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Rep. Canales lashes out after open-government bill killed in state Senate

May 26, 2017 GMT

AUSTIN — McAllen’s payment to Enrique Iglesias for a 2015 holiday performance may never become public information, and state Rep. Terry Canales is not happy about it.

Wednesday night, Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, removed House Bill 349, Canales’ bill, from the Texas Senate’s Local and Consent Calendar. This effectively killed the bill by preventing it from being read on the Senate floor before the end of the legislative session next Monday.

“He did it because it’s a chink in the armor and takes a piece of the Boeing ruling away,” Canales said. “They don’t want the sweater to unravel, and he wants to keep the public in the dark.”

The bill reversed a very narrow portion of the Texas Supreme Court’s Boeing Ruling, which was cited when the city of McAllen refused to disclose the price tag for the Iglesias concert. If the bill had passed, it would have wiped out the contract between McAllen and Iglesias, forcing the city to disclose the payment.

In a personal privilege speech on the House floor, Canales, D-Edinburg, ripped into Schwertner for his decision to kill HB 349, calling him a “villain” who “dwells in the shadows of corporate greed.”

Prior to the speech, Canales approached Schwertner on the Senate floor, poked him in the shoulder, and said next session he would block every piece of legislation Schwertner authored that was sent to the House.

Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, who was carrying HB 349 in the Senate, said Schwertner told him he removed the bill from the calendar as retribution for Canales calling a point of order on one of his bills, Senate Bill 11. A point of order is a request to the House Parliamentarian to review that the bill is not breaking any House rules, but can commonly be used as a legislative delay tactic.

“Sometimes, at this point in the session, people get overly emotional and retaliate,” Hinojosa said. “I was not notified he was going to pull the bill from the calendar, which is usually the protocol here. I was disappointed Sen. Schwertner didn’t notify me because I could have talked to him and probably persuaded him not to do that.”

Canales said he believes Schwertner killed the bill because of its intention to expand government transparency in Texas.

“The Senator (Schwertner) says the bill was killed because of a point of order, but no point of order was ever sustained on one of his bills,” Canales said. “The reason for him to kill the bill was protecting corporate industry.”

Schwertner did not respond to a request for comment.

The death of HB 349 leaves no legislation supporting open-government in Texas left standing, according to Kelley Shannon, the executive director of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas.

“Legislators should definitely not be playing games with open-government,” Shannon said. “It’s a basic right of the people of Texas to know how their government operates and to know how their government uses their taxpayer dollars. When they play games with open-government they are playing games with the voters of Texas.”

In his personal privilege speech, Canales called on legislators to do better when it comes to open-government legislation.

“If you don’t have the spine to stand for transparency, you don’t have the right to stand for Texas,” Canales said in his speech. “To my understanding, Sen. Schwertner is an orthopedic surgeon, which I find ironic because he doesn’t have a spine.”