After the Texas legislature passed a law requiring local governments to disclose their contracts with taxpayer-funded lobbyists, State Rep. Mayes Middleton (R–Wallisville) is telling those local governments it’s time to put up.
A long-standing practice in the halls of the Texas Capitol, taxpayer-funded lobbying refers to cities, counties, and other government or taxing entities spending money to lobby lawmakers in the legislature. Often, it is done to challenge, slow, or defeat pro-taxpayer policies, such as property tax relief or transparency measures.
While a bill by Middleton to outright ban the practice was voted down by the Texas House earlier this year, there was some progress made on the issue. The legislature passed Senate Bill 65 which, as amended, requires local governments to disclose information related to their lobbying activities, including:
- Contract details such as the execution date, effective date, and length of the contract;
- Cost of the contracts associated with lobby services;
- List of all legislation advocated on, for, or against by all parties or subcontractors the firm hired for lobbying services—including the positions taken on each piece of legislation;
- A copy of the contract used to hire a firm or individual for lobbying services; and
- Disclosure of interested parties for any contracts for services which would require a person to register as a lobbyist.
This week, Middleton’s office sent letters to every city, county, and school district in the state of Texas, requesting they post the newly-required taxpayer-funded lobbying disclosures on their website and send them to his office.
The reaction was immediate, according to Middleton, as local governments began angrily lighting up his and other lawmakers’ phones.
“I don’t know why any city, county, or school district would be frantic, worried or angry about this,” Middleton told Texas Scorecard. “I want people to follow the law. I want them to put it on their website.”
The Texas Municipal League, one of the state’s biggest taxpayer-funded lobbying organizations, sent a memo to its members urging them to treat Middleton’s letter as an open records request and release all contracts since 2010.
They did not, however, respond to the request to place the information on their website.
Middleton says the backlash just highlights the “immoral nature of taxpayer-funded lobbying.”
“Our tax money is being spent on Austin lobbyists to advocate against the taxpayer and basic good governance,” said Middleton. “For example, in the last legislative session, taxpayer-funded lobbyists opposed property tax relief, disclosures of what bonds truly cost taxpayers, the constitutional ban on a state income tax, election integrity, and they even opposed the bill to fund and protect our teacher’s retirement pensions.”
Middleton’s full letter is below: