Every year, local governments in Texas spend millions upon millions to influence state-level policymaking. These advocacy campaigns are funded with tax dollars and 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.). One local governmental entity that has shown a particular penchant for this practice is the city of Houston.

According to the city’s latest adopted budget, officials spent almost $1 million in FY 2023 and nearly a half-million in FY 2024. Here is more from pg. II – 20:

“Lobbying contract services are managed by the Mayor’s Office Intergovernmental Relations. The scope of services for the contract(s) includes but not limited to identify and prepare potential proactive legislation, assist in tracking adverse legislation, advocate and advance the City’s position on legislation. The FY2024 Budget includes an estimated cost of $400,000, a decrease of $500,000 from FY 2023 Estimate of $900,000 due to the ending of the 88th legislative session.”

In addition, the city also maintains a full-time intergovernmental relations team, aka a group of in-house lobbyists. However, it is unclear from the budget alone how much funding this team receives annually for lobbying purposes. The city has also reported that it paid dues to the Texas Municipal League to the tune of “$100,988 for a one-year period.

While the amount spent to lobby is significant, the more important point is what those funds went to support and oppose. According to the city of Houston’s 2023 legislative agenda,  City of Houston Legislative Principles for the 88th Session of the Texas Legislature advocates for:

  1. Gun Control: “Support common sense gun regulations such as universal background checks, red flag laws, and raising the age to purchase semi-automatic rifles.”
  2. Tax-and-Spend: “Oppose regulations that limit the City’s local authority, public safety, revenue collection, city operations or other local programs.”
  3. Medicaid Expansion: “Support legislation and funding for expanded health care coverage and access for Texans, including continued progress on behavioral health and the expansion of Medicaid”
  4. Greater Government Control: “Support legislation strengthening local governments’ regulatory authority over [energy] industry participants to protect local interests on direct impacts and make delivery systems more reliable and resilient.”

Ironically, some of the city’s priorities would lessen state regulation of its own authority so as to enable it to exercise greater control over the private sector. Regulations for thee, but not for me!

Based on the information outlined above, we may observe that the city of Houston spends mightily on lobbying the Legislature and those things that it tends to push are meant to advantage itself, not the everyday person. Looking ahead to 2025, there’s no reason to suspect the city won’t attempt to achieve similar goals in the next legislative session and perhaps even expands its list to include legislative proposals it fought in 2023 but that were not on its original list, like a ban on “the ability for local government to hire lobbyists.

Texans should not tolerate this sort of progressive advocacy, especially when it’s being done on their dime.