June 30, 2016 •

Houston, TX Updates Campaign Finance Code

On June 28, the Houston City Council passed an ordinance updating its campaign finance law by delineating clear periods of time when candidates may receive political contributions. Under the new ordinance, a person may make contributions to a city candidate […]

Houston skylineOn June 28, the Houston City Council passed an ordinance updating its campaign finance law by delineating clear periods of time when candidates may receive political contributions.

Under the new ordinance, a person may make contributions to a city candidate of up to $5,000 per contribution cycle. A political action committee may make a contribution of up to $10,000 for the same period of time. Each contribution cycle lasts two years, from January 1 (following a general election or after the end of the last contribution cycle) to December 31 of the next year. Additional contributions can be made to a runoff candidate during a separate runoff contribution cycle.

The ordinance, passed on Wednesday, becomes effective tomorrow, July 1.

Photo of downtown Houston by Henry Han on Wikimedia Commons.

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June 3, 2016 •

Texas Ethics Commission Adopts Rules Changing Some Lobbying Regulations

On June 22, lobbyists in Texas will be required to include previously excluded types of compensation when reporting lobbyist activity. On June 1, the Texas Ethics Commission adopted rules changing some regulations. One regulation currently allows for compensation exceptions for […]

TexasOn June 22, lobbyists in Texas will be required to include previously excluded types of compensation when reporting lobbyist activity. On June 1, the Texas Ethics Commission adopted rules changing some regulations.

One regulation currently allows for compensation exceptions for purposes of calculating the threshold requiring registration as a lobbyist. Those same exceptions were also exempted from lobbyist activity reporting. Effective June 22, those exceptions for calculating the registration threshold remain, but registered lobbyists will now have to report those types of compensation.

Additionally, the Ethics Commission enacted a rule narrowing the gift exemption for permissible fact-finding trips provided to government officials and employees by lobbyists.

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May 17, 2016 •

Texas Ethics Commission Rules Adopted to Conform with House Bill 3517

The Texas Ethics Commission adopted rule changes to conform with House Bill 3517 of 2015. The bill had removed the exemption for registration for an individual who is solely paid to communicate in a capacity other than as an employee of […]

TexasThe Texas Ethics Commission adopted rule changes to conform with House Bill 3517 of 2015. The bill had removed the exemption for registration for an individual who is solely paid to communicate in a capacity other than as an employee of a vendor of a product or service to a member of the executive branch concerning state agency purchasing decisions involving a product, service, or service provider or negotiations regarding such decisions if the compensation for the communication is not totally or partially contingent on the outcome of any administrative action.

The Texas Ethics Commission Rules definition of independent contractor under T.E.C.R. §34.1(5) has been repealed. The Texas Ethics Commission Rules allowing for $75 registration for certain independent contractors under T.E.C.R. §34.46 has also been repealed. On May 3, the rule changes became effective.

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March 30, 2016 •

Travis County, TX May Consider Lobbying Ordinance

A new lobbying ordinance may be coming to Travis County, Texas, according to the Austin American-Statesman. An ethics code, possibly including a lobbyist registration and reporting component, is being considered by the county, with recommendations to be accepted in May […]

Travis-county-tx-sealA new lobbying ordinance may be coming to Travis County, Texas, according to the Austin American-Statesman. An ethics code, possibly including a lobbyist registration and reporting component, is being considered by the county, with recommendations to be accepted in May from a task force made up of county officials.

“As a general rule, it’s really important for all government functioning to be very, very transparent and for the public and the elected officials to know who’s talking to them on behalf of whom. And right now, there’s no lobbyist registration requirement,” said Commissioner Brigid Shea according to the paper.

Seal of Travis County courtesy of Travis County, Texas on Wikimedia Commons.

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February 22, 2016 •

Monday News Roundup

Lobbying New Mexico: “Senators Credit KOB As They Pass Campaign Finance System Reform” by Ryan Luby for KOB Campaign Finance New Mexico: “‘Dark Money’ Disclosure Bill Dies in Final Days of Session” by Trip Jennings for New Mexico In Depth […]

LobbyingGovernment Relations News

New Mexico: “Senators Credit KOB As They Pass Campaign Finance System Reform” by Ryan Luby for KOB

Campaign Finance

New Mexico: “‘Dark Money’ Disclosure Bill Dies in Final Days of Session” by Trip Jennings for New Mexico In Depth

Washington: “State: Food industry lobby engaged in ‘egregious’ money laundering in 2013 vote” by Joel Connelly for Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Ethics

Alaska: “Former Juneau Lawmaker Fined $18K for Allegedly Helping Oil Companies While Seeking Oil Jobs” by Matt Miller for KTOO

Missouri: “Gutting of Lobbying Bill Clouds Ethics Agenda’s Future” by Kurt Erickson for St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Missouri: “Missouri Rep. Don Gosen Abruptly Resigns under Cloud of Suspicion” by Jason Hancock for Kansas City Star

