Amendment V: No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grandjury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.


HOUSE RESEARCH:
HB 187
ORGANIZATION: bill analysis
Robinson et al
SUBJECT:
advocates of office abolition to forego pay
COMMITTEE:
favorable without amendment

VOTE:
10 ayes--Stiles, Campbell, Crawford, Jones, Linebarger, Melton, Robinson, Soileau, Wentworth, Willy

0 nays

1 absent--Chisum

WITNESSES:
For--(Registering in support but not testifying) Denton County Judge Vic Burgess; Ken King, Texas Association of Counties; Adolph Thomae Jr., Cameron County commissioner, Texas Association of Counties

Against--None

DIGEST:
HB 187 would require county or precinct officials who had publicly advocated the abolition of their office prior to their election to file an affidavit stating that they choose not to be paid for serving in the position. The officials would be required to file the affidavit with the county clerk within five days after taking office.


SUPPORTERS SAY:
HB 187 proposes a "truth in campaigning" law for those candidates who are elected to a county or precinct office, such as county treasurer or constable, on a platform of abolishing the office. It is the worst kind of trickery for a candidate to get elected by promising to close down an office as unnecessary, then once elected to pull a switch and keep serving, drawing a salary all the while. The bill would help ensure that voters get what they voted for when they back a candidate who has promised to abolish a county or precinct office once elected.

When voters elect a candidate promising to abolish an office, they send the message that they want the office closed and that they no longer wish to have their taxesused to pay the officeholder. A candidate elected on a platform of abolishing an office should not draw pay for that office. An official who has a sincere change of heart and decides that the office is necessary after all should either resign or at the very least forgo any salary; this bill would assure that this would happen.

Current law already allows county officials to forgo their salary, if they choose. This bill would simply make such a step mandatory in those cases when candidates have promised to abolish an office and its attendant cost.

Establishing from the outset that candidates advocating abolition of an office will not receive payment for serving in that office would deter such candidates from making insincere statements merely for purposes of political expediency. Requiring that such candidates file an affidavit to forego a salary within five days of taking office would determine their salary status from the start, before they get the chance to become accustomed to being on the county payroll.


OPPONENTS SAY:
political honesty cannot be legislated. This bill proposes a heavy-handed infringement on the free-speech rights of candidates in a futile attempt to force office holders to carry out their campaign promises once elected. Proposing a monetary penalty, in advance, for an alleged failure to live up to a campaign statement would raise serious constitutional questions about abridging freedom of speech and curtailing the freeexchange of ideas during a political campaign. The next step will be to enact laws penalizing all officeholders for any alleged failure to keep any campaign promise.

It is not at all uncommon for candidates to make election promises based on an outsider-s view of a situation, then change their opinion after they obtain all the facts. Under this bill, candidates who honestly come to realize that their initial assessment of the office was wrong would be hampered in performing the duties that they pledged to carry out when taking their oath of office.

County officials cannot abolish an office on their own.

The Legislature, either by amending a statute or proposing a constitutional amendment for voter approval, must authorize such changes. Meanwhile, as long as the office continues in existence, it has duties that must be fulfilled. Regardless the views of the person holding the office on whether it should be continued or abolished, that official should not be forced to forego a salary as compensation for carrying out those duties as long as the office exists.


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