On Monday, the first day by which Texas state lawmakers could prefile legislation ahead of the 88th Legislative Session, newly elected State Senator-elect Mayes Middleton filed legislation seeking to ban the practice of taxpayer-funded lobbying.
Middleton, himself a TFR Taxpayer Champion, has previously filed similar legislation in the 86th and 87th legislative sessions while serving as a state representative, ultimately to no avail.
What Are its Prospects?
The short answer is that it is too early to tell.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott has previously indicated his support for banning the practice as well, albeit 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).
Since then, varying legislation seeking to ban the practice has been stifled in the Texas House of Representatives. Middleton filed the same legislation last session; though it received a public hearing in the House State Affairs Committee, it was never voted on. Instead, legislation prioritized by Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick 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 the legislative session.
This prompted Patrick to request Abbott add the issue to the agendas for the special legislative sessions that followed; but after three special legislative sessions, it never was added to the agenda.
The House lawmaker largely charged with ending the prospects of the local ban, Republican State Rep. Chris Paddie (Marshall), is not returning in the upcoming legislative session, as he chose not to run for re-election. He also previously served as the chairman of the House State Affairs Committee, which oversaw the gutting of the bill. This potentially opens up a possibility for better prospects in this upcoming legislative session.
The issue 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.
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 that of just Republicans, a University of Texas and Texas Tribune poll found that the issue of a ban had the support of 69% of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents.
With a dearth of support for a ban, why is it that state lawmakers allow the practice to continue? Will they change their tune in the upcoming legislative session and finally end this practice once and for all?
What is Next?
Banning the practice of taxpayer-funded lobbying is one of the three policy goals included in the Texas Prosperity Plan. The next legislative session is set to begin in January of 2023. Your elected officials need to hear from you.
How can you help? Go read the Texas Prosperity Plan for yourself and voice your support for banning taxpayer-funded lobbying, eliminating the property tax, and freezing state spending by signing up to support the TPP. Sign up for The Fiscal Note to stay up to date on all fiscal issues that affect Texans, especially our broken property tax system. We CAN put Texas on a path to fiscal sanity and future prosperity if we amplify our voices loudly enough.