Texas House lawmakers on Monday approved legislation by Rep. Phil King (R) to create the equivalent of a carve out for statewide politicians and office holders to avoid prosecution by the ethics watchdog unit which was created specifically to investigate political malfeasance, My San Antonio reports.
The bill will shift investigative power over cases which involve public corruption to the Texas Rangers, thus accomplishing a long-time goal of Republicans in the Legislature to dilute the power of Travis County’s Public Integrity Unit.
My San Antonio reports:
It would also allow any ethics charges filed against statewide politicians and lawmakers to be returned to their home counties for prosecution.
Corruption cases involving lobbyists and state employees would still be investigated by the Travis County-based unit, leaving statewide politicians and office holders as the only group able to elude the hammer of the Public Integrity Unit by taking their case to their respective home county.
One Republican urged lawmakers to avoid creating a “special protected class for us as elected officials.” State Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview, tried to change the bill so that public corruption cases involving lawmakers could also be tried outside of their home counties. His amendment failed, along with others that tried to expand the venue in which lawmakers could be prosecuted.
“This is the way it is for ordinary citizens. If they are to commit crimes against the state they would be prosecuted where the crime occurs,” said Simpson, who voted against the bill. “I want to plead with you that you not create with this bill a specially protected class”
In a vote along party lines, the bill passed 94 to 51. It still needs a final vote before going to the Senate, which has already approved a similar measure….
The Public Integrity Unit has long been targeted by Republicans in the Legislature, and last session former Gov. Rick Perry threatened to veto funding for the unit unless Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg resigned following her arrest and jail time for drunken driving. Lehmberg refused and Perry vetoed the funding.
We remember Perry’s veto.
In August of 2014, a grand jury handed up an indictment against Texas Gov. Rick Perry on two felony count for abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public servant by a Travis County grand jury in connection with the investigation into an effort to force Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg to resign.
Perry vetoed of $7.5 million in state funding to the Public Integrity Unit which was run by Lehmberg.
Whew! We are so glad that elected officials will escape any added scrutiny simply because they hate on the Integrity Unit.
Elected officials should be held to a higher standard.
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