Legislation to ban the practice of taxpayer-funded lobbying appears to have stalled in the Texas House.
State Rep. Todd Hunter (R–Corpus Christi), one of House Speaker Dade Phelan’s (R–Beaumont) top lieutenants and the chair of the powerful House State Affairs Committee, is sitting on such legislation.
The Texas Senate passed Senate Bill 175 by State Sen. Mayes Middleton (R–Galveston) on Thursday, April 6, and Phelan referred it to Hunter’s committee a full week later. The legislation has yet to be scheduled for a hearing.
House Bill 3538, a similar measure filed by State Rep. Ellen Troxclair (R–Spicewood), was referred to the House State Affairs Committee on March 16. It hasn’t moved since then.
Taxpayer-funded lobbying refers to a common practice among cities, counties, and school districts to hire lobbyists using tax revenue. These lobbyists work to advance policies that benefit local governments, often at the expense of citizens. Some of the biggest benefactors of this practice are advocacy organizations like the Texas Municipal League, the Texas Association of Counties, and the Texas Association of School Boards.
State Rep. Brian Harrison (R–Midlothian) filed a bill that would block school districts from contracting with organizations like TASB that employ anyone required to register as a lobbyist. Like the aforementioned proposals, House Bill 3559 has not moved since it was referred to the House Public Education Committee on March 16.
According to a 2019 poll from the Texas Public Policy Foundation, 88 percent of Texans oppose the practice of taxpayer-funded lobbying. When Republican primary voters were asked in 2020 if taxpayer-funded lobbying should be banned, more than 94 percent said yes.
Although the issue didn’t make the list of top priorities for the Republican Party of Texas this year, it did in the 2021 and 2019 sessions. Legislation to prohibit taxpayer-funded lobbying was filed during each of those sessions, but lawmakers failed to send anything to Gov. Greg Abbott both times.
The current legislative session ends May 29, and deadlines for passing bills out of committee are quickly approaching.