At the halfway mark of the 2021 Texas Legislative session, citizens will have an opportunity this Thursday to speak on a long-awaited priority: banning taxpayer-funded lobbying.

At Thursday morning’s meeting of the Texas House State Affairs Committee, State Rep. Mayes Middleton’s (R–Wallisville) House Bill 749, which would ban taxpayer-funded lobbying, will be heard.

“Up to $41 million per year has been spent on taxpayer-funded lobbying, even though 91 percent of all Texans oppose the practice. It’s time to defund this bureaucracy.” Middleton has previously stated.

The practice can best be described as local officials taking a portion of your taxpayer dollars and hiring lobbyists to influence state lawmakers, oftentimes against citizen concerns like lowering property tax bills.

A 2019 poll found 88 percent of Texans oppose taxpayer-funded lobbying. Banning it has been a legislative priority of the Republican Party of Texas in recent years, and in March 2020, nearly 95 percent of Republican primary voters in Texas supported a proposition calling for an end to the practice completely in a statewide primary ballot referendum.

As far back as 2013, Gov. Greg Abbott said the practice “must stop,” though he did not elect to make it one of his emergency priorities this session.

There are also questions of how effective the practice is for the same local officials who hire lobbyists. A Dallas city councilman told Texas Scorecard the practice failed to stop legislation the city opposed.

Last session, a bill to ban the practice passed out of the Senate but was voted down by members of the House.

If the bill passes out of the State Affairs Committee this session, it will head to the Calendars Committee where it will have to be scheduled for a vote by the entire House.

The companion bill in the Texas Senate, Senate Bill 234 filed by State Sen. Bob Hall (R–Edgewood), was referred to the senate’s State Affairs Committee on March 3 but has yet to be scheduled for a hearing. SB 10 filed by Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R–Houston), would end taxpayer-funded lobbying for cities and counties, and has been designated a priority for the Senate by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

Citizens who wish to testify on HB 749 may register in the capitol building. They may also contact their state representative.

Robert Montoya

Born in Houston, Robert Montoya is an investigative reporter for Texas Scorecard. He believes transparency is the obligation of government.