On Thursday, the Texas Senate passed Senate Bill 10, banning the controversial practice of taxpayer-funded lobbying.
Currently, Texas city and county government officials are allowed to spend citizens’ money to hire lobbyists—who often work against citizens.
SB 10, however, would ban counties and cities from spending taxpayer dollars “to directly or indirectly influence or attempt to influence the outcome of any legislation pending before the Legislature.”
The bill’s author, State Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R–Houston), recently said, “During the 86th Legislative Session, it was estimated that $40 million in taxpayer dollars was spent by local government on lobbyists. The practice of taxpayer-funded lobbying not only diverts substantial funding from the ability of local governments to provide core essential services but, more often than not, results in taxpayers’ money being spent to advocate for public policies that are not in their best interest.”
Bettencourt pointed out that taxpayer-funded lobbying diverts funds from local governments that might be used for local needs rather than being used to push for policies that aren’t always in Texans’ best interest.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick also issued a statement on the passage of SB 10.
“The vast majority of Texans in both political parties have long-supported ending taxpayer-funded lobbying and it is a top priority for me,” Dan Patrick stated. “Texas voters simply do not want the local officials they have elected to represent them spending their tax dollars on hired-gun lobbyists who often have no connection to their community and may be working against their interests.”
Though SB 10 doesn’t prohibit city or county officials from personally lobbying for or against pending legislation and does not require them to register as a lobbyist under state law, they would be unable to be compensated with taxpayer dollars.
City and county governments that violate SB 10 can be held financially liable for litigation expenses and may seek an injunction prohibiting further lobbying activity. Further taxpayer-funded lobbying can be fined, and taxpayers may seek restitution for attorney’s fees and other legal expenses.
“This principled conservative reform is long overdue and I look forward to it becoming law. I congratulate Sen. Bettencourt and the Texas Senate on the passage of SB 10 and for taking a principled stand on behalf of Texas taxpayers,” Patrick concluded.
At the Senate Committee on Local Government hearing last week, citizens from local communities came to express their desire to get rid of taxpayer-funded lobbying.
However, elected officials testified to keep hold of that power. Johnson County Commissioner Rick Bailey told Sen. Bob Hall that he knows what’s best for the constituents in his county—a comment quickly refuted by citizens.
“I live in Johnson County, and no, he doesn’t,” one citizen testified at the meeting.
The bill will now travel across the Capitol to the Texas House for consideration and debate. If approved there, the bill will end up on the governor’s desk to be signed into law.