The "Bill Ceverha bill", which passed out of the Senate in March, has now passed out of the House, and should be signed into law. While there were multiple bills with the same intent that got filed, in the end it was SB129 that made it over all the hurdles. Rep. Lon Burnam, who was one of the most vocal critics of the gaping loophole made by the Texas Ethics Commission, which this bill officially closes, had the following to say:
Today, the Texas House passed SB 129 which definitively requires public officials to disclose the value of monetary gifts they receive that exceed $250 in value. The Governor is expected to sign the bill now that it has passed both chambers.
This issue first came to light after Bob Perry gave ERS board member and Tom Craddick-confidante Bill Ceverha two checks worth $50,000 each. Ceverha tried to describe $100,000 in cash gifts merely as"checks," without disclosing the amount. Ceverha is the former treasurer for Tom DeLay's TRMPAC.
"I have spent the past two years working for greater transparency and disclosure in state ethics laws," said State Rep. Lon Burnam (D-Fort Worth). "Hopefully, with the passage of this bill, the Texas Ethics Commission will no longer be able to turn a blind eye when Republican cronies attempt to avoid disclosure," said Burnam. "I'm very disappointed that the Ethics Commission didn't do the right thing in the first place."
"I've introduced legislation, HB 2451, to require the Ethics Commission to interpret and implement statutes so that this kind of situation doesn't happen again.
"The Legislature should not have to do the Ethics Commission's job by making laws when rules will suffice," Burnam continued. "The Legislature only meets for five months every two years. We rely on state agencies to make rules to uphold the intent of the law. The Commission failed us in the Ceverha gift case.
"Hopefully in the future they will require disclosure of the amount of a $100,000 'gift.'" Rep. Burnam's HB 2451 passed the House overwhelmingly and is currently in the Senate State Affairs Committee.