The Battle to End Taxpayer Funded Lobbying Is Already Underway

State Senator Bob Hall and State Representative Mayes Middleton Participate in the “Using Your Money Against You” Panel at TPPF on January 24, 2020

Grassroots Challenge to End Taxpayer Funded Lobbying

91% of Texans oppose Taxpayer Funded Lobbying; a full 80% strongly oppose the practice!

Those polling numbers were collected in December, 2018, before the 86th Texas Legislative Session began in January of 2019.

With percentages like that, across all significant demographics, you would think that passing legislation to ban this practice would be relatively easy to achieve.

But grassroots activists from all over the state, and state legislators like Senator Bob Hall (R-Edgewood) and Representative Mayes Middleton (R-Wallisville), found out during the session this was not so easy. Although grassroots activists from across the state showed up at the Capitol in Austin in larger numbers, and with more frequency, than anyone can remember in recent history, Hall’s SB 29 and Middleton’s HB 281 both failed to pass during the regular session.

Using Your Money Against You: The Unacceptable Practice of Taxpayer-Funded Lobbying – Texas Public Policy Foundation, January 24, 2020

But this is where the dynamics of politics, and the reality of constituencies, are the key to understanding the real challenge, and providing a realistic action plan to successfully pass a strong bill during the next legislative session, to End Taxpayer Funded Lobbying.

Grassroots activists appeared in droves for two key committee hearings on Senator Paul Bettencourt’s Property Tax Reform bill, SB 2; first at the Senate Committee Hearing, and then at the House Committee Hearing. Also at these hearings, and placed at the front of the line to testify, were both lobbyists and local government elected officials (County Judges and Commissioners, City Council members, Mayors). Every lobbyist advocated either opposed to, or “On” , SB 2; a vast majority of local government elected officials also opposed SB 2.

Not surprisingly, these same groups also opposed SB 29 and HB 281.

The Other Constituents

For these local government elected officials who came to the Capitol, though, the SB 2 committee hearings proved to be a wake-up call as to how frustrated Texas taxpayers have become with their property tax burden. For the first time ever, these local officials changed their narrative when testifying – at the Senate hearing, we heard the same old arguments that vital services would be cut if the cap on the tax rate was lowered. But, just 3 weeks later, mayor after mayor testified that they had all met together, at a convention for several days, just the previous week, and their testimonies were now a conciliatory “we are here to work with you (the legislators).” Note that those SB 2 opponents never turned to face the patiently waiting taxpayers, offering to work with us! And they still pushed hard to keep the 8% cap on the tax rate.

Since the session ended, the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas has convened (last October). During their convention, they passed 28 resolutions in their legislative update. Included in those are:

Resolution 6 – Support for Local Decision-Making and Opposition to Revenue Caps (Emphasis Ours)

BE IT RESOLVED that the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas does hereby express its opposition to limits in the past legislative session to local decision-making and does hereby oppose any further unreasonable revenue caps upon Texas counties, and the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas expresses its deep appreciation to all legislators who oppose these unsound measures. “

Resolution 28 – Opposition to Effort to Prohibit County Lobbying

BE IT RESOLVED that the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas does hereby express its opposition to any legislation that attempts to silence the combined voices of the county officials of this state and does hereby express appreciation for the defeat of the 86th Texas Legislature’s S.B. 29. “

ETFL (Ending Taxpayer Funded Lobbying) – A Battle on Multiple Fronts

The upcoming March 3 Primary is a Golden Opportunity to engage our County Judges and County Commissioners regarding Taxpayer Funded Lobbying. We’ll have similar opportunities before the City Council, Mayoral and School Board elections.

For many of us, we know our County Commissioner as a neighbor, and often a political ally. Now is the time, during candidate forums, campaign town halls, personal conversations, to communicate with your County Judge and your County Commissioners.

Don’t forget to listen to their concerns. Citizen engagement does not just translate to talking at our elected officials; we have not only the opportunity, but the responsibility, in a self-governing republic, to help our “delegated authorities” be successful for both our communities and our state.

The practice of using our tax dollars to pay someone else to advocate against us must end. That is the starting point of the conversation.

But let’s not leave it there.

“(T)he foundations of our national government (lay) deeper than in the mere sanction of delegated authority. The fabric of American empire ought to rest on the solid basis of THE CONSENT OF THE PEOPLE.” – Federalist 22, Alexander Hamilton, emphasis his!

In other words, our remedies are not limited to asking our elected officials (“delegated authority”) to do the work. We have responsibility as well.

And be encouraged. There are local officials who are champions. The photo below was taken while we waited to testify on SB 2 at the House hearing last February. Lubbock County Commissioners Chad Seay and Jason Corley made news last September when they refused to attend the Commissioners Court meeting in which the trigger/cap on the property tax rate was being addressed. They took advantage of a rule/law which requires a super majority (4 of 5) of the members to be present for a quorum on a property tax rate vote. Then Plano City Council candidate Shelby Williams is also pictured with Grassroots Gold Co-Founders Tamara Colbert and Paul Hodson. Tamara and Paul joined many other block walkers in Plano to help propel Shelby and Lily Bao last June onto the Plano City Council to effectively shift that council toward the taxpayers.

Let’s find, or make, more local elected champions like these. Our state legislators need to hear both citizen constituents, and local elected constituents urge them to End Taxpayer Funded Lobbying.

Lubbock County Commissioners Chad Seay (Far Left) and Jason Corley (Far Right), and Plano City Councilman Shelby Williams (2nd from Left) with Grassroots Gold Co-Founders Paul Hodson and Tamara Colbert at the Texas Capitol in February, 2019.

Join With Grassroots Gold

We are committed to seeing the End of Taxpayer Funded Lobbying accomplished during the next legislative session.

Please check out our Facebook Page, our Website, and join our email list.

And start planning now for the Texas Gold Rush – commit yourself to come to the Capitol one time during the next legislative session.