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Open Government

Legislators vote to restore some Texas government sunshine

A measure reviving the public's ability to review much of how Texas is spending taxpayer money has cleared the legislature and is expected to win the signature of Gov. Greg Abbott.

Enactment of the bill will assure that information about contracts that state agencies (and municipal governments, boards and commissions) make with businesses are public records with only a few exceptions. State and local officials have been able to keep much of that information secret for the past four years, because the Texas Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that public records requests could be denied in cases where sunshine could give a contractor's competitors an advantage.

That court decision gained notoriety soon after, when the border city of McAllen refused to say how much it paid singer Enrique Iglesias to perform at a festival that lost hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars.

Efforts to codify contractor transparency failed in the legislature two years ago but were revived, the Houston Chronicle reported, after a coalition was formed by the right-leaning Texas Public Policy Foundation and left-leaning Center for Public Policy Priorities.

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RepresentUs acquired 8,000 signatures on a petition asking Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez to keep working on a "revolving door" bill. Paula Barkan, Austin chapter leader of RepresentUs, handed the petition to Brandon Simon, Cruz's Central Texas regional director, on July 31.

Cruz, Ocasio-Cortez still discussing revolving door bill

Remember that tweet exchange in May between Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the one where they discussed bipartisan legislation to ban former members of Congress from becoming lobbyists?

To recap: Ocasio-Cortez tweeted her support for legislation banning the practice in light of a report by the watchdog group Public Citizen, which found that nearly 60 percent of lawmakers who recently left Congress had found jobs with lobbying firms. Cruz tweeted back, extending an invitation to work on such a bill. Ocasio-Cortez responded, "Let's make a deal."

The news cycle being what it is, it's easy to forget how the media jumped on the idea of the Texas Republican and the New York Democrat finding common ground on a government ethics proposal. Since then, we've collectively moved on — but not everyone forgot.

The government reform group RepresentUs recently drafted a petition asking Cruz and Ocasio-Cortez to follow through on their idea, gathering more than 8,000 signatures.

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Adults of all ages agree: There's little confidence in elected leaders

But in general, young adults have a lot more trust issues than their elders

Sixty percent of young adults in the United States believe other people "can't be trusted," according to a recent Pew Research survey, which found that younger Americans were far more likely than older adults to distrust both institutions and other people. But adults of all ages did agree on one thing: They all lack confidence in elected leaders.

While united in a lack of confidence, the cohorts disagreed on whether that's a major problem. The study found that young adults (ages 18-29) were less likely than older Americans to believe that poor confidence in the federal government, the inability of Democrats and Republicans to work together, and the influence of lobbyists and special interest groups were "very big problems."

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