A former staffer of former Speaker of the Texas House Joe Straus recently landed a position as the top taxpayer-funded lobbyist representing Texas cities.
The Texas Municipal League announced the hiring of Jesse Ancira in January, citing his experience as general counsel and chief of staff to the disgraced Joe Straus, as well as his experience as the mayor of the City of Taylor. Ancira is recorded as having voted consistently in Democrat primaries.
Straus’ record of opposing Republican Party priorities, such as property tax and local debt reforms, led to him being formally reprimanded by his own party upon his retirement.
TML is infamous for lobbying against common-sense reforms that would make cities and their officials more transparent and accountable to taxpayers. They also have no shame about their lobbying prowess, as their website touts their “power ranking” as a government lobbyist.
And not only is TML a government lobbyist, but they’re the umbrella organization for public sector employee unions. As a result, taxpayers are forced to fund government lobbyists who lobby against them and subsidize the political views of unions, which are private political organizations.
In 2019, TML and their affiliated unions opposed property tax reform efforts that Straus had previously blocked twice in 2017.
The reforms sought to give Texans an automatic vote on city property tax increases of 2.5 percent or more per year. These hikes would be in addition to new revenue that cities automatically collect from population growth and new economic development.
TML refused to support any version of reform, even after Republican lawmakers under House Ways and Means Chairman Dustin Burrows (R–Lubbock) watered it down in negotiations.
Burrows agreed to loosen the tax increase trigger to 3.5 percent and exclude cities under 30,000 in population, among many other concessions. The weakened reform ultimately passed with the support of Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, although lawmakers delayed its implementation until the 2020 property tax year.
This allowed cities and counties to gouge property taxpayers in 2019 without immediate recourse, of which many took advantage.
Banning taxpayer-funded lobbying was named a top priority of the Republican Party of Texas by grassroots delegates. Legislation to do so was authored by taxpayer champion State Sen. Bob Hall (R–Edgewood) and State Rep. Mayes Middleton (R–Wallisville), both of whom earned the distinction of taxpayer champion for their pro-taxpayer voting records in 2019.
Although a version passed the upper chamber, the effort was ultimately killed in the Texas House when 25 Republicans joined a majority of Democrats in voting it down on the House floor 58-85.
Although the reform was heavily watered down by the time it reached a floor vote, similar legislation was never even considered during Straus and Ancira’s tenure. Prior to 2019, it had never been taken up by the Texas Senate.