Conroe, January 18 – During the discussion by the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District (LGSCD) Board of Directors on Tuesday, January 15, 2019, concerning whether to use tax dollars to hire a lobbyist for the 86th Texas Legislative Session, one person strangely sat entirely silent. LSGCD General Manager Kathy Turner Jones sat mute and didn’t contribute to the discussion at all, even though she was well aware of enormous legislative monitoring resources already available to the District and for which the taxpayers are already paying.
Conservative Republican political activist Kelli Cook, who was the Montgomery County Republican Party’s “Volunteer of the Year 2018,” has explained:
“The citizens sighed with relief that the motion to hire a taxpayer funded lobbyist was tabled by the LSGGCD board recently. But what they don’t know is dues are being paid to the Texas Alliance of Ground Water Districts. The General Manager, Kathy Turner Jones, serves as the legislative watchdog/lobbyist on the Legislative Committee that is tasked with watching relevant pending legislation and initiating legislative proposals and policies. Was this information shared with the LSGCD board?”
In actuality, The Golden Hammerhas confirmed that Jones did not mention her access to vast legislative information and her direct involvement with monitoring and lobbying as a member of the Legislative Committee of the Texas Alliance of Ground Water Conservation Districts (TAGD).
To add insult to injury, as a full Ground Water District member of TAGD, LSGCD must pay annual dues of $1,875 in order to participate as a full member. Nevertheless, membership has substantial privileges.
The TAGD website makes clear that members receive the following benefits among others:
“In addition to participation in TAGD meetings, membership offers numerous other advantages. District and Associate Member staff are invited to participate in TAGD’s Google Group Forums, where members receive regular updates on Legislative matters and tracking reports, meeting information, and other groundwater updates. Members may also use the group to easily ask questions of all other members or disseminate relevant information. Voting District Members are invited to participate on TAGD Committees, where individuals can have input on state-wide matters ranging from outreach and education to policy positions to drought recovery and aquifer storage. Associate Members receive a spot on TAGD’s website and gain access to a network of groundwater conservation districts all across the state. All members may take advantage of TAGD’s information resources.”
TAGD has a “members only” area for its Legislative Committee, of which Turner as LSGCD’s General Manager is a member, which this newspaper has confirmed contains substantial legislative tracking information with up-to-the-minute information to follow all action on legislative bills as they are going through the Legislature. In addition, TAGD has its own lobbyist whose services are available to the members.
Board members had placed an item on the LSGCD meeting agenda last week. A small army of citizens protested to individual Board members that taxpayer-funded lobbying is a practice which conservatives are fighting to outlaw, so that local government entities should not engage in the practice. The Republican Party of Texas set banning taxpayer-funded lobbying as one of its “Legislative Priorities” declared during the June, 2018, State Republican Convention in San Antonio.
Cook, John Hill Wertz, Bob Bagley, and others appeared before the Board to protest the proposed lobbyist expenditure. The Board after a lengthy and thorough discussion voted unanimously to table the proposal. While there was widespread agreement that the Board and interested citizens should closely monitor water-related legislation moving through the Texas Legislature, Jones didn’t mention the fact that the District already paid substantial fees in order to have access to the vast information available to TAGD members. Jones also failed to mention that she is a member of the TAGD Legislative Committee.
Jones clearly is working against the policies and interests of the LSGCD Board. Most certainly, Jones should immediately provide her access codes to the entire LSGCD Board, so they may share in all of the information on the TAGD website. Furthermore, Jones should disclose to the LSGCD Board and to the general public what specifically TAGD intends to do during the 86th Legislature.
Jones is known to many as the “Wicked Witch of the Water” for her anti-citizen conduct in which she is openly undermining the LSGCD Board and its policies. Her silence during the discussion about a taxpayer-funded lobbyist was only another example of her antagonism towards groundwater deregulation which Montgomery County citizens are demanding and mandated through their election of seven “reform” Board members on November 6, 2018.