New York: “Former Assemblyman Dennis Gabryszak Accused of Sexually Harassing Staffers Is Fined $100G by Legislative Ethics Commission” by Kenneth Lovett for New York Daily News

Ohio: “Ginther’s Ethics Proposals Get Public Hearing” by Mike Foley for WCBE

Texas: “Reports: Indicted Crystal City mayor jailed after disrupted council meeting” by Claire Cardona for Dallas Morning News

Virginia: “Virginia Taxpayers Pick Up $2,435 Food and Beer Bill for Mystery Guests in Redskins Suite” by Graham Moomaw for Richmond Times-Dispatch

Elections

“Fall of the House of Bush: How last name and Donald Trump doomed Jeb” by Ed O’Keefe, Dan Balz and Matea Gold for the Washington Post

Sanders Supporters Like Chipotle, While Trump Fans Prefer Sonic” by Tim Higgins for Bloomberg.com

Bernie’s Army of Coders” by Darren Samuelsohn for Politico

Pope Francis Suggests Donald Trump Is ‘Not Christian’” by Jim Yardley for The New York Times

Nevada: “Hillary Clinton Beats Bernie Sanders in Nevada Caucuses” by Amy Chozick and Patrick Healy for The New York Times

South Carolina “The More Donald Trump Defies His Party, the More His Supporters Cheer” by Trip Gabriel for The New York Times

South Carolina: “Donald Trump’s South Carolina Victory Spurs New G.O.P. Jostling” by Maggie Haberman and Alan Rappeport for The New York Times

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February 8, 2016 •

Special Elections for Texas House Seats to Be Held May 7

On February 3, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced a special election will be held on May 7 for Texas House District 120. The winner will serve the remainder of the term for the seat left vacant by Ruth Jones McClendon, […]

Ruth Jones McClendonOn February 3, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced a special election will be held on May 7 for Texas House District 120. The winner will serve the remainder of the term for the seat left vacant by Ruth Jones McClendon, who resigned on January 31.

A special election will also be held on the same date for House District 139 to serve the unexpired term left vacant by Sylvester Turner, who became the mayor of Houston on January 2.

The special elections join the state’s May uniform election date.

Photo of Ruth Jones McClendon courtesy of the Texas House of Representatives website.

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December 21, 2015 •

Austin, TX to Reform City Lobbying and Campaign Finance Laws

On December 17, the Austin, Texas City Council voted to reform the city’s lobbying and campaign finance laws. The council approved a lobbyist reform proposal, which includes initiating changes to city ordinances relating to the regulation of lobbyists and to […]

Austin, Texas City HallOn December 17, the Austin, Texas City Council voted to reform the city’s lobbying and campaign finance laws.

The council approved a lobbyist reform proposal, which includes initiating changes to city ordinances relating to the regulation of lobbyists and to the duties and functions of the Ethics Review Commission. The council also approved a resolution regarding mandating disclosure of campaign contributions and expenditures by non-profits and other entities not currently required to disclose their funding. The city manager has been directed by the council to write these ordinances, which will then be put to a vote by the council sometime in 2016.

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December 15, 2015 •

Austin, Texas Campaign Finance Rules Challenged

On December 14, testimony was heard in a case in U.S. District Court challenging the city of Austin’s campaign finance ordinances. City councilman Don Zimmerman originally brought the lawsuit last summer alleging the city’s blackout period for fundraising and the […]

Austin, Texas at nightOn December 14, testimony was heard in a case in U.S. District Court challenging the city of Austin’s campaign finance ordinances. City councilman Don Zimmerman originally brought the lawsuit last summer alleging the city’s blackout period for fundraising and the political contribution limits are unconstitutional violations of free speech. The trial being conducted before U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel is expected to conclude this week.

Photo of Austin, Texas skyline at night by Argash on Wikimedia Commons.

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November 16, 2015 •

Commission Backs Proposed Changes to Austin, Texas Lobbying Law

The Ethics Review Commission has given its support to Council Member Leslie Pool’s proposed lobbying law changes. These changes include broadening the definition of lobbyist, increasing disclosure requirements, and removing a loophole allowing part-time lobbyists to avoid registering. Pool’s proposal […]

Austin

The Ethics Review Commission has given its support to Council Member Leslie Pool’s proposed lobbying law changes. These changes include broadening the definition of lobbyist, increasing disclosure requirements, and removing a loophole allowing part-time lobbyists to avoid registering.

Pool’s proposal has been met with opposition from those involved in the design and building industries. They claim the ordinance is too broad and would require architects, engineers, and others involved in the building industries to register as lobbyists. Also, many of these professionals currently serve on city boards and commissions. If they are required to register, they will have to resign from those seats because city law prohibits registered lobbyists from serving on city boards and commissions. The group representing the developers feels such a move would result in the city being robbed of valuable expertise.

