(Central Square) – Proponents of a ban on taxpayer-financed lobbying hope that the Republican-led legislature will ban the practice in this legislative session.
The Texas Public Policy Foundation, which supports the ban, argues that the practice uses taxpayer money against taxpayers and disenfranchises them under the First Amendment.
State Senator Mace Middleton, R-Wallisville, introduced SB 175 to bar taxpayers from lobbying this session after he filed bills to ban the practice as a state representative in the last two legislative sessions. SB 175 will amend chapter 556 of the government code to prohibit political subdivisions from using public funds for lobbying activities. It will also prohibit political subdivisions from paying non-profit state associations or organizations that primarily represent political subdivisions, or from hiring or contracting lobbyists, according to the bill’s wording.
Based on 2019 data vote conducted by the TPPF, nearly 90% of Texans polled said they supported the ban. Nearly 95% of Republican voters in the March 2020 primary voted in favor of proposing a vote in support of prohibition, which is also a legislative priority for the Texas Republican Party. And the University of Texas and the Texas Tribune vote found that 69% of Republicans, Democrats and independents supported the ban.
State law currently prohibits government agencies from engaging in taxpayer-funded lobbying, but does not prohibit local governments from doing so. In 2021, local governments spent nearly $75 million hiring registered lobbyists to advance their agenda in the state legislature, according to the Texas Ethics Commission.
In 2019, Middleton filed HB 281, but the chairman of the House Calendar Committee, Rep. Four Prices, R-Amarillo, never nominated him for a vote. R-Edgwood State Sen. Bob Hall also filed SB 29 to ban the practice, but House legislators gutted him so much that his weakened version didn’t pass.
In 2021, Middleton and Hall filed similar bills again. This time SB 10 was also drastically thinned and didn’t pass.
In 2020 Governor Greg Abbott tweeted his opposition to the practice used by the Democrat-controlled Austin City Council. He said, “Austin, don’t even try to defend taxpayer-funded lobbying. There is no justification for you to tax residents to get the money you use to hire lobbyists to support legislation that allows you to tax even more.”
new report TPPF’s “Breaking Faith: How Local Governments Are Using Your Tax Dollars Against You” notes that lobbyists are typically hired to advocate for increased government spending and size, less transparency and greater regulatory powers, and disenfranchises residents in the process. First Amendment rights.
Unless the legislature bans the practice, the report’s lead author James Quintero warns Texans that “local governments [use] your own money against you.”
The process has created a system where “Texans can’t fully exercise their First Amendment right to petition their politicians because local governments are flooding the statehouse with contract lobbyists paid out of our tax dollars,” Quintero says. . “These lobbyists are preventing the common man from solving his problems. Worse, they often oppose the interests of ordinary people and support the government.”
“The right to petition is a constitutional right that guarantees that elected representatives will hear the views of more than a few elected supporters or special interests,” he adds. “It is designed to empower citizens, not government.”
He also argues that “Governments don’t have rights, they have powers.” “Only people have rights.”
Proponents of taxpayer-funded lobbying argue that their efforts benefit taxpayers. The Texas Municipal League, for example, which represents 1,170 cities and 16,000 mayors, says its defense is important to “empower the cities of Texas to serve their citizens.” His legislative toolkit contains, among other things, “advice on grassroots engagement,” how to write letters to elected officials, and “testify at the Capitol.”
But groups like this one and many others, Quintero told The Center Square, can hire lobbyists “armed with public money” who can “treat legislators to wine and dinner in a way that the average Texan can’t. In addition, these lobbyists can also contribute to campaigns and provide other kinds of assistance, making them a powerful force against taxpayers.”