Under legislation filed by State Rep. Matt Shaheen of Collin County (HB 1257), governmental agencies would be forbidden from hiring lobbyists. This important legislation addresses the long-held practices of cities, schools, and other entities from using taxpayer dollars to hire Austin mercenaries to kill pro-taxpayer legislation.
Big lobby firms in Austin, usually headed by a former legislator, monetize their personal relationships with lawmakers to deep-six conservative legislation and taxpayer reforms and make millions every year – coming straight for your wallet.
Although long opposed by taxpayer advocates and government reformers, the practice represents big money for many lobby groups in the state Capitol. So, not surprisingly, those lobbyists work hard to kill any effort that curtails their lucrative practice.
Mr. Shaheen should be congratulated for trying to clean up Austin.
However, one state senator isn’t waiting for her fellow legislators to enact Shaheen’s law.
State Sen. Konni Burton of Tarrant County announced that she has instructed her staff to turn away any lobbyist advocating for a position or bill on behalf of an entity that is using taxpayer dollars to hire them.
“Many taxpayers don’t even realize their own money is being used to pay lobbyists who are down in Austin, advocating for policies that could be in direct conflict with their own beliefs,” said Burton.
That’s leadership by example. Sen. Burton is taking off the table the one thing the mercenary lobbyists trade on: access.
“I am here to defend and represent the taxpayer,” said Burton. “Shining a light on this practice by not participating in it is helping to do just that.”
Burton said her office will meet with any lobbyist who is representing individuals, businesses or trade organizations – just not those representing government interests.
“We are happy to work with local officials directly, and we would rather see these tax dollars that are used to pay lobbyists returned to the taxpayer, where it belongs.”
If local officials want to kill pro-taxpayer legislation, if they want to obstruct reforms designed to empower citizens, they are going to have to do it themselves.
We need more legislators like Burton and Shaheen, shining a light on state government and cleaning up the Capitol.