This opposition has resulted in Pool making some changes to the ordinance, but the group representing developers is still not satisfied.

So far, registered lobbyists have not opposed the new changes even though the proposal would increase their reporting requirements. If passed, the ordinance would require lobbyists to provide greater detail about who they are representing, how much money is being spent on a lobbying efforts, and how much they receive in payments from clients.

The ordinance will now be presented to the Audit and Finance Committee. From there is will proceed through City Council, with a possible final vote coming early next year.

Photo of the Austin, Texas skyline by Erik A. Ellison on Wikimedia Commons.

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September 10, 2015 •

Texas State House District No. 118 Special Election on November 3

A special election for Texas State House District No. 118 will be held on November 3. The winner will serve the remainder of the term for the seat left vacant by Joe Farias who resigned from office on August 10. […]

TexasA special election for Texas State House District No. 118 will be held on November 3. The winner will serve the remainder of the term for the seat left vacant by Joe Farias who resigned from office on August 10. Six candidates are competing the seat. The election was announced by Gov. Greg Abbott on August 25 to join the November uniform election date.

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September 3, 2015 •

Austin, TX Lobby Law Changes in the Works

On September 23, Austin, Texas City Council Member Leslie Pool intends to present a new lobbying ordinance to the Audit and Finance Committee. On Monday, the Ethics Review Commission was asked by Pool to set up a public hearing before […]

AustinOn September 23, Austin, Texas City Council Member Leslie Pool intends to present a new lobbying ordinance to the Audit and Finance Committee.

On Monday, the Ethics Review Commission was asked by Pool to set up a public hearing before the September 23 date. “Council members can start raising money in May [2016], so that’s why we’re trying to keep this moving forward,” Pool said, according to the Austin Monitor.

Commission Chair Austin Kaplan told the Austin Monitor the ordinance would subsequently be addressed by the full Ethics Review Commission at its September 28 meeting. Proposed changes to the city’s lobbying law include increasing the registration fee from $300 to $350 a year for those earning at least $2,000 per quarter and eliminating the exception to register when an individual claims communications are incidental to other employment not for the purpose of lobbying.

Photo of Austin, Texas skyline by Erik A. Ellison on Wikimedia Commons.

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July 31, 2015 •

Austin, Texas Campaign Finance Laws Challenged in Court

On July 27, city of Austin, Texas Councilman Don Zimmerman filed suit seeking a preliminary injunction against city campaign finance provisions relating to blackout periods. The current law only allows officeholders, candidates, and their respective committees to accept campaign contributions […]

Austin SunriseOn July 27, city of Austin, Texas Councilman Don Zimmerman filed suit seeking a preliminary injunction against city campaign finance provisions relating to blackout periods. The current law only allows officeholders, candidates, and their respective committees to accept campaign contributions during the last 180 days before an election or recall election. Zimmerman asserts the blackout period banning contributions in the city violates his First Amendment rights of free speech. On February 2, 2015, in Gordon v. City of Houston, a federal district court declared a similar ordinance in the city of Houston as facially unconstitutional and permanently enjoined the city from enforcing the ordinance.

Zimmerman v. City of Austin, Texas, filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas, Austin Division, also claims the law’s imposition of aggregate limits of the total contributions a candidate can accept from sources other than natural persons eligible to vote in a postal zip code completely or partially within the Austin city limits is unconstitutional, creates a burden on campaigns, and does not relate to any threat of corruption. The lawsuit also challenges a 90 day requirement for campaign account terminations. “Political speech is the very core of the First Amendment, but Austin’s campaign finance system seeks to control debate by controlling fundraising and spending,” stated Zimmerman’s attorney, Jerad Najvar, in a press release.

Photo of the Austin, Texas skyline by Erik A. Ellison on Wikimedia Commons.

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June 1, 2015 •

Texas Legislature Adjourns Sine Die

Today the Legislature adjourned sine die. Gov. Greg Abbott has 20 days after transmittal of bills sent at the end of the session to sign or veto the legislation. If the governor does not act on a bill, it becomes […]

TexasToday the Legislature adjourned sine die. Gov. Greg Abbott has 20 days after transmittal of bills sent at the end of the session to sign or veto the legislation. If the governor does not act on a bill, it becomes law.

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March 6, 2015 •

Special Election Announced in Texas

On March 4, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced a special election will be held on March 31 for Texas House District 124. The winner will serve the remainder of the term for the seat left vacant by Jose Antonio Menendez. […]

TexasOn March 4, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced a special election will be held on March 31 for Texas House District 124.

The winner will serve the remainder of the term for the seat left vacant by Jose Antonio Menendez. Menendez won a special election to the state senate earlier this year.

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