Are Texas lawmakers’ business ties with public entities a conflict of interest?

Are Texas lawmakers' business ties with public entities a conflict of interest?

Since 2016, public entities have had to reveal the businesses they have large contracts with. These “1295 disclosures” reveal numerous legislators among the contractors — and some of those lawmakers have sponsored or voted on bills that help those same public entities.

BY NEIL THOMAS

Like most higher education institutions, Houston Community College officials had a lot they wanted state legislators to do for them in Austin earlier this year. The school found a champion in a veteran Democratic senator from Dallas.

Sen. Royce West, who sits on both the higher education and finance committees, came through big for HCC and other community colleges, shepherding dual-credit legislation — which an HCC administrator called a “high-priority opportunity” — through a committee, the floor of the Texas Senate and onto the desk of Republican Gov. Greg Abbott.

Weeks before West helped House Bill 1638, which strengthened connections between community colleges and four-year universities, pass the Senate, HCC gave his law firm, West & Associates, a place in its legal services pool — a list of pre-approved attorneys HCC chooses from when it has legal needs.

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