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Government/Politics

State Agency To No Longer Give Ringside Seats To Lawmakers

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Ralf Berger
/
Wikimedia Commons

AUSTIN — The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation is ending its practice of giving ringside seats to boxing matches and other combative sporting events to lawmakers and agency employees.

The San Antonio Express-News reports the practice is being halted after ethics concerns were raised at a Senate Finance Committee hearing.

Lobbyists are normally required to report gifts to the Texas Ethics Commission when they are given tickets to sporting events, but the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation is under no such obligation.

William Kuntz, the agency’s executive director, sent a memo restricting who could be allowed to sit in ringside seats after state Sen. Larry Taylor, a Republican from of Friendswood, brought up the issue at a Senate Finance panel hearing in February.

“As agency director, I'm responsive to the indications or the directions I’m receiving from the Legislature,” Kuntz said.

Former lawmaker Democratic Rep. Mike Hamilton, who attended a boxing match, said that it [receiving ringside tickets for the game] was purely a fact-finding mission to see what was going on.

Taylor said he was informed of the issue by various promoters who were unhappy about providing front-row seats to agency guests.

The senator authored a provision that was adopted into the agency's budget that requires the department to submit a quarterly “Combative Sports Attendance Report” to the legislature.

“I just think the idea of an agency requiring (promoters) to give them tickets is what I had a problem with,” Taylor said.

Some lawmakers who were given seats at events do not see a conflict of interest when they vote on bills that deal with the agency because the sporting events are ways for them to see how the state licenses the fights. 

Former lawmaker Democratic Rep. Mike Hamilton, who attended a boxing match, said, “It was purely a fact-finding mission to see what was going on.”

According to Kuntz, the agency has been giving free ringside tickets since before he was hired as executive director in 1999.