As reported by Texas Scorecard, the board for the Harris County Department of Education (HCDE) voted last week to end a longstanding, taxpayer-funded contract with HillCo Partners, an Austin-based lobbying group that also advocates on behalf of many other local governing bodies, including the city of Houston.
Harris County Department of Education Board Members argued that the decision was needed to protect taxpayers. One of the trustees who voted in favor of terminating the contract summed it up well, saying: it was essentially “…spending money for a lobbyist with taxpayer dollars to lobby against the taxpayer.”
Not all parties were pleased with the board’s decision. The HCDE Superintendent lamented the decision, stating that the lobbying group was vital to preserving the interests of the department and going as far to say that the cancellation of the contract “compromise[d] the existence of the department.”
When asked to explain what exactly HillCo did for the department, the Superintendent respondedthat he doesn’t like to “share the playbook with the public” because it “defeats the purpose.” That answer proved unconvincing in the end and the Board ended the contract.
This small happening is illustrative of a larger effort—both at the Foundation and across the conservative movement as a whole—to ban practice of taxpayer-funded lobbying. And there’s a long way to go.
In 2017, $41 million dollars were spent by cities, counties, school districts, and special districts “on outside lobbyists to lobby state government during the legislative session.” That’s a lot of public money working against taxpayers’ interests and in favor of special interests. Needless to say, a comprehensive legislative solution is needed to make serious headway.