Currently, political subdivisions are not required to publicly disclose the expenditures paid to hire lobbyists or contributions of dues to associations that lobby.

That could soon change, thanks to legislation approved by the Texas Senate.

Senate Bill 702 by State Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R–Houston) would require local government entities to disclose how much they spend on lobbyists as well as the recipients of those funds.

Additionally, the legislation would also require any lobby contract to be approved only by a stand-alone vote of the governing body of the political subdivision, meaning school boards, city councils, and the like would have to go on the record for their support of the practice.

The move wasn’t without opposition, however, as several Democrat lawmakers, and Republican State Sen. Ken Seliger (Amarillo) ganged up in opposition to Bettencourt to oppose the increase in local government transparency.

The bill was approved by the chamber on a vote of 27 for and 4 against, with Seliger joining Democrat State Sens. Beverly Powell (Fort Worth), Borris Miles (Houston), and Nathan Johnson (Dallas) in voting against the measure.

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.

While legislation to end tax-funded lobbying has been filed in previous sessions, support for ending the practice has grown in recent years. The Republican Party of Texas added the policy to its list of legislative priorities at convention last June. Gov. Greg Abbott has also stated his support for legislation to put an end to it altogether.

Legislation to ban the practice entirely by State Rep. Mayes Middleton (R–Wallisville) and State Sen. Bob Hall (R–Edgewood) has been heard in both the House and Senate State Affairs Committees respectively. The House version was sent to Calendars Committee on Wednesday evening while the Senate version is still pending in committee.

Brandon Waltens

Brandon serves as the Senior Editor for Texas Scorecard. After managing successful campaigns for top conservative legislators and serving as a Chief of Staff in the Texas Capitol, Brandon moved outside the dome in order to shine a spotlight on conservative victories and establishment corruption in Austin. @bwaltens