This proposed ban on “taxpayer-funded lobbying” is such a sham and just another attempt to erode local control by some in the Texas legislature. Here’s why:
Local communities elect regular citizens to serve on their city councils as county commissioners and as School Board trustees. They are not experts on the legislative process, but were elected by their communities because they had a vision for that community. You see these locally elected leaders in your grocery stores, at school events, and a multitude of activities around your town every single day. They are the embodiment of citizen government, regular people just like you and I.
In Austin, in the midst of a legislative session, thousands of bills and amendments are filed. In the 86th session, there were 10,878 bills introduced and who knows how many more amendments tacked on to them as they moved through the process. The idea that a local board would have the ability to comb through all of those bills, understand everything a bill entails, and then be able to effectively articulate a position to their legislator in real time boggles my mind.
For a local board to be effective for their community, many choose to engage expertise, banding together with many other communities in similar situations, to hire lobbyists or professional organizations to help them interpret the swarm of information coming at them. In many cases, the organization they contract with, does much more than simply provide information about what’s happening in Austin. They provide essential services to make your local boards run more efficiently and keep up with changes inside the law.
What you have seen proposed is nothing but an attempt to shut out the voices of your local communities, strip away any vestiges of local control, leaving only the big money special interests to influence our lawmakers in Austin. In what was proposed in the last session, public school boards would not have been able to contract with groups such as the Texas Association of school boards, but there were no restrictions for charter schools or any private schools, simply because they aren’t a “taxing entity”. Under the proposed legislation, the likely outcome would be school districts would each have to hire someone to review what’s happening in Austin, and they would have to work with their individual legislator to try and understand and create positive change. Talk about wasting taxpayer dollars. Our reality is many of those legislators have already been influenced/bought up by those special interests and aren’t interested in hearing from their local communities. It simply takes one look at the campaign finance reporting to see who really owns many of these legislators. It’s not their local community.
Those behind this push want to allow our communities to be run roughshod over by special interests. They don’t want to hear your voice. They try and spin it that these lobbyists and groups are taking advantage of taxpayers. It’s quite the fun house mirror, as the reality is the expertise is in many cases what allows your local community to actually have a voice in the process. These groups and individuals are helping to ensure that burdensome, unnecessary, and in many cases very expensive mandates are not imposed on our communities.
Those who’ve been running things in Austin, who are pushing legislation like this, they don’t care about your community. Not really. Until we get real election reform in Texas, the special interests will ensure we continue to see slight of hand tricks, trying to get you to focus on something that isn’t a problem, while you, the average taxpayer, you get your pocket picked.