Austin and Conroe, March 19 – After Texas Senator Brandon Creighton, Republican of Conroe, presented two ethics bills during a public hearing before the Texas Senate’s Committee on State Affairs in Austin on Monday morning, March 18, 2019, the Committee Chair, Senator Joan Huffman, Republican of Houston, said, “Senator Creighton, thank you for bringing our attention to such an important [ethics reform] bill and to the work of your hero [Montgomery County Attorney JD Lambright].” By an amazing coincidence, Lambright’s memorial service was in Conroe at the First Baptist Church at the exact same time as the Senate Committee hearing.
Creighton has named Senate Bill 710 “the JD Lambright Local Government Ethics Reform Act,” which would allow every county government in Texas to adopt an enforceable ethics code and appoint an ethics committee to determine whether violations have occurred and merit civil penalties. Currently, much to Lambright’s frustration, only El Paso County has the authority to provide enforcement of an ethics code as a result of local legislation previously enacted to benefit that county alone.
Creighton explained to the State Affairs Committee, “We need to get this policy in place so we can have a renewed spirit of confidence by the public in…[our] local government.”
Senator Creighton’s presentation was part of an ethics package he has offered during the 86th Legislative Session. The Senate State Affairs Committee also conducted a hearing on Senate Bill 13, which is a priority bill with low bill number (as set by Lieutenant Government Dan Patrick and the Senate leadership).
Senate Bill 13 went in front of State Affairs Monday and would prohibit registered lobbyists from seeking public office. “Texans expect their elected officials to represent their interests,” said Senator Brandon Creighton. SB 13 would also seek to reduce the “revolving door” between serving in government and becoming a lobbyist by placing a two year cooling down period between a legislator leaving office and registering as a lobbyist. Creighton said that Texas is one of only nine states with no restrictions on lawmakers walking out of office and into a lobbying firm. Finally, the bill would require that state officeholder financial disclosures be hosted on the Texas Ethics Commission website.
Senate Bill 13 is a package of two reforms, which Creighton explained he designed to make sure elected officials are representing their constituents and not their own financial interest.
In explaining Senate Bill 710, the Lambright Local Government Ethics Reform Act, Creighton told the Committee, “Today in Montgomery County, our flag flies at half mast for our beloved our County Attorney JD Lambright. He was a great friend. He led his office with incredible integrity.” Creighton further explained that the legislation, which the Legislature has certified would have no financial impact on the state’s budget, “allows all counties to impose a civil penalty when an elected official, lobbyist, or vendor violates an ethics code” which each county could fashion and adopt as its commissioners court determines is appropriate.
Creighton said, “This bill is a testament to JD Lambright’s commitment to justice and integrity.” Senator Huffman responded, “Very nice.”
Creighton then added, “I know it’s a big deal to miss JD’s service. That shows what a big deal this legislation is.”
The testimony the State Affairs Committee heard with respect to Senator Creighton’s legislation was entirely in favor of the changes, which would merely permit counties to adopt enforceable ethics codes but does not require counties to take any specific action.
Lambright Memorial Service
More than two hundred and eighty-two friends of the Lambright family attended JD Lambright’s Memorial Service at Conroe’s First Baptist Church on Monday morning.
The service was a genuinely touching tribute for Lambright, who made thousands of friends during his sixty-nine (69) years and whose 42-year marriage to his high school sweetheart Belinda Cates Lambright symbolized true love and mutual devotion.
The Lambrights are members of the College Park Church of Christ. Larry Ty Fleming, an Elder with that Church, read the Invocation, while Clay Robertson, a Church Member, presented JD’s Obituary and a reading from the Holy Scriptures.
Speakers during the service included Rusty Reeve, a friend, BD Griffin, First Assistant County Attorney, Melanie Bush, Montgomery County Treasurer, James Noack, Precinct 3 Montgomery County Commissioner, Mark Keough, Montgomery County Judge and Pastor of The Woodlands Bible Church, Kevin Brady, a United States Congressman, Will Metcalf, the State Representative from Conroe, Brett Ligon, Montgomery County District Attorney, and Tammy McRae, Montgomery County Tax Assessor-Collector. (State Representative Steve Toth also of Conroe was unable to attend the service due to a meeting of the Texas House Appropriations Committee.)
John Hill Wertz, Treasurer of the Montgomery County Republican Party, said of the service and of Lambright, “It was a great tribute to a world-class individual. We’ll all sorely miss this super man of integrity.”