The laws and rules for Lobbyists in Texas
This document can be found at the Texas Ethics Commission website. We are posting it here for the benefit of all Texas Lobbyists, Government Advisors and Consultants, Political Activists, and other interested parties.
THE LOBBY LAW
Chapter 305 of the Government Code requires a person who crosses either a compensation or expenditure threshold to register with the Texas Ethics Commission and to file periodic reports of lobbying activity. Chapter 305 also contains restrictions applicable to persons required to register as lobbyists. This lobby law is administered and enforced by the Ethics Commission. Rules that the Ethics Commission has adopted under the lobby law are in Chapter 34 of title 1 of the Texas Administrative Code (T.A.C.).
Even if you are not required to register as a lobbyist, you should be aware of the bribery, honorarium, and gift prohibitions in Chapter 36 of the Penal Code. In addition, you should be aware of Title 15 of the Election Code, the campaign finance law, which places restrictions on contributions and expenditures to support, oppose, or assist candidates and elected officeholders.
If you have a question that is not clearly answered by this guide or by the instructions to a lobby report, please contact the Ethics Commission.
WHAT IS LOBBYING?
The lobby law regulates “direct communications” with members of the legislative or executive branch of state government to influence legislation or administrative action. See Gov’t Code §§ 305.001, 305.003(a). To understand what activity is regulated by the lobby law, it is important to understand the terms “direct communication,” “member of the legislative or executive branch,” and “communication for the purpose of influencing legislation or administrative action.”
The lobby law regulates certain “direct communications.” “Direct communication” includes contact in person or by telephone, telegraph, or letter. The communication must be directed to a member of the legislative or executive branch of state government. For example, if an organization publishes a newsletter for its members, the individuals writing the newsletter are not “communicating directly” with members of the legislature, even if a legislator may read the newsletter. See Ethics Advisory Opinion No. 85 (1992).
MEMBER OF THE LEGISLATIVE OR EXECUTIVE BRANCH OF STATE GOVERNMENT
The lobby law regulates direct communications to “members of the legislative or executive branch” of state government. This guide uses the term “state officer or employee” as a shorthand term to refer to a member of the executive or legislative branch of state government. You should remember, though, that the term does not include an officer or employee of the judicial branch.
Member of the Legislative Branch. A “member of the legislative branch” of state government includes a member, member-elect, candidate for, or officer of the legislature or of a legislative committee. Gov’t Code § 305.002(7). Employees of the legislature are also “members of the legislative branch” of state government. Id.
Member of the Executive Branch. A “member of the executive branch” of state government includes an officer, officer-elect, candidate for, or employee of any state agency, department, or office in the executive branch of state government. Gov’t Code § 305.002(4).
Lobby Law Not Applicable to Communications to Judicial Branch. Communications to a member of the judicial branch of state government (such as a judge or a court clerk) are not subject to the lobby law. Such communications may be regulated by other laws.
Lobby Law Not Applicable to Communications to Local Government Officials. The lobby law applies only to communications to state officers and employees. It does not apply to a communication made to an officer, an employee, or anyone else who represents a political subdivision of state government, such as a county, city, school district, or other local government or special district. (A person communicating to influence the actions of a local governmental body should check to see whether the local governmental body has adopted its own lobby regulations.)
COMMUNICATING TO INFLUENCE LEGISLATION OR ADMINISTRATIVE ACTION
The lobby law applies to direct communication with state officers and employees to influence “legislation or administrative action.” “Legislation” means a matter that is or may be the subject of action by either house of the legislature or by a legislative committee. See Gov’t Code § 305.002(6). “Administrative action” means any matter that may be the subject of action by a state agency or executive branch office, including a matter relating to the purchase of products or services by the agency or office. See id. § 305.002(1).
The fact that a communication does not include a discussion of specific legislation or administrative action does not mean that the discussion is not a lobby communication. If a communication is intended to generate or maintain goodwill for the purpose of influencing potential future legislation or administrative action, the communication is a lobby communication. See Ethics Advisory Opinion Nos. 94, 90, 89, 34, 4 (1992).