The 87th Regular Session of the Texas Legislature has begun its activities under COVID restrictions. Revisions to the Rules of the Senate and House of Representatives have imposed restrictions on the ability to visit the Capitol and present information directly to legislators, staff, and committees. If you are planning a personal visit to the Capitol, please contact your legislator or the State Association for assistance. Alternatively, we need to increase our communications by correspondence, texts, emails, and telephone messages. Also, please contact the district office and schedule a local personal visit with your legislators whenever possible.
With more than 2,100 bills and constitutional amendments filed in the opening days of the session, it is likely that at least 6,000 will be filed by the deadline. We will post an analysis of major county legislation on the Texas Association of Counties (TAC) listserv and answer inquiries about the effects of proposed legislation on counties.
A major effort has been organized to silence the combined voices of county officials. Senate Bill 234 by Sen. Bob Hall/House Bill 749 by Rep. Mayes Middleton would prohibit the use of county funds to support any nonprofit association that engages in legislative communication. This legislation would terminate the ability of TAC, the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas, and all other local government associations to present a collective voice on the many bills that affect our citizens. Each county official would be forced to analyze each bill and attempt to provide information to the legislators. S.B. 234/H.B. 749 would effectively eliminate the participation of local governments, while leaving unchecked the tremendous influence of special interest groups. Incidentally, S.B. 234/H.B. 749 would not apply to lobbying expenditures by state agencies and the legislature itself.
County officials must express their opposition to this effort to silence their collective communication through our nonprofit associations. While we continue to support transparency in the accounting of the use of public funds, local officials must not be prohibited from effectively participating in the legislative process.
A sample resolution for signature by county officials to express our opposition to S.B. 234/H.B. 749 is below.
The major emphasis of our legislative communications during each session concerns the continuing practice of imposing unfunded mandates on counties. These legislative mandates require counties to provide additional services without state funding. Each unfunded mandate imposes a property tax increase on county taxpayers. We will continue to oppose these bills and support alternatives that provide local discretion to Commissioners Courts to determine the services needed by their citizens. House Joint Resolution 32 by Rep. Hugh Shine would allow Texas voters to prohibit future unfunded mandates by a constitutional amendment. Please request that your legislators support H.J.R. 32 to end these legislative-imposed increases in property taxes.
Please continue to keep us informed of all communications with your legislators.
Opposition to Senate Bill 234/House Bill 749 Efforts to Silence County Officials
WHEREAS, S.B. 234/ H.B. 749 filed in the 87th Texas Legislature would prohibit county funds from being used to join and support nonprofit county associations that provide collective communication to state legislators; and
WHEREAS, most Texas counties do not engage private lobbyists and only provide a minimal portion of membership dues to nonprofit county associations for legislative communication; and
WHEREAS, “taxpayer-funded” lobbying by local governments accounts for less than 10 percent of total lobbying activity, while corporate and special interest lobbying interests make up 90 percent of total lobbying activity; and
WHEREAS, the State of Texas, the Texas Legislature, and state agencies actively employ large numbers of taxpayer-funded lobbyists to analyze and monitor the thousands of bills filed each legislative session and to advocate for their interests in Washington, yet these bills would deny local communities this same ability while continuing public support of state agency lobbying; and
WHEREAS, prohibiting Texas counties from retaining experienced representation before federal and state legislative bodies and agencies would place our communities at a disadvantage in efforts to obtain and retain federal and state projects and military bases; and
WHEREAS, county officials require the ability to express our positions and information through associations, form a unified voice on the issues important to our communities, and share the associated costs among all counties; and
WHEREAS, it is a false claim that taxpayer-funded lobbying works against the interest of taxpayers. Indeed, a priority of county government and its “lobbying” effort is focused on ending the state and federal practice of passing unfunded mandates, which impose billions of dollars in increased taxes upon local property taxpayers annually; and
WHEREAS, smaller counties especially need to be able to combine their resources through their associations to monitor the thousands of bills filed each legislative session and effectively present their unique issues to the state and federal government; and
WHEREAS, the prohibition in S.B. 234/H.B. 749 would violate the basic principle of open and robust discussion and turn the halls of the Texas Capitol into a one-sided conversation dominated by special interests.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the undersigned officials of _____________ County do hereby express their opposition to S.B. 234/H.B. 749 and its attempt to silence the combined voices of the county officials and local communities of this state.