Why did lawmakers in the Republican-dominated Texas House kill a hugely popular legislative priority—twice?
Nearly nine out of 10 Texans oppose taxpayer-funded lobbying—the practice of using tax dollars to pay lobbyists who represent local government interests—according to a new poll released by Texas Public Policy Foundation this week. Not only did 88 percent say they’re against the practice, 78 percent said they strongly oppose taxpayer money going to lobbyists. The survey reaffirms results of a similar poll taken last year.
Texans simply don’t want their local governments spending scarce tax dollars on professional lobbyists, or worse, forcing them to fund lobbyists who work against taxpayers on issues like property tax reform.
In line with the vast majority of Texans, Republican Party of Texas delegates named ending taxpayer-funded lobbying as one of their top five priorities for this legislative session.
Yet given the chance to pass a policy overwhelmingly popular with Texans, state lawmakers blew it. The Republican-dominated Texas House actually failed twice at banning taxpayer-funded lobbying.
House Bill 281 by State Rep. Mayes Middleton (R–Wallisville) received a public hearing in February but was left to die in the House Calendars Committee chaired by Republican State Rep. Four Price of Amarillo. The full House never even voted on the bill.
Senate Bill 29 by State Sen. Bob Hall (R–Edgewood) passed the Texas Senate in mid-April as an across-the-board ban, prohibiting all counties, cities, school districts, and other local entities from spending taxpayer dollars on lobbying the state legislature. But when SB 29 hit the House, lawmakers began gutting the bill—first in committee and then on the House floor, where what was left of the “ban” failed to draw enough votes for final passage. Only 58 representatives voted for the drastically weakened bill.
“Is the purpose of this bill to protect our cities and counties, or is it to protect our taxpayers?” State Rep. Kyle Biedermann (R–Fredericksburg) asked fellow Republican State Rep. Trent Ashby of Lufkin during Monday’s House floor debate, after Ashby offered an amendment to limit the ban to just a few counties.
The answer is found in House lawmakers’ votes.
Given two chances to vote for a pro-taxpayer policy that is overwhelmingly popular with Texans and a top priority of Texas Republicans, a majority of members of the Republican-dominated Texas House sided with local governments and taxpayer-funded lobbyists—and against the people they were elected to serve.