclosure. On Wednesday, city officials sat in dismay as their own state legislators explained their support for a bill which the mayor says will end his political career.
"My initial reaction if I were on a city council or as a mayor, would be fairly adverse to that change," said Senator Robert Duncan. It was the understatement of the afternoon. The senator, advising the mayor and two city councilors on the verge of resigning their positions, not to act in haste over House Bill 1606. "And make your decisions on facts and not upon fear," said Duncan.
"They didn't do any good in Austin this year," shot back Mayor McDougal. It was advice that was unwanted. "I'm not happy about it, other councilmen are unhappy, and at least six other mayors from across the state, and we'll step down," he said.
But Duncan, Isett, and Jones stand behind the bill which requires full financial disclosure. Saying that the public interest is served. "These persons are holding positions of fiduciary responsibility and requiring a financial disclosure is not adverse to good public policy," said Duncan.
Local lawmakers however, are crying foul over a catch-22, serving the public interest but at the expense of their own political careers, saying the bill forces them to resign to shield their business interests. What's more, the bill was passed without having an opportunity to lobby against it. "It was voted on in secret, behind closed doors, without any public input at all," said McDougal. "I don't see how anyone can argue with public policy for the need to disclose the potential conflict as this requires," said Duncan. "What maybe the senator ought to do is take a lesson from the city council and do stuff in the open and take public input," said McDougal.
When the press conference was over, an impromptu meeting in the hallway. Duncan and McDougal exchanging words. "Quite frankly, there are more important things," said Duncan. "Well that's fine, but I would expect you to tell me that," said McDougal. "You chewed my head off when I called," responded Duncan.
As of the posting of this story, there was no reconciliation between state and local officials, nor an offer by state officials to rework the bill on behalf of local lawmakers.