An outright ban on taxpayer-funded lobbying might be dead for this legislative session, but the Texas House has revived legislation that would require government entities to disclose their contracts with lobbyists.
But when the Texas House passed the bill on Wednesday, an amendment added to the bill by State Rep. Giovanni Capriglione (R–Southlake) would require a political subdivision that “enters or has entered into a contract for consulting services with a state agency” to disclose taxpayer-funded lobbying agreements they have entered into “prominently on the political subdivision’s internet website.”
According to Capitol sources, the language encompasses a large amount of local governments in the state, including cities and counties.
The amendment requires that the website show the execution dates of the contract, the contract’s duration terms, effect dates, the amount of money paid for the service, and the legislation they have advocated for, on, and against.
With the amendment adorned with a slew of signatures from primarily Republican lawmakers, it was adopted without objection and the final piece of legislation passed the chamber unanimously.
Though similar legislation passed out of the Senate by State Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R–Houston) in March, that bill was never placed on a House calendar ahead of the deadline to do so earlier this week.
Nonetheless, Bettencourt took to Twitter to celebrate the House’s move.
Thanks @VoteGiovanni for the amend. from #SB702 by @TeamBettencourt relating to requirements for political subdivisions to the authorization & reporting of direct OR indirect lobbying expenditures to #SB65 by @SenJaneNelson co-authored by myself @SenCreighton @SenBobHall #txlege
— Team Bettencourt (@TeamBettencourt) May 22, 2019
The move comes as something of a consolation prize, after the Texas House voted down a ban on taxpayer-funded lobbying 58-85 on Monday.
A long-standing practice in the halls of the Texas Capitol, taxpayer-funded lobbying refers to cities, counties, and other local governments or taxing entities spending money to lobby the legislature. Often, it is done in an effort to take on pro-taxpayer policies, such as property tax relief and reform or measures of increased accountability and transparency. Recent polling by the Texas Public Policy Foundation shows that 91 percent of Texans disapprove of the practice.
With the House now having passed the bill, it will be up to the Senate to either approve the change or send the bill to a conference committee.