County officials are calling on state lawmakers to put an end to local governments sending lobbyists to Austin on the taxpayers’ dime—an issue that’s been a Texas GOP legislative priority for two sessions.
“Enough is enough,” Collin County Judge Chris Hill said this week. “It’s time to end taxpayer-funded lobbying in Texas.”
On April 12, Hill and Commissioners Susan Fletcher, Cheryl Williams, and Darrell Hale approved two resolutions backing legislative bans on taxpayer-funded lobbying: one supporting House Bill 749 and its companion Senate Bill 234, which apply to all local governments, and another supporting Senate Bill 10, which applies to counties and cities but not school districts.
The Republican commissioners adopted a third resolution on April 19 clarifying the court opposes all taxpayer-funded lobbying and that legislation prohibiting the practice should apply equally to all political subdivisions.
The resolutions said “taxpayers should not be required to pay for lobbying efforts that advocate against their interests or pay to influence legislators for causes they do not support,” and added that “ending taxpayer-funded lobbying was identified as a priority legislative issue at the 2018 and 2020 Republican State Conventions.”
They also noted the proposed bills wouldn’t prohibit organizations like the Texas Association of Counties from providing education, training, or legislative guidance to members, or prevent local elected officials from advocating for or against legislation.
“The Collin County Commissioners Court voted 4-1 to pass these three resolutions supporting the end of taxpayer-funded lobbying,” Hill said. “Now it’s time for the Legislature to finish the job!”
In March, Judge Hill and Commissioner Hale traveled to Austin to testify in favor of House Bill 749, authored by State Rep. Mayes Middleton (R–Wallisville) and backed by 42 other Republican representatives, but lawmakers have taken no further action on the bill since then.
Another Republican official, Galveston County Judge Mark Henry, submitted written support for HB 749:
Millions of taxpayer dollars are being spent on lobbyists here in Austin to advocate for legislative positions which are often against the best interests of taxpayers. …
HB 749 takes the important step in limiting taxpayer-funded organizations and associations from working against the very taxpayers who pay for them to exist. Texans have a right to have their voices heard. The will of the people must not be silenced by their own tax dollars.
Senate Bill 10 by State Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R–Houston) passed the Senate on April 15 and is awaiting action by the House State Affairs Committee. Only one local official, Galveston County Tax Assessor-Collector Cheryl Johnson, testified in favor of SB 10, while more than a dozen officials spoke against ending their ability to pay lobbyists with tax dollars.
“It’s taken a long time to pass this simple concept,” Bettencourt said, adding a similar ban was proposed as far back as 1995.
In 2019, the Republican-controlled Legislature failed to pass the popular reform supported by nearly nine in 10 Texans. In March 2020, 94 percent of Republican primary voters said Texas should ban taxpayer-funded lobbying.
Texans can contact their representatives about legislation to end taxpayer-funded lobbying. Details about bills, along with resources to help citizens participate in the legislative process, are available at Texas Legislature Online.