Despite reform promises, Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District Board to consider hiring taxpayer-funded lobbyist

Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District Board President Harry Hardman.

The Golden Hammer Staff Reports

Conroe, March 8 – Despite numerous campaign promises by the members of the Board of Directors of the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District (LSGCD) that they would avoid high-priced professionals as their appointed predecessors had squandered the taxpayers’ funds, the Board has included on its agenda the following for its Tuesday, March 8, 2022, 6 p.m. Board meeting:

“Discussion, consideration, and possible action regarding the District’s Request for Proposals for Legislative Services (RFP #01-2022) and/or a legislative consultant/service.”

During the campaign, former Board President Webb Melder, current President Harry Hardman, Treasurer Jim Spigener, and other elected Board members Jon Bouche, Larry Rogers, and Jonathan Prykryl had complained about the millions of dollars LSGCD spent on legal and professional fees. Therefore, it’s very surprising that the LSGCD Board would choose to spend funds on a paid lobbyist when the Board members and citizens clearly are quite capable of lobbying and tracking legislation on water issues.

If the LSGCD Board were to take action in favor of spending public dollars to lobby the Texas Legislature, it would be a very disappointing rejection of the conservative principles upon which the citizens elected these Board members.

Conservative Republican activist Kelli Cox once told this newspaper, “I’ll be very disappointed if the Board we all worked so hard to elect would take this action to hire a taxpayer funded lobbyist. The problem with tax payer funded lobbying is that it always seems to be used against the tax payers interests.”

In response to Cox’s comment, however, this newspaper challenged the grassroots leader and asked her whether she opposed taxpayer-funded lobbying even if the Board is solidly pro-citizen. Cox explained, “Yes. It tends toward higher taxes, more regulations and less freedom. Even if this Board thinks they’re working in the citizens’ best interests, what they’re really doing is rationalizing the terrible behavior of the previous Board and of other government boards to spend our money using lobbyists against us. We elected the seven of them to represent us on issues involving water, not some nameless $300 per hour lobbyist who may have all sorts of other political purposes besides what is best for the citizens. The seven board members, along with citizens, should be our ‘lobbyists’ on these issues, because that is the group that is most effective.”

“We elected the seven of them to represent us on issues involving water, not some nameless $300 per hour lobbyist who may have all sorts of other political purposes besides what is best for the citizens. The seven board members, along with citizens, should be our ‘lobbyists’ on these issues, because that is the group that is most effective.” – Kelli Cox, policy wonk (who brought Montgomery County taxpayers the 20% homestead exemption) and conservative Republican leader.

Citizen-lobbyists successfully convinced the 85th Texas Legislature to change the LSGCD enabling statute so the Board of Directors became elected rather than appointed. There are many active citizens in Montgomery County with substantial legislative lobbying experience, including conservative Republican activist Kelli Cook who has focused on elimination of red light cameras and tollroads and Ginger Russell who has focused on state education issues.

By far, the most effective lobbyists are citizens who track legislation and who appear in legislative offices and hearings well prepared to discuss the issues.

With respect to statutory issues related to water, Montgomery County enjoys numerous genuine experts on those issues, including, without limitation, Cox, Melder, businessman Michael Stoecker, businessman Simon Sequeira, businessman Randy Council, and others. Furthermore, the elected Board members of LSGCD would be far more persuasive with legislators than paid lobbyists.

Board member Jon Bouche, who also is a former Republican Precinct Chairman for Oak Ridge North and a former member of the Montgomery County Republican Party Steering Committee, once told this newspaper:

“I want to thank everyone who has reached out to me about the LSGCD considering hiring a lobbyist. 

“This county is blessed to have so many good people who are fully engaged in what is going on. I really appreciate that.

“This LSGCD situation is no simple matter but we are making great progress. Right now, I plan to work with our Representatives in the State House and Senate to fix the flawed legislation that is the cause of this mess. That is the the next step and we don’t need a lobbyist for that. Just to be clear, I will vote ‘no’ to hiring a lobbyist to do any job that we could do ourselves. If our reps are not able to get this fixed, we will  consider other options and the process will always be transparent and I will be seeking your perspective prior to making any final decisions.

“Please feel free to call me any time you have a question or concern.

“Sincerely,

“Jon P. Bouche”

The Republican Party Platform calls for an end to taxpayer-funded lobbying: “We oppose using tax dollars to hire lobbyists.” The Republican Party of Texas named ending taxpayer-funded lobbying as one of its top priorities for the 87th Texas Legislature.

With the San Jacinto River Authority hiring taxpayer-funded lobbyists, local tax dollars will go to lobby for and against the same legislation. LSGCD should take the high road and use non-tax resources for lobbying: Board members and citizens, primarily. This Board came into office with the promise that they would reduce professional fees. Instead, this proposal would cause those fees to soar.

Interestingly, three current Board members, Bouche, Larry Rogers, and Jonathan Prykryl, are actively involved in the Republican Party. They hopefully should know better than to vote for taxpayer-funded lobbying. Board President Harry Hardman currently is running for Conroe City Council where he’ll undoubtedly confront the dragon of all taxpayer-funded lobbying, the Texas Municipal League, responsible for most of the defeats of statewide property tax reform during the past six years. Hopefully, Hardman will show the voters tonight that he is capable of resisting the powerful money-grabbing tendencies of Austin lobbyists and would act as an independent city councilman (contrary to the behavior of the vast majority of members of city councils in Texas).

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