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Election Looming, Houston Democrat Eyes House Speakership

 – Open Government “Closed Until Further Notice”?

As Democrats remain laser focused on flipping control of the Texas House of Representatives, their longest serving member, Rep. Senfronia Thompson of Houston, has announced her candidacy for Speaker of the House. With early voting turnout at record highs and a partisan shift seemingly moving in the Democrats’ direction, Thompson’s move is serious. If it comes to pass, she will be the first African-American and woman to occupy the office, one of the three most powerful in state government.

Thompson has served in the House since 1973, elected in a government transparency backlash following the historic Sharpstown bank stock fraud scandal in which multiple state lawmakers and officials were caught taking bribes and committing other illegal or unethical actions.

The backlash led to the Texas Public Information Act and expansion of the Texas Open Meetings Act which for decades represented the model state Open Government framework in the country.

Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, this week announced his interest in the post, after raising and contributing more than $1 million to Democratic candidates for the House over the past decade.

He has a long history of advocating for journalism and Open Government, working with TAB in authoring the Free Flow of Information Act signed into law in 2009.

Additional candidates of both parties are likely to announce in the coming days as candidates typically try to pounce quickly after the general election.

The office is up for grabs because its current occupant, Dennis Bonnen, a Republican from Angleton, was forced to resign in a scandal of his own making.

Following the 2019 legislative session, Bonnen was caught offering a far-right extremist political group House floor passes reserved for journalists in exchange for help in dispatching some political enemies in his own party.  

Open Government Agenda-New Installment
The second in a series of online discussions exploring shortcomings of Texas Open Government laws revealed or exacerbated during the pandemic was held Thursday, Oct. 22, and can be viewed here.

Hosted by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a partner in our 2019 Sunshine Coalition, the “Closed Until Further Notice” discussion addressed multiple government failings to comply with the state’s Open Government laws during the ongoing pandemic.

Questions? Contact TAB’s Oscar Rodriguez or call (512) 322-9944.

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