The House State Affairs Committee met March 25. Committee members began the meeting by voting out of committee Rep. Trent Ashby’s HB 5, which would expand broadband access. On March 18, Granger ISD Superintendent Randy Willis testified in support of the bill on behalf of TASA, TREA, and TACS.
The committee also heard testimony until after 1 a.m. on two other bills important to Texas school districts.
Rep. Giovanni Capriglione introduced HB 3687, which would require disclosure of taxpayer-funded lobbyist contracts. He said that he introduced a similar bill last session that had much support by fellow House members. Becky St. John, Grapevine Colleyville ISD trustee, was among those who testified in support of the bill as a feasible alternative to HB 749 (below).
Rep. Mayes Middleton then introduced HB 749, stating that it would “ban taxpayer-funded lobbyists.” Middleton said that legislators should represent their constituents directly.
Additional information about HB 749
This bill would prohibit political subdivisions, including school districts, from using public funds to hire an individual who is registered to lobby the Legislature or to pay a nonprofit state association that primarily represents political subdivisions AND hires or contracts with someone to lobby the Legislature.
This bill would also give a taxpayer or resident of a political subdivision who hires a lobbyist or pays a nonprofit who then hires a lobbyist, a claim for injunctive relief, and would grant them attorneys’ fees and associated costs if they prevail in a cause of action against the political subdivision.
HB 749 would prohibit a county judge or commissioner from using public funds to serve on the governing body or committee or to become a member of the association of counties. It would repeal the ability of the commissioner’s court to spend its county’s general fund monies on membership in the state association of counties. The effective date for the bill would be September 1, 2021. See TASA’s talking points document to learn more about this issue.
During discussion of the bill, Rep. Eddie Lucio III said that legislators lean on policy experts, referred to in the bill, to provide critical information to them to help them make informed decisions on legislation. He questioned those testifying in support throughout the hearing.
Dr. Jodi Duron, Elgin ISD superintendent and TASA legislative chair, testified against HB 749 on behalf of TASA, TACS, and Elgin ISD, as the bill’s provisions selectively censor certain publicly funded entities and end the ability of school district leaders to effectively communicate with legislators via their nonprofit associations. Read Duron’s testimony.
Becky St. John, Grapevine Colleyville ISD trustee, also testified in opposition to the bill on behalf of TASB, as did Mark Terry, deputy executive director of the Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association.
A few representatives from Collin County testified in support of the bill.