San Marcos City Council punts on law requiring reporting of lobbying until after election

A proposed ordinance requiring reporting of lobbying action in San Marcos' government was delayed until after the Nov. 2 election. (Warren Brown/Community Impact Newspaper)
A proposed ordinance requiring reporting of lobbying action in San Marcos' government was delayed until after the Nov. 2 election. (Warren Brown/Community Impact Newspaper)

A proposed ordinance requiring reporting of lobbying action in San Marcos' government was delayed until after the Nov. 2 election. (Warren Brown/Community Impact Newspaper)

San Marcos City Council voted 5-2 to postpone the vote on an ethics ordinance until after the Nov. 2 election, with Council Members Max Baker and Melissa Derrick dissenting on the heavily argued item.

The new law would require people defined as lobbyists in the ordinance to register with the city and report their interactions with elected city officials, city board and commission members, and city employees, who would also be required to report the interactions when certain conditions are met.

Council Member Shane Scott, who stated early in his term he would not respond to ethics complaints filed against him, moved to postpone the vote until the day after the Nov. 2 election. It was seconded by Council Member Saul Gonzales, and supported by Mayor Jane Hughson and Council Members Mark Gleason and Alyssa Garza

"To me, it seems that [they are] wanting for another council to vote on this after the elections in November, at which point none of these council members will know that much about the lobby ordinance, other than things they've heard," Derrick said, while also noting misinformation shared about the ordinance during the meeting's citizen comment period.

Scott explained his desire to postpone the vote was to create time to rewrite the ordinance, which he said "was unfair to certain groups." Scott went on to say he also believed the ordinance was not specific enough, and he expressed a desire to form a new committee to change the ordinance, which was drafted by the San Marcos Ethics Review Commission.


The ordinance used the San Marcos Police Officers Association as an example of a lobbying firm required to report its interactions with city officials.

Scott received $9,035 in support from SMPOA in the form of mailers sent to residents twice during his successful 2020 bid for City Council. Scott did not have to report the mailers as campaign contributions under state law.

SMPOA was not the sole organization listed as a lobbying firm. The San Marcos Professional Firefighters Local No. 3963 was also listed.

Hughson noted multiple issues she had with the ordinance and suggested amendments and alternatives.

"This ordinance, in my opinion, is a sledgehammer approach that's not necessary," Hughson said of the proposed law, which includes fines of up to $500. "I'd like to try something that meets the transparency without the sledgehammer."

Hughson went on to suggest a trial period of self regulation among council members by volunteering to self-report her interactions with lobbyists, albeit with nondescript limitations.

"What I was going to propose, instead of this ordinance as it stands today, is that we ask council members to report," Hughson said. "Same reports as noted in the ordinance, mostly the same notations on what kind of communications to report—I will volunteer to report, and I hope others will also."

Opposition of the ordinance was focused on the definition of a lobbyist and who would need to register. Broadly speaking, individuals do not have to register unless they, or a group they represent, receive economic benefit or compensation from speaking with city officials.

Attorneys, media and residents are largely exempt, as well as nonprofits unless they solicit public funding.

Baker said concerns of who the ordinance affected were unfounded.

"The postponement for this is not due," Baker said. "I think we need to do our community justice and pass this ethics agreement to make sure that lobbyists are registered."

Garza rode the center line and voiced support for the ordinance, but did not fight the postponement.

"I don't think that that anybody's going to come up with a better ordinance than this," she said. "I think that we can work on public education to make sure that the folks who came and spoke today firmly understand that a lot of what their concerns are, are not grounded in any realm of reality."
By Warren Brown
Warren joined Community Impact at the beginning of 2020 as the editor of its New Braunfels paper and now reports the news in San Marcos, Buda and Kyle. Warren previously wrote for the Dallas Observer and Fort Worth Weekly and he brings a passion for truth and equality to his reporting.


MOST RECENT

Mayor Pro Tem Rick Koch announces that a Costco will be opening in Kyle, surrounded by Mayor Travis Mitchell, City Manager Scott Sellers and other council members. (Eric Weilbacher/Community Impact Newspaper)
Mayor Mitchell expresses optimism on infrastructure progress at Kyle State of the City luncheon

Mayor Travis Mitchell spoke of the challenges Kyle faced during the pandemic, the February freeze and its current housing and infrastructure challenges.

Baylor Scott & White Pflugerville
Ascension, Baylor Scott & White to require all employees be fully vaccinated against coronavirus by fall

Ascension and Baylor Scott & White have announced all eligible employees must be vaccinated against COVID-19 in the coming months. 

A new Costco store in Kyle will be opened near Evo Entertainment and Home Depot, and will employ some 225 employees with a $16 per hour starting wage.
Costco inks incentive deal for new Kyle location

A new Costco store in Kyle will be opened near Evo Entertainment and Home Depot, and will employ some 225 employees with a $16 per hour starting wage.

The CDC reversed its masking guidance for fully vaccinated individuals in response to the transmissibility of the delta variant of COVID-19 in a press conference July 27. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
NEW CDC GUIDANCE: All individuals should wear masks in K-12 schools, including those who are fully vaccinated

The new CDC guidance, announced July 27, also recommends people in areas with "high" or "substantial" levels of transmission wear masks regardless of vaccination status.

Chick-fil-A will open a location in downtown Austin on July 29. (Courtesy Chick-fil-A)
Chick-fil-A coming to downtown Austin; Dutch Bros Coffee opens in Round Rock and more Central Texas news

Located at 600 Congress Ave., Ste. C150, the newest outpost for the fast-food fried chicken giant is locally owned by Luke Steigmeyer.

Hays County's first jail become a USO center for black World War II soldiers before it was turned into a museum.
Courtesy Calaboose Museum of African American History
Calaboose African American History Museum reopens in San Marcos

The Calaboose African American History Museum reopened in June, and is known for hosting festivals and events celebrating African American history and culture.

State Rep. Vikki Goodwin, D-Austin sent a letter July 23 urging Gov. Greg Abbott to allow schools to require masks. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Texas state reps. call on Abbott to permit school mask mandates amid rising COVID-19 cases

The letter, spearheaded by Rep. Vikki Goodwin, called upon Gov. Greg Abbott and Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath to permit school districts to enact mask mandates and provide virtual learning options.

After a relatively calm June, COVID-19 cases are being reported in increasing numbers in Hays County with the arrival of the Delta strain. Several free vaccine clinics are available this month. (Community Impact staff)
Hays County's COVID-19 cases are on the rise again

After a relatively calm June, COVID-19 cases are being reported in increasing numbers in Hays County with the arrival of the Delta strain. Several free vaccine clinics are available this month.

Leander Marketplace PUD would be located at the northeast corner of Hero Way and US 183. (Screenshot courtesy city of Leander)
Leander eyes development with restaurants, retail; Bin Drop opens in New Braunfels and more top Central Texas news

Read the top business and community news from the past week from the Central Texas area.

In an effort to encourage remaining unvaccinated staff to take the COVID-19 vaccine, the San Marcos Consolidated Independent School District board of trustees approved a one-time $250 stipend incentive July19. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
San Marcos CISD passes vaccination stipend incentive

Every district employee who has already been vaccinated or does so by October, when the stipend will be distributed, will receive the stipend.

Mortgage purchase applications are down year over year, but the Austin housing market remains hot. (Benton Graham/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin housing market still hot but showing signs of slowing down

Experts say that a decrease in mortgage purchase applications points to “a reversion back to norm” in the Austin housing market.