Cities, counties, school districts, and special districts spend tens of millions every year to influence state policymakers at the Texas Capitol. Using taxpayer money, these entities often employ external lobbyists (i.e. registered lobbyists), internal lobbyists (i.e. intergovernmental relations personnel), and pro-government associations (i.e. Texas Municipal League, Texas Association of Counties, Texas Association of School Boards, etc.) to push ideas that promote or protect their power. One municipality that engages in this practice to a fair degree is the city of Dallas.  

In the city’s most recently adopted budget are the following lobbyist-related expenses (see pg. 308):

In addition to the $650,000+ in annual expenses recorded above, the city of Dallas also maintains an Office of Government Affairs staffed by in-house lobbyists. The mission of this department is to serve: “as lead policy and communications liaison to local, regional, state, federal, and international levels of government and other independent agencies, including but not limited to outreach on citywide initiatives; develops and manages the City’s state and federal legislative initiatives impacting the City and its 1.3 million residents in coordination with internal and external stakeholders; and secures funding and other resources for City programs.” For the current and forthcoming fiscal years, the department’s budget is $1,112,725 and $1,166,649, respectively.

Taken together, these two annual appropriations—which may only partially account for lobbying expenses due to the way in which local governmental entities have interpreted the reporting requirements—are significant. But what’s even more concerning is the purpose(s) for which those expenditures are being committed.

According to the city of Dallas’ 2023 legislative agenda, taxpayer-funded lobbyists were, in part, tasked with achieving the following:

  1. Promote the Green Agenda: “Advance the deployment of—and infrastructure for—solar power and electric vehicles.”
  2. Advance DEI: Support legislation that recognizes: “diversity, equity, and human rights are the foundation of our Dallas community.”
  3. Peep Property Values: “Require mandatory disclosure of residential and commercial real estate prices.”

Hence, the city of Dallas used taxpayer money to push policies promoting climate change, DEI, and sales price disclosure in the last legislative session. That’s something that people should take notice of. To be fair, the city’s legislative agenda in its entirety is one of the least offensive of any major municipality; but the point is not that cities should improve what they lobby on, rather that they should not be lobbying at all.

Looking ahead to the 2025 legislative session, the city of Dallas is likely to adopt a relatively similar legislative agenda, if only because governments tend to be creatures of habit (see the current services method of budgeting, for example). Knowing this, Dallas-area taxpayers should be aware of what their tax dollars are being used to promote and why the calls to ban the practice of taxpayer-funded lobbying are so important.