4 ethics reforms state Sen. Van Taylor says are important to build public trust

Sen. Van Taylor, R-Plano, was the author of ethics legislation in the 84th session. He plans to do the same this year.

Sen. Van Taylor, R-Plano, was the author of ethics legislation in the 84th session. He plans to do the same this year.

At the beginning of the 84th legislative session two years ago, Gov. Greg Abbott declared ethics reform an "emergency item" for lawmakers to consider.

But by the end of the session, that urgency did not result in any meaningful changes as the House and Senate's ethic reforms package spectacularly crumbled. A bill field that would have restricted retiring legislators from directly transitioning to becoming lobbyists. Another piece of legislation that would have prohibited politicians convicted of corruption charges from taking pensions did not pass.

Meanwhile, a loophole allowing legislators to not disclose a spouse's wealth and potentially hide some of their own, authored by Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, landed on the governor's desk. Abbott vetoed the bill.

Sen. Van Taylor, R-Plano, was one of the authors of failing ethics legislation. He said last session was disappointing because of the lack of progress in this area.

"In a word: pathetic," Taylor wrote in an editorial piece in the Dallas Morning News.

This session, Taylor is trying to change the way ethics are enforced, in little increments, by going after reforms that have been widely supported by both chambers and both parties. These are the changes Taylor hopes to make to hold the Texas government more accountable:

1. Corrupt politicians will lose their pensions and their office.

2. Government contracts, bond counsel and legal referral fees must be disclosed.

3. Increase transparency in the way lobbyists wine and dine politicians.

4. Establish a clear line between elected officials and lobbyists.

As of January 13, Taylor has filed Senate Bill 137, which would prohibit any state agency to use state funds to employ a person who is registered as a lobbyist or who engages in lobbying activities.

He has also referenced Senate Bill 14, which has yet to be filed. The bill is on Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick's list of top priorities for the upcoming session. Patrick said the legislation will seek to strengthen ethics laws and to ensure government officials are held to high standards that promote public trust.

Taylor said that while these four issues will be his focus, he knows there is still more to do.

"This is not to say the ethics reform framework I am proposing is all we need," he wrote. "Of course it is not. ... As such, I will be filing my own separate ethics bills where I think Texas needs additional reform and encouraging my colleagues to do the same."


Members of the Cy-Fair Fire Department Emergency Medical Services team respond to an accident on Brittmore Road in Cy-Fair on Jan. 8. (Courtesy Capt. Daniel Arizpe/Cy-Fair Fire Department)
New fund to benefit Cy-Fair firefighters, department members

"We want to be able to come in and do some work that needs to be done for these heroic people."

Pine Street Eats & Sweets will open at 107 N. Pine St., Tomball, in the spring. (Adriana Rezal/Community Impact Newspaper)
Pine Street Eats & Sweets sets spring opening in Tomball

The eatery will serve breakfast and lunch and will feature a bakery.

The U.S. Census Bureau has released its 2019 data for Pearland. (Haley Morrison/Community Impact Newspaper)
Pearland minority population increases from 2014-19 and more census data

A look at 2019 U.S. census data for the city of Pearland

The Texas Department of Transportation plans to install a center, raised median on 5.8 miles of FM 1092 from Hwy. 59 to Hwy. 6. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Texas Department of Transportation to add median on FM 1092 in Missouri City

In an effort to improve the movement of traffic and reduce collisions along FM 1092 in Missouri City, the Texas Department of Transportation plans to add a median to separate the six lanes of traffic and limit left turns.

Novel at River Oaks
Inner Loop apartment rents tumbled by as much as 16% in 2020

"I would hope that these operators in those areas—at some point, you can’t lower rents anymore. They just have to wait for people to show up," ApartmentData's Bruce McClenny said.

Dr. Jacquelyn Johnson-Minter, director of Fort Bend County Health & Human Service, said Jan. 21 that it has been frustrating that the supply of vaccines thus far has been unable to meet the demand. (Morgan Theophil/Community Impact Newspaper)
With vaccination hub designation, Fort Bend County prepares for increased COVID-19 vaccine shipments

Fort Bend County is prepared to receive and administer hundreds of thousands of COVID-19 vaccinations, County Judge KP George said during a press conference Jan. 21. To do so, however, the county must receive the vaccines in the first place.

The first-ever Houston Reads Day will take place March 2. (Courtesy Pexels)
Volunteers needed for inaugural literacy-focused Houston Reads Day

Volunteers will read to 10,000 kindergarten through third-grade students.

Van Leeuwen Ice Cream
Van Leeuwen Ice Cream is coming to Montrose Collective

"What attracted us to Houston was the incredible cultural and culinary diversity and the feeling of progress, growth in modernity the city radiates. The average daily temperature didn’t hurt either,” co-founder Ben Van Leeuwen said.

As of Jan. 21, Spring ISD has 125 active cases and Klein ISD has 99. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Spring, Klein ISDs see COVID-19 active case counts decrease districtwide

Both districts saw their active case counts drop after recording relatively high counts the week prior.

Pearland ISD's testing rates for the first semester of the 2020-21 school year were similar to first semester failure rates for the 2019-20 school year, according to district data. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
First semester failure rates on par with previous year's in Pearland ISD

Pearland ISD discussed failure rates at its board of trustees meeting.

One local health system leader said he expects everyone, including those under age 65, will have access to the vaccine within the next 90 days. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Houston-area health system leaders talk progress, hurdles during COVID-19

Officials from CHI St. Luke’s Health and UTMB Health said community members must remain vigilant as case counts climb but that they expect the current surge to peak by early February.

Humble ISD has 439 active COVID-19 cases while New Caney ISD has 87 active cases as of Jan. 21. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
New Caney, Humble ISDs see leveling out of active COVID-19 cases

New Caney and Porter High Schools continue to have the highest cases per campus in New Caney ISD.