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             Giovanni pushing ahead with transparency agenda in Texas Legislature     EDITOR'S NOTE: ...
REP. GIOVANNI CAPRIGLIONE
REP. GIOVANNI CAPRIGLIONE
slideshow
Open Government Champions
by DAVE MONTGOMERY
Aug 24, 2016 | 40 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
REP. GIOVANNI CAPRIGLIONE
REP. GIOVANNI CAPRIGLIONE
slideshow

 

       Giovanni pushing ahead with transparency agenda in Texas Legislature

 

 

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is one in an occasional series of opinion pieces on legislators and other Texans who are openly committed to sustaining government transparency and accountability. The articles are being prepared and distributed by the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas and the Texas Press Association.

By Dave Montgomery

 

 

During the 2015 Texas Legislature, while most other transparency and ethics reform proposals were headed toward the trash heap, Rep. Giovanni Capriglione secured near-unanimous passage of a new law that has enabled the public to see who benefits financially from dealings with the government.

 

His victory in pushing through House Bill 1295, requiring the disclosure of interested parties in state and local government contracts, cemented Capriglione’s stature as one of the state capitol’s leading advocates of government accountability. Now, with the approach of the 2017 Legislature, Capriglione hopes to build on his success by seeking to blunt the impact of state court decisions that rolled back access to public records.

 

The 43-year-old Southlake Republican has made transparency a key ingredient in his legislative agenda since winning election to the House in 2012. He sums up his outlook by recycling a quote from U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis more than 100 years ago: “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.”

 

“Transparency is one of those principles that you can never have enough of,” Capriglione said. “Accountability in government is of fundamental importance. And that accountability starts with the ability to see how the government spends your money.”

 

Capriglione, who is seeking re-election to a third term over a Democratic challenger in his heavily Republican northeast Tarrant County district, is targeting two Texas Supreme Court rulings as he looks toward the 85th Legislature that starts on Jan. 10. 

 

Both rulings, made in 2015, have tightened access to public records held by private and non-profit entities. The court ruled that the non-profit Greater Houston Partnership was not required to disclose its financial records even though it performed economic development duties for the city of Houston and was partly supported by public funds.

 

Public access watchdogs have also deplored the court’s ruling in favor of a Boeing Aerospace company operating in San Antonio. The 7-1 court majority ruled that Boeing and other private entities doing business with the government can block the release of information that the companies contend would give an advantage to competitors. 

 

Capriglione said he plans to introduce legislation to effectively undo the court rulings through changes in the Texas Public Information Act, thus restoring access to documents that previously were considered public. The two bills would be the first measures he introduces for the 2017 session, he said. 

 

Describing what he called the “chilling” decision in the Boeing case, Capriglione said it allows private entities that don’t want information disclosed “to basically shut down that access.”

 

“We’ve got to get back to where I think people want to be. If you’re going to have access to public dollars, you should have to disclose that information,” he said.

 

Capriglione’s success with House Bill 1295 contrasted with the collapse of nearly two dozen other accountability and transparency measures, many of them contained in a polarizing omnibus bill, despite Gov. Greg Abbott’s pledge to dedicate the 2015 session to ethics reform. Described by the Texas Tribune as “a leading advocate of ethics reform in the notoriously unrestrained Texas Legislature,” Capriglione secured passage with a unanimous vote in the House and only one dissenting vote in the Senate.

 

Signed into law in June 2015, the measure requires the disclosure of “interested parties,” those with a financial benefit, in government contracts of $1 million or more.  So far, more than 5,200 certificates with the required information have been posted on the Texas Ethics Commission website, which offers customized searches to look for interested parties, government entities and businesses. 

 

Next session, Capriglione said, he hopes to expand on information available to the public under the new law, including identifying which interested parties are elected officials. As a freshman lawmaker, Capriglione pushed unsuccessful legislation that would have required state elected officials to disclose government contracts in which they had a financial interest.

 

Capriglione, a private equity manager and father of three, said he recognized the need for expanded public access before he became a House member when he personally experienced challenges in unearthing information.

 

“I was trying to find information about local budgets, and I just found it to be very difficult,” he said. “The more information I tried to find, the more I felt it should be easier to get.”

 

As a candidate in 2012, Capriglione said, he discovered plenty of sympathizers while block-walking throughout House District 28, telling potential constituents of his goal to shed more sunlight on state and local government. 

 

“After talking to a few thousand of them, it became clear that is what the average person wants,” he said. 

 


 

Dave Montgomery is a Texas freelance journalist. He wrote this story on behalf of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas, which hosts its state conference Sept. 8, 2016, in Austin. For more information go to www.foift.org.

 
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Federal Aid to Rebuild Infrastructure Following Three Texas Disasters Nears Quarter Billion Dollars
Aug 24, 2016 | 16 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print


AUSTIN—Three major disaster declarations affecting dozens of Texas counties—some on multiple occasions—will result in nearly one quarter-billion dollars in federal assistance to repair or replace damaged infrastructure.

FEMA said today that combined federal aid for severe weather disasters in May-June 2015; October 2015, and January 2016 will help fund recovery efforts for 3,087 individual projects among 569 applicants for Public Assistance.

Public Assistance is an element of FEMA’s disaster response that benefits everyone—neighborhoods, cities and states, as well as certain private nonprofit organizations—by reimbursing eligible work on damaged publicly-owned infrastructure.

PA dollars:

  • clean up the community and repair bridges

  • put water systems and utilities back in order

  • repair hospitals and emergency services

  • rebuild libraries and replace damaged books

  • rebuild schools and universities and

  • restore damaged public parks so families can enjoy them again.

FEMA provides a minimum of 75 percent of the cost to repair or replace disaster-damaged infrastructure.

PA projects are developed and approved by local, state, and federal officials and work is continuing on many. Payments are usually made on a reimbursement basis.

Public Assistance funding applicants can include:

  • state agencies
  • local and county governments
  • private nonprofit organizations that own or operate facilities that provide essential government-type services

Recovery work also continues on disasters resulting from storms this year in March, April and May-June.

Summary of Public Assistance to Three Texas Disasters

Severe Storms, Tornadoes, Straight-line Winds and Flooding

Counties

Applicants

Projects

Federal Share*

May-June 2015

110

381

2,265

$175.9 million

October, 2015

57

85

486

$40.1 million

January, 2016

51

103

336

$32.5 million

TOTALS

178

569

3,087

$248.5 million

*Current estimate

# # #

FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.

Download fema.gov/mobile-app to locate open shelters and disaster recovery centers, receive severe weather alerts, safety tips and much more.


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Texas Rose Horse Park Hosts Texas Rose Sporthorse Cup & Texas Rose Classic
Aug 24, 2016 | 36 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print

 

Tyler, TX – Texas Rose Horse Park announced 2 weeks of exciting Hunter/Jumper Horse Shows to take place. The Texas Sporthorse Cup will start on Wednesday, September 7 and run through Sunday September 11. Highlights of the Texas Sporthorse Cup will beFriday September 9 with a $10,000 International Hunter Derby and Saturday September 10 with a $25,000 Ameristall Grand Prix.

The Texas Rose Classic will offer a $2,500 National Hunter Derby on Friday September 16 and on Saturday September 17 a $15,000 Jumper Classic, benefiting Azleway Inc.

Events run daily starting at 8:00 am until dusk.

 

We hope that you will join us for a fun filled family event. Admission is free for spectators, although we do ask that you leave your pets at home.

 

The Texas Rose Horse Park is located at 14078 State Hwy 110 North  Tyler, TX.

Gates open at 8:00 am daily.

Concessions are available on grounds.

 

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