Austin, TX – Senator Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) has passed SB 1879 unanimously to increase transparency on lobbying that is funded using taxpayer money. Currently, political subdivisions are not required to report expenditures paid to hire lobbyists or contributions of dues to associations that lobby. This makes it difficult for taxpayers to determine the true amount of their money that is being spent on political lobbying. The bill was co-authored by Senator Bob Hall (R-Rockwall), and Senator Angela Paxton (R-McKinney).
“Taxpayers have a right to know how their money is being spent,” said Senator Bettencourt. “This bill adds transparency to the process and ensures that millions of dollars of taxpayer monies see the light of day! This needs to be readily available to taxpayers in a clear and transparent manner, online in a easily searchable website and at the TEC Commission.” Senator Bettencourt added.
Specifically, the bill requires the governing body of a political subdivision to approve in advance the amount of money that will be spent on lobbying the states legislature and to post the information as a separate agenda item on their website that is easily searchable. “This legislation will greatly increase information citizens possess regarding the lobbying efforts of their local governments,” Bettencourt added.
Under current lobby disclosure law, individual lobbyists bear the responsibility of disclosing their clients as well as a range of compensation they receive. By failing to disclose exact amounts, this requirement inadequately reports the public expenditures by local governments. SB 1879 requires disclosure to the Texas Ethics Commission and on the entity’s website several items, including the amount of money authorized, the name of any person required to register as a lobbyist under Chapter 305 of the Government Code and an electronic copy of any contract entered into to provide lobbying services.
“With 91% of taxpayers opposing their tax dollars being used for taxpayer funded lobbying, this is a needed transparency step to at least let the people know where their taxpayer money is being spent and how much…” Bettencourt said.
The legislation includes some “teeth” to ensure compliance and gives an interested party appropriate injunctive relief to prevent willful activity in violation of components of the bill. SB 1879 moves to the House.