Bill prohibiting publicly funded lobbying fails in Texas House, a 'minor victory' for local governments

The 86th Texas legislative session includes several bills that would pre-empt local control.

The 86th Texas legislative session includes several bills that would pre-empt local control.

Texas House members voted against a Republican bill that would have prevented local governments, taxing entities and regional mobility authorities from spending public money to lobby state legislators on issues such as taxes, bonds, issuances of debt and ethics.

The final result of the May 20 vote on House Bill 281 was 55-85. The Senate’s version of the bill, SB 29, passed April 17.

Deece Eckstein, Travis County intergovernmental relations officer, said the vote was “a minor victory for cities and counties in a session where one of the dominant themes [has been] beating up on cities and counties and local governments” at a May 21 Travis County Commissioners Court meeting.

If the bill had passed, local governments—including Travis County and the city of Austin as well as organizations such as the Texas Association of Counties and the Council of Urban Counties—would no longer be able to participate in legislation at the state level.

This session, local representatives have been engaged at the Capitol on issues such as property tax revenue caps, school finance reform, paid sick leave and economic incentive agreements.

“There will probably be an attempt to reconsider the vote and see if they can bring it back to the floor and reconsider it,” Eckstein said. “But it was pretty clear to [county staff] that members of the Legislature, whatever direction they were getting from outside interest groups, ... decided to stick with the idea that they needed to get good information from their local governments.”

The last day of the 86th Texas Legislature’s regular session is May 27.
By Emma Freer
Emma Freer began covering Central Austin for Community Impact Newspaper in 2017. Her beat includes the Travis County Commissioners Court and local business news. She graduated from Columbia Journalism School in 2017.


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