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Texas: Republicans Fighting to Defund Lobbying for Public Institutions, Including Public Schools

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The big battle this coming year in the Texas Legislature is about whether public agencies will be allowed to lobby for their interests. No one argues that private interests should be banned from advocating for what they want. Only public agencies—like public schools—would be banned because they use public money.

You can see where this is going. Supporters of public institutions would be gagged and censored, but promoters of privatization would be free to wine and dine legislators.

The Dallas Morning News tells both sides of the story here.

The issue, which has been dubbed “taxpayer-funded lobbying” by supporters and “community censorship” by its detractors, is a major divider between traditional Republicans — particularly those in rural areas who support public schools and their local county governments — and hard-line conservatives who see it as wasteful spending by local officials.

Local officials and the organizations that represent them — like the Texas Association for Counties, the Texas Municipal League and the Texas Association of School Boards — say such a lobbying ban would hurt local jurisdictions and make it more expensive for them to advocate for their constituents. They say the ban is nothing more than an effort to silence the voices of local officials.

Democrats and some Republicans banded together to block the bill last year. That vote resulted in House Speaker Dennis Bonnen and one of his top lieutenants, Rep. Dustin Burrows of Lubbock, meeting with conservative activist Michael Quinn Sullivan to target several fellow Republicans who voted against the bill.

The scandal forced Bonnen into early retirement and Burrows had to resign as chairman of the House Republican Caucus. Nonetheless, the bill’s backers say it will return next session.

Arch conservatives claim that cities, counties, public schools, and other public agencies should not be allowed to use taxpayer money to defend the public interest. Profiteers, buccaneers, entrepreneurs, and raiders of the public treasury would be allowed to lobby with no restraints.

Just one more loathsome effort to cripple the public interest by Governor Abbott and his allies.

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