As this session’s filing deadline approaches, State Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R–Houston), chair of the Local Government Committee, along with nine joint authors filed Senate Bill 10 to stop Texas cities’ and counties’ use of public funds to lobby the state Legislature.
Banning taxpayer-funded lobbying is one of the Republican Party’s legislative priorities for this session. The priority is supported by the majority of Texans and has been an issue in previous sessions as local governments have used taxpayer dollars to pay lobbyists to advocate against pro-taxpayer initiatives, such as property tax reform.
SB 10 joint authors include State Sens. Brian Birdwell, Donna Campbell, Charles Creighton, Bob Hall, Kelly Hancock, Bryan Hughes, Angela Paxton, Charles Perry, and Drew Springer.
“Taxpayer-funded lobbying diverts funding from local governments’ ability to provide local needs and results in money being used to advocate for policies not always in Texans’ best interest,” said Bettencourt. “The Texas Ethics Commission data showed that an estimated $32 million was spent on lobbyist compensation in 2018, a non-session year. We can’t have tax dollars being used to advocate for greater spending, more taxing authority, and increased regulatory power at the local government level without taxpayers’ consent.”
SB 10 does not prohibit city or county elected officials, officers, or employees from providing information to members of the Legislature, appearing before committee hearings at the request of a member, or advocating on legislation while acting in their official capacities.
“Government entities and nonprofit organizations currently funded with public taxpayer dollars are using those dollars to hire lobbyists to advocate against bills intended to protect taxpayers,” said State Sen. Bob Hall (R–Rockwall). “It’s unethical to use that money to influence legislation to their advantage by hiring lobbyists and lobby firms to peddle their opinions about bills and influence legislators. Taxpayers should not have to foot the bill for lobbying that advocates against their influencing legislators about a cause they don’t support.”
Previous legislation had already been filed by Hall to end the practice.
If a local government is found to be in violation of SB 10, taxpayers may seek injunctive relief to prevent further lobbying activity and are entitled to recover reasonable attorney’s fees and other costs incurred in pursuing the action against the wrongfully acting local government.
Last session, legislation to end taxpayer-funded lobbying successfully passed the Senate before being voted down in the House.