News88th TXLege

Political Calculus Changing Around Taxpayer-Funded Lobbying Ban?

August 10, 2023
Jeramy Kitchen
88th Legislative Session, Dade Phelan, Mayes Middleton, Taxpayer-Funded Lobbying, Todd Hunter

Will Texas ban the practice of taxpayer-funded lobbying in the next legislative session?

Taxpayer-funded lobbying, simply put, is the practice of local political subdivisions (school districts, cities, counties, etc.) hiring lobbyists in Austin to lobby lawmakers to increase the local government’s ability to tax and regulate more. Essentially, it is using your tax dollars to hire lobbyists to actively work against your best interests. It is an innately corrupt and immoral practice and a major conflict of interest for taxpayers.

Recent reporting from the Texas Public Policy Foundation has indicated that this practice is growing, much to the chagrin of Texas taxpayers.

What Has Changed?

The concept of banning taxpayer-funded lobbying is not new. Now a perennial issue every legislative session, the policy has routinely been stifled in the Texas House of Representatives. So, what will change in the next legislative session, short of replacing all lawmakers opposed to such a policy?

State Rep. Briscoe Cain (R-Deer Park) seems to think the political calculus has.

So, it begs the questions: Why did it not get done previously? And what will change going into the next legislative session?

Recent Legislative History

In the most recent legislative session (2023), legislation seeking to ban taxpayer-funded lobbying, authored by TFR Taxpayer Champion State Sen. Mayes Middleton (R-Galveston), again met its demise in the Texas House.

  • Passed out of the Texas Senate on April 6 (Day 87)
  • Referred to the House State Affairs Committee on April 13 (Day 94) and never granted a hearing before the legislative session’s conclusion, thereby ending its prospects

Notably, the committee is chaired by State Rep. Todd Hunter (R-Corpus Christi), who had previously voted against such a policy as a committee member in previous legislative sessions. It should also be noted that the legislation’s companion, House Bill 3538 by State Rep. Ellen Troxclair (R-Lakeway), was also never granted a hearing even though it was referred to the House State Affairs Committee on March 16 (Day 66).

Middleton filed the same legislation in the 87th Legislative Session (2021); though it received a public hearing in the House State Affairs Committee, it was never voted on. Instead, legislation prioritized by Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) that focused on local jurisdictions only was gutted as it made its way through the process in the Texas House. It was reconfigured to include loopholes before ultimately meeting its demise near the end of that legislative session. This prompted Patrick to request Texas Gov. Greg Abbott add the issue to the agendas for the special legislative sessions that followed—but after three special legislative sessions, it never was.

The House lawmaker largely charged with ending the prospects of the local ban in the 87th Legislative Session, State Rep. Chris Paddie (R-Marshall), did not run for re-election. He was also the chairman of the House State Affairs Committee and sponsor of the local ban, which oversaw the gutting of the bill.

Middleton filed the same legislation in 2019, during the 86th Legislative Session. Notably, the legislation passed out of the House State Affairs Committee by a vote of 9 to 4. That committee was chaired by the now House Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) who was also signed on as a joint author. It failed to move beyond the House Calendars Committee, then chaired by State Rep. Four Price (R-Amarillo). If Phelan is supportive of such a policy, why then has he not prioritized it in the last two legislative sessions as speaker?

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has previously indicated his support for banning the practice as well. However, the last time he opined on the issue was when he first ran for governor in 2013 (unless you count a 2020 tweet in which he admonished the city of Austin).

With All the Existing Support, Why Has It Not Been Done?

It all makes you wonder, with the three key Republican leaders in the state supposedly in favor of such a policy to ban the practice of taxpayer-funded lobbying, why has it not been accomplished? What will change going into the next legislative session?

A 2019 poll conducted by WFAA and the Texas Public Policy Foundation discovered that nearly nine of every 10 Texans supported a ban on the practice. Similarly, a ballot proposition included in the 2020 Republican primary election found that almost 95% of all Republican voters supported a ban. Beyond just Republicans, a poll from the University of Texas and The Texas Tribune found that the issue of a ban had the support of 69% of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents.

The issue of banning the practice of taxpayer-funded lobbying was a previous legislative priority of the Republican Party of Texas and is still included in its platform today:

Plank 232 Tax-Funded Lobbying: We oppose using tax dollars to hire lobbyists or paying tax dollars to associations that lobby the Legislature.

As a reminder, it is Republican elected officials who control every statewide office and the Texas Legislature, having hefty majorities in each legislative chamber.

What is Next?

Banning the practice of taxpayer-funded lobbying remains a legislative priority of TFR and is included as a policy goal in our Texas Prosperity Plan.

Concerned taxpayers may contact their lawmaker here.