The Brief: The Legislature went after ethics reform this session. Did they do enough?

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What you need to know

The Texas Legislature took a heavy swing at ethics reform this year.
Several years after Gov. Greg Abbott called on lawmakers to improve
their own conduct and increase transparency, he finally got some bills
that met his demands on his desk. Abbott declared the issue a
legislative “emergency” in the last two sessions. Here’s
what you need to know.

* Lawmakers passed broad reforms this year. Under the new measures,
elected officials who committed felonies while abusing their office can
say goodbye to their public pensions. State officers and politicians who
make money from government contracts must disclose those relationships.
Those who swing through the revolving door from legislator to lobbyist -
using fat campaign accounts – will be restricted from using that money
to support themselves. The governor is expected to sign all three
proposals.

* But a lot of ethics bills fell through the cracks. Three bills on
the governor’s priority list, which all focused on lobbyists,
didn’t make it. Other ethics bills died, too: Legislation that
would require officeholders’ personal financial statements to be
published online, along with a measure that would bar the governor from
appointing his big donors to state posts and one that would shed light
on the sources of so-called “dark money” candidates racked up
from politically active nonprofits.

* The proposal that would require candidates to disclose the sources
of their dark money pitted watchdogs against Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.
Patrick said such a law would violate free speech rights. A bill that
would restrict the influence of big gubernatorial donors passed the
House but stalled in Patrick’s Texas Senate. Carol Birch of Public
Citizen of Texas, a liberal watchdog group, called the outcome
“disheartening.”

Other stories we’re watching today:

* U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., is visiting Texas today to campaign
for Phillip Huffines, the Dallas County GOP chairman running for state
Senate. Paul is scheduled to attend an evening fundraiser in Plano for
Huffines, the twin brother of state Sen. Don Huffines, R-Dallas. Phillip
Huffines is seeking to replace state Sen. Van Taylor, R-Plano, who is
expected to run for Congress in 2018.

Tribune today

* University leaders, who worried about tuition freezes, funding
cuts and other major changes, didn’t have it as rough as they
thought they would this legislative session.

* State Rep. Mark Keough, a Republican from the Woodlands,
won’t be seeking a third term in the Legislature. He’s trying
to become Montgomery County Judge instead.

* U.S. Sen John Cornyn predicts congressional Republicans will
repeal and replace Obamacare very soon – passing legislation by the end
of July.

* The governor signed a package of bills designed to address the
state’s child welfare crisis – one of his four emergency items for
this session.

News from home

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What we’re reading

Links below lead to outside websites; we’ve noted paywall
content with $.

What has Rick Perry been doing, E&E News

Texas city police investigating KKK fliers, The Galveston Daily
News

Planned Texas A&M center would combine senior living, child
care, The Eagle

English learners were hurt the most when Texas limited special
education, NPR

Could the death of one abused child have saved the life of another,
Fort Worth Star-Telegram ($)

Reversal: ICE confirms fielding a call about Texas Capitol
protesters, Austin American-Statesman ($)

A broken trust, The Dallas Morning News ($)

For your calendar

Today: Catch a conversation with UT System Chancellor William
McRaven in person or on our livestream.

Tomorrow: Join us in Dallas for a conversation about public
education, immigration, health care, spending, taxes and other more.

Quote to note

“This isn’t about decorum. I’m a sailor; I can take
the salty language. This is about whether we sit idly or stand up in the
face of ethnic scapegoating, racial profiling and abusing the power of
the state to intimidate the less powerful.”

– State Rep. Cesar Blanco, about the scuffle on the House floor
following a protest of the new immigration law.

The Brief is written and compiled by your morning news baristas,
Bobby Blanchard and Sanya Mansoor. Patrick Svitek contributed to this
version of The Brief. If you have feedback or questions, please email
thebrief@texastribune.org.

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