As citizens prepare for at least one more special legislative session this fall, advocates are calling for additional issues to be included on the agenda.
Education is expected to be the top focus for the third special session. However, as many items were left unaddressed by lawmakers, citizens are calling for border security legislation, protection from vaccine mandates, and a ban on taxpayer-funded lobbying to also be added to the call.
Taxpayer-funded lobbying refers to a common practice among cities, counties, and school districts that hire lobbyists with local tax revenue. These lobbyists then 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.
Although citizens have long been against the practice—a 2019 poll from the Texas Public Policy Foundation showed 88 percent of Texans oppose it—lawmakers have failed to ban taxpayer-funded lobbying.
“It is perplexing to think that in a state with every statewide office and the state legislature controlled by Republicans for two decades, they cannot muster the courage to pass a ban on the nefarious and immoral practice of taxpayer-funded lobbying,” Jeramy Kitchen, Executive Director of Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, told Texas Scorecard.
Banning taxpayer-funded lobbying didn’t make the list of top priorities for the Republican Party of Texas this year, amid a slew of child protection priorities, but it did in the 2021 and 2019 sessions. Legislation to prohibit it was filed during each of those sessions, but lawmakers failed to send anything to Gov. Greg Abbott.
Senate Bill 175 by State Sen. Mayes Middleton (R–Galveston)—this past session’s ban—passed the Texas Senate in early April. However, State Rep. Todd Hunter (R–Corpus Christi), a top lieutenant of House Speaker Dade Phelan (R–Beaumont), and the chair of the powerful House State Affairs Committee, failed to give it a hearing.
“Efforts to ban the practice, like so many other issues, appear to be stifled in the Texas House of Representatives,” said Kitchen. “It is even further perplexing since the current Speaker of the Texas House previously supported the issue in 2019. He signed on as a joint author to the legislation filed in the House and even chaired the Committee in which it was considered.”
Despite the failure of House leadership to prioritize the issue, banning the practice of taxpayer-funded lobbying remains a priority for TFR.