Transparency and Ethics
Joe has led the way in making government more accountable and transparent, and he has also worked to ensure that all who serve the public are held to high ethical standards. The Texas House has taken critical steps under Joe’s leadership to strengthen ethics laws and increase transparency in government by:
Increasing budget transparency: For decades, state government has collected taxes and fees for stated purposes, but then used those revenues to cover spending in other parts of the budget. As a result, taxpayer resources have not been spent as promised. Joe Straus has been the leading voice in state government for curbing this practice. Under his leadership, the House has ensured that more dollars are used as promised to taxpayers. For example, Joe led the successful effort to make sure that all of the money in the State Highway Fund, which comes from fuel taxes, is used for transportation. Previously, much of that revenue was spent on other purposes. Joe’s insistence on using state dollars as promised also provided, without a tax increase, more revenue for critical services such as trauma care and state parks.
Preventing conflicts of interest: When reports surfaced that the Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) lacked grant policies that would prevent potential conflicts of interest, Joe called on the CPRIT oversight board to issue an immediate moratorium on new grants. In 2013, under Joe's leadership, the House worked to improve the grant process, improving transparency and adding measures to prevent future conflicts of interest. Since then, CPRIT has been able to continue distributing grant funding for critical cancer research as originally intended when voters created the Institute. The House has also passed new laws bringing more transparency to the Texas Enterprise Fund and other economic development programs.
Strengthening ethics requirements for elected officials: The House has passed a number of ethics reforms under Joe’s leadership. These measures include legislation that requires elected officials to vacate their office upon final conviction of a felony, requires public officials to disclose contracts with public entities on personal financial statements, and prevents retired elected officials from using their leftover campaign donations for lobbying purposes.
Improving contract oversight: Joe has led the push to increase transparency and oversight in state agencies’ contracts with private vendors. These contracts total billions of dollars per year, and Joe has made it a priority to see that taxpayer dollars are managed properly and that agencies are delivering services as promised. Under Joe’s leadership, the House has passed legislation to prevent state agencies from contracting with firms when the family member of an agency official has a financial interest in that firm. The legislation also prevented state employees involved in contract negotiations with a company from going to work for that company for two years after leaving the state.