Ethics bill concerns: Chavez says she's ready, Marquez says process "disrespected."
by Ben Wright
Posted on April 21, 2009
State Rep. Norma Chavez, D-El Paso, sure has been doing her homework on the El Paso County ethics bill. On Friday Chavez sent a memo to the El Paso delegation saying she would be presenting “specific language concerns” by “early next week.”
Tuesday morning, Chavez showed NPT a thick folder containing work her office had compiled on the ethics bill, which she would soon be sharing with other El Paso officials including the bills author, state Rep. Marisa Marquez, D-El Paso.
“We’re going to be providing Rep. Marquez, (County Commissioner) Anna Perez, (County Attorney) Jose Rodriquez and Sen. Shapleigh some recommendations,” Chavez said. “We really scrubbed the bill, looking at it and talking to different people about it.”
But could Chavez give NPT a sneak peak of her concerns?
“No, because we are categorizing them into what we think are major issues and issues that we can live with,” Chavez said. When asked to elaborate, Chavez said there were around 30 issues with the bill but that figure would likely go down to around 15.
Chavez was originally asked to carry the bill by the county at the beginning of the session. She declined, citing an already full plate. The county then approached Marquez, who obliged. After several rounds of Commissioners Court, and public hearings in Austin, the bill seemed to be moving through the political process smoothly.
However, Chavez raised some concerns just before the bill was reported favorably out of committee (most bills die in committee). This led to an angry exchange between Chavez and County Commissioner Veronica Escobar.
Escobar asserted that Chavez was being was using delay tactics and working behind the scenes to kill the bill while Chavez argued that the bill was being rushed and had serious issues.
Though Chavez has yet to publicize her concerns with the bill, or make specific recommendations, she maintains that no foul play is involved.
“There is ample time… I don’t think the bill is in any danger,” Chavez said. “With some changes I’m going to be fine with it. I was just very annoyed with the knee jerk reaction my questioning of a bill that I had not even had a chance to look at other than briefly.”
Chavez praised County Commissioner Perez for being “the most stateswomanly of all of them” during the process. “I still challenge Commissioner Escobar to bring me one member of the legislature who can say that I asked them to vote against the bill. It never happened.”
Marquez said she would welcome Chavez’s comments “just like I would any other representative” but questioned the appropriateness of Chavez bringing “a stack of changes” to the table.
“Why is she going and researching them when we already have the background on the bill?” Marquez asked. “We’ll do everything to help her address her concerns (but) we certainly could have taken the burden on that.
“I think there has been a disrespect for the legislative process. If I have an issue with someones bill, I should go to the author and address those issues. I shouldn’t circumvent, I shouldn’t involve the county, I shouldn’t try and involve every other member of the world,” Marquez said.
“I really do believe the process is working,” she said. “It’s not like Commissioners Court where they go and make an agreement and they pass it one week to the next week. We’re here for 140 days and we have to look at legislation carefully.”
Currently there are two versions of the bill working their way through the process. Marquez’s version has just been sent to the Calendars Committee, which Chavez sits on. On the Senate side, Shapleigh is sponsoring the legislation. His version passed out of the Senate with little fuss and has been handed over to the House where it has been referred to the county Affairs Committee, which Marquez sits on. The county has also been working on a few supplemental recommendations for the legislation, regarding the committee makeup and some procedural issues.
Either bill could take on board the changes, Shapleigh’s in the County Affairs Committee or Marquez’s on the House floor once the bill goes through Calendars.
Chavez said she didn’t mind which. Marquez said the two bills were now significantly different and so a conference committee would be necessary.
Read the House analysis of Marquez’s version of the bill here
Read the Senate analysis of Shapleigh’s version of the bill here
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