Texas government sector lobbying
This practice is controversial because public funds are spent to lobby for an agenda not subject to direct approval by voters, and outcomes may be contrary taxpayers benefit.
Open meetings law
The Texas Open Meetings Act is the focus of the Texas Municipal League, a government sector lobbying association (See section "Taxpayer-funded lobbying associations"). The League wants to remove the penalties for noncompliance under the current law and replace them with less punitive ones. The Texas Municipal League sees the law as a restriction on the First Amendment rights of public officials, stating "less restrictive penalties would not only continue to preserve the integrity of the Texas Open Meetings Act but would also recognize the fundamental right of city officials to free speech." The efforts to weaken the law are funded by public dollars.
Constitutionality of Texas government sector lobbying
- Main articles: Constitutionality of government sector lobbying, Texas lawsuit on government sector lobbying
In 2006, the Texas legislature investigated the practice of government sector lobbying and concluded that it is a legitimate practice. However, the committees involved saw that there are still ethical and constitutional problems to be addressed.
- See also: Texas government sector lobbying report
Disclosure required of registered lobbyists on behalf of public entities is poorly enforced according to some reports (see below). These allegations also stress the difficulty of holding localities and public officials accountable when reporting regulations are relaxed.
Americans for Prosperity, involved in investigating government sector lobbying (See this report), has reported several flaws with the disclosure system the taxpayer-funded lobbyists are required to follow by the Texas Ethics Commission.
Some of their concerns are:
- Lobbyists are not required to indicate whether their client receives public funding. "Entities such as schools obviously receive taxpayer funds, but others are not possible to discern without a FOIA request".
- Many entities are not subject to a FOIA even if they receive public dollars.
- Many clients are alphabetized incorrectly throughout the TEC document.
- Lobbyists for the same client will report that client’s name differently, making impossible to locate clients in one location. For example, "The City of Austin" and "Austin City".
The House of Representatives produced a report on ethical matters and government sector lobbying in 2006. The report found that there were glaring flaws in the disclosure and tracking of the spending of taxpayer funds. For example, local governments were reported as represented by a lobbyist without their knowledge, and some cities were listed twice ("City of Birmingham" and "Birmingham", for example). The House Committees recommended open, full, and consistent disclosure of lobbying expenditures to be strictly enforced.
Public school lobbying
Texas Tech University spent $4.57 million between the period of 1998-first part of 2008.
City government sector lobbying
The following is a list of cities and spending of public dollars in the past 10 years:
- City of Houston: more than $5 million on federal lobbying
- City of San Antonio: $2.7 million
- Fort Worth: $2.1 million
- Dallas: $2.08 million on federal lobbying
Taxpayer-funded lobbying associations
City and municipal
- Texas Association of Counties
- Texas Conference of Urban Counties
- Texas Association of County Officials
- Texas Association of County Auditors
- Texas School Alliance
- Texas Association of Community Schools
- Texas Association of Midsize Schools
- Texas Association of School Business Officials
- Texas Association of Secondary School Principals
- Texas Association of School Boards
- Texas Association of School Administrators
- Texas Association of School Personnel Administrators
- South Texas Association of Schools
- Building Officials Association of Texas
- Government Finance Officers Association of Texas
- Texas Fire Chiefs Association
- Texas Chapter of the American Planning Association
- Texas Police Chiefs Association
- Texas Public Works Association
- Texas City Attorneys Association
- A Resolution Relating to Penalties Under the Open Meetings Act
- "Texas Municipal League attempting to weaken Texas Open Meetings Act?, Somerville County Salon
- Americans for Prosperity, "Recommendations for Lobby Disclosure and Transparency of Taxpayer Funded Lobbying", December 6, 2006
- AFP Texas Blog, "Focus on Taxpayer-Funded Lobbying Shifts to National Level"