An hour and a half before the Texas House reached its deadline for consideration of Senate bills on second reading, Rep. Chris Paddie (R-Marshall) moved to postpone Senate Bill (SB) 10 until September 18.
Effectively killing the bill this session, the date is notable in that it’s Rep. Mayes Middleton’s (R-Wallisville) birthday — Paddie’s chief intraparty rival on the taxpayer-funded lobbying issue.
On Tuesday, tension built for the coming showdown, and a game of legislative chicken began. Paddie told the Dallas Morning News that “[Middleton] needs to decide whether he wants perfect to be the enemy of the good or whether he wants to be reasonable.”
The table was set for conflict about a week ago when Paddie, chair of the House State Affairs Committee, introduced a substitute version of the Senate’s approved legislation that altered drastically their ban on taxpayer-funded lobbying for cities and counties.
That committee substitute was altered so significantly that not only was it largely unrecognizable, but many inside the capitol were concerned it was now vulnerable to a point of order — a procedural discrepancy that could kill the legislation.
Middleton, the most relentless voice in the House in favor of banning taxpayer dollars financing lobbying services, found Paddie’s substitute language unacceptable and pre-filed multiple amendments to both reinstate the Senate’s language and take it even further toward a carte blanche prohibition.
After a marathon hearing in March, Middleton’s version of the taxpayer-funded lobbying prohibition was left pending in Paddie’s committee — where it languished in perpetuity.
Meanwhile, the Senate fast-tracked its version authored by Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston).
After that, Paddie postponed consideration of SB 10 a handful of times on Tuesday, after having postponed it a day on Monday. Negotiations were going on behind the scenes as Paddie tried to get Middleton to agree to tweaks and relent on his own amending effort.
But when push came to shove, neither Paddie nor Middleton budged and a ban on taxpayer-funded lobbying became another casualty of the 87th Legislative Session — for the second session in a row.
“Chris Paddie made a mockery of what even his own Republican primary voters want and treats conservative priorities with disdain,” Middleton told The Texan after the bill’s postponement.
“Tonight, he chose to protect Austin lobbyists at the expense of taxpayers.”
When Paddie moved to postpone the bill, Rep. Matt Schaefer (R-Tyler) objected, forcing a division vote. Only 41 Republicans of 83 voted to prevent the postponement, according to unofficial totals.
For the second session in a row, Middleton’s prized legislation died an abrupt death. In 2019, his colleague Rep. Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin) successfully tacked on an amendment exempting all counties below 250,000 in population — neutering the bill substantially.
During the interim, momentum built around the prospective ban — and the Republican Party of Texas again included it on its list of legislative priorities — but proponents have again come up empty.
Perhaps the lone hope for a ban to be implemented this year is the looming special session this fall — for which Governor Greg Abbott can control the issues considered by the legislature.
Abbott has expressed support for a ban on taxpayer-funded lobbying, trading a parting shot with the City of Austin, saying, “It is indefensible that you tax residents to get money that you use to hire lobbyists to support legislation to allow you to tax even more.”
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Brad Johnson is an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.