Image: The namesake of the JD Lambright Local Government Ethics Reform Act shown appearing before the Montgomery County Commissioners Court on April 10, 2018. Lambright died after a brief battle with cancer on March 9, 2019. His legacy lives on through his great work and through the legislature bearing his name.
Kelli Cook, Publisher, The Golden Hammer
On June 14, 2019, when Governor Greg Abbott signed the 86th Texas Legislatures’s House Bill 1495, the JD Lambright Local Government Ethics Reform Act, into law to become effective immediately, the public’s eyes gained much clearer vision. The Lambright Law, named after Montgomery County’s popular and highly-respected former County Attorney JD Lambright who died, while in office on March 9, 2019, mandates that all local government entities in Texas (except for junior college districts) must disclose in plain language to the public all of their taxpayer-funded lobbying contracts.
It was Lambright’s dream as Montgomery County Attorney to bring real reform to local governments across Texas. In that regard, this newspaper, since its inception in January, 2017, through the present, has urged an end to corruption in Montgomery County, so that the leading conservative Republican county in Texas could lead other counties and local government entities to do the same.
Thanks to the great work of State Senator Brandon Creighton (Republican of Conroe), the bill’s author State Representative Steve Toth (Republican of Conroe), State Representative Briscoe Cain (Republican of Deer Park), State Representative Mayes Middleton (Republican of Wallsville), and State Representative Giovanni Capriglione (Republican of Southlake), the Lambright Law became a reality when it passed the Texas Legislature on May 27, 2019, despite fierce opposition from liberal democrats who vociferously sought to protect government from the prying eyes of Texas taxpayers.
Now, let’s be clear. Taxpayer-funded lobbying is the greatest impediment to reform of government spending and statewide government ethics. The Texas Municipal League, the Texas Association of Counties, and the Texas Assocation of School Boards are easily the most anti-citizen organizations in Texas and all three depend upon taxpayer funds to work directly against the interests of taxpayers. In reality, those three organizations, as powerful and influential as they are, are actually only the tip of the iceberg of taxpayer-funded lobbying directly against taxpayer interests.
Under the Lambright Law, local government entities must disclose all of their taxpayer-funded lobbying contracts in two ways. First, all local government entities, other than junior college districts, must include plain disclosure of the amount of money they intend to spend in proposed budgets in comparison to the current budget. Second, in three counties – El Paso, Montgomery, and Chambers – local government entities must disclose the details of all taxpayer-funded lobbying contracts on the websites of their local ethics commissions.
As taxpayers finally begin to learn the details of the taxpayer-funded lobbying contracts, which their elected representatives have entered to lobby against the interests of their constituents, the likelihood of greater reform and political threats to the careers of local government representatives who vote for such contacts will increase geometrically.
Ending taxpayer-funded lobbying was a Legislative Priority for the Republican Party in the 86th Texas Legislature. Sadly, that effort failed. Nevertheless, public disclosure of this corruption is major initial step. Citizens and local government officials must ensure that the promise of the Lambright Law becomes a reality, as local government entities proceed through their budget processes during calendar year 2020.