Local governments, big and small like Dallas or the City of Brownwood, have been jumping on the band-wagon of hiring their own tax funded lobbyists for years. Activists across the state are up in arms and the issue has become a top five priority of the Republican party of Texas. Now, the Montgomery County Commissioners Court will consider using tax dollars to hire a former legislator as a lobbyist for the county at their July 24 meeting.
Commissioners plan to vote on a $48,000 contract with former State Rep. Rob Eissler (R-The Woodlands). The affable Eissler represented House District 15 in southern Montgomery County for five terms, from 2003 to 2012, until he was defeated by conservative Steve Toth and the county’s fledgling tea party movement in the 2012 primary.
During his time in Austin, Eissler chaired the Public Education Committee and proved to be a key ally of Speaker Joe Straus. Eissler was one of the original 11 Republicans who joined the Democrats in first electing Straus as speaker.
After Toth defeated him 56% to 44%, Eissler became a lobbyist, representing the interests of multiple government entities in Austin, at the taxpayers’ expense.
Eissler is currently the executive director of the Westwood Magnolia Parkway Improvement District, and is also a lobbyist for The Woodlands Township, in addition to representing other entities. If Eissler is hired by Montgomery County, it could represent a serious conflict of interest.
The bold move by outgoing County Judge Craig Doyal to pay Eissler approximately $4,000 dollars a month also flies in the face of reform efforts by the Republican Party of Texas to end the practice of tax-funded lobbying.
Plank 217 of the RPT Platform, which was approved overwhelmingly by delegates at the 2018 State Convention, states clearly: “We urge that the Texas Legislature enact legislation that prohibits tax-funded contract lobbying.”
Passing legislation to “abolish all forms of taxpayer-funded lobbying” is also one of the five legislative priorities of the Republican Party.
What can make tax-funded lobbying particularly odious is when local governments use taxpayer dollars to hire lobbyists to lobby against property tax reform. Taxpayers are essentially forced to pay lobbyists to lobby against their own interests.
The voters spoke loud and clear when they chose to replace Doyal with Mark Keough and elected a slate of pro-reform candidates in the 2018 primary. Hiring a lobbyist with tax dollars is not only against the Republican Platform, it is taking the county a step backwards, despite the fact that county voters are clearly demanding reform.