The City of Austin ranked first among all Texas municipalities for investing in lobby groups during the 2013 Legislative Session, according to a report by Texans for Public Justice.
As a liberal city in a conservative state, Austin often finds itself in conflict with state government – or the target of “Austin-bashing” bills. And that can mean lobbying the officials at the Lege.
The City of Austin ranked 16th overall on Texans for Public Justice's list of top lobby spenders. The only other municipal government to rank – the City of Houston – came in 23rd.
According to City of Austin Governmental Relations Officer John Hrncir, Austin spent close to $800,000.
“Many years ago the City of Austin ramped up its lobby force,” says Andrew Wheat, Research Director of Texans for Public Justice. He says it represented “an attempt to improve the relationship between the City of Austin and the very conservative lawmakers who spend part of their year here.”
Both Hrncir and Wheat agreed that Austin’s water quality and supply, and its city-owned utilities were among the biggest issues that spending went towards. However, Hrncir says that with over 1,700 bills potentially affecting cities, it’s difficult to say how the lobbyists’ attentions were divided.
Wheat says that lobbying expenses are historically a good investment – and that those who spend the most often have the most legislative success.
“It’s the wealthy interests that are having their telephone calls returned in the capitol,” Wheat says. “They’re the ones that are defining the agenda and winning, and often when they win, it’s at the cost of the people that can’t afford to have a lobbyist.”