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More Texas legislators file legislation that would prevent controversy sparked by McAllen contract with Enrique Iglesias, reports Rep. Terry Canales

Featured: Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, preparing to address the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Legislative Report Card Luncheon, held on Thursday, August 18, 2016, at the Embassy Suites by Hilton McAllen Convention Center.

Photograph By MARK MONTEMAYOR

Additional measures have been filed by state lawmakers that would prevent Texas governments from approving certain types of contracts whose payments are allowed to be kept secret, said Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, a strong supporter of the people’s right to know, who has already introduced similar legislation that will promote transparency in government. Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, R-Southlake, and Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, on Tuesday, January 3, 2016, each introduced two pieces of identical legislation, representing four individual bills, to close loopholes in the Texas Public Information Act that were created by recent Texas Supreme Court rulings. A key portion of the Capriglione/Watson proposals share the intent of Canales’ House Bill 349, which would require local governments in Texas to reveal the amount of public funds paid in part or in whole for parades, concerts, or other events open to the general public. Canales drafted his HB 349 following growing concern about a stand taken by McAllen city government that it is prevented in disclosing the fee it paid to Enrique Iglesias, one of the best-selling Latin recording artists in the world, who was the star attraction for a December 5, 2015 concert, held at McAllen Veterans Memorial Stadium, as part of McAllen Holiday Parade organized by the City of McAllen.

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Proposed law to prevent Texas governments from keeping secret any expenditure paid for with tax funds will be filed by Rep. Terry Canales

Photograph By MARK MONTEMAYOR

Featured: Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, addressing the Public Affairs Luncheon, sponsored by the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce and the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation on Thursday, January 21, 2016 at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance.

Photograph By MARK MONTEMAYOR

A proposed law that would prevent Texas governments from approving contracts whose payments are secret will be filed in 2017 by Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, who said he is a strong champion of the people’s right to know. Canales said Texas governments – from school districts to state universities and agencies – should not be allowed to keep secret any expenditures paid for with tax funds.

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Measure to stop judges from rewarding campaign contributors, authored by Sen. Zaffirini, approved by Texas Senate

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Featured: Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, addressing colleagues in the Chamber of the Texas Senate.

Photograph By SENATE MEDIA SERVICES

The Texas Senate on Tuesday, April 21, passed legislation by Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, that would shed light on the compensation paid to attorneys and guardians who are appointed by courts to represent a person, such as a minor, an elderly person or a person with disabilities, who is deemed unable of representing himself or herself. “Two decades ago a Supreme Court task force found evidence that some state judges abused their discretionary authority by using appointment income to reward campaign supporters. Since then, there has been little reform, and the media has continued to report on problems,” said Zaffirini. “When even the appearance of abuse undermines the public’s confidence in the entire judicial system, it is critical that we do more to promote transparency in the ad litem system.” SB 1369 would require courts appointing attorneys, guardians and mediators to submit to the Office of Court Administration data including the name of each person appointed by the court, the rate and total amount of compensation paid to each attorney in that year and the number of hours each attorney served ad litem for the appointed case. The information would be posted on websites accessible to the public and physically at the courthouse. “It appears that more than $25 million in taxpayer money has been spent on these appointments through 2014,” Zaffirini said. “The true cost is likely much higher, however, especially because many courts have not reported the information. SB 1369 will help us gain a clearer picture of the costs and discourage potential abuses.” If a court fails to report the data, it would be made ineligible for state grant funding for a two-year period. Zaffirini, who previously served as Chair of the Senate Government Organization Committee and Co-Chair of the Joint Oversight Committee on Higher Education Governance, Excellence and Transparency, long has promoted legislation that would increase transparency in state government. This session she has filed legislation enhancing the transparency of university system Boards of Regents’ meetings, improving oversight of state contracting, promoting “Truth in Taxation” and centralizing state grant information in a searchable database. Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, and Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, are co-authors of Zaffirini’s SB 1369.

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