Interest Groups and Lobbyists in Texas

Published: 2021-01-25 06:36:49
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Lobbyists are persons hired by interest groups to advocate for specific laws in the Legislature and decision-making bodies of the executive. The influence that lobbyists have in law- making has been subject to debate given the hefty sums of money that lobby groups spend on meals, beverages and entertainment for the benefit of legislators. Whereas lobbyists justify their huge expenditures with their need for the elusive face time with the legislators, the only fruitful way to measure the impact of lobbyists on decision making is by observing their beneficiaries voting patterns and overall actions. This is only possible after disclosing the beneficiaries. Lobby groups impact on decision making; this explains why so much money is spent on elected representatives and state officials. The lobbyists treasure the face time spent with legislators since, through them, they can articulate their viewpoints and influence laws.

There is a need for tougher restrictions and oversight of lobby groups to improve transparency and accountability. Notably, 95 percent of funds spent by lobby groups in the past decade were legally reported yet no recipients of the meals and entertainment were made public. The hefty amounts spent by lobbyists on these repasts necessitate the need for regulations. There are loopholes in the State law on disclosure by lobbyists. For instance, the requirement that a beneficiary's name is reported only when the expenditure by a lobbyist per day exceeds $114 is prone to abuse. First, $114 is a huge sum to spend in a day and secondly, several lobbyists may decide to split the bill, and so long as none of them exceeds $114, no disclosure will occur.

One benefit of lobbying groups is that it enables individuals to influence decision-making at the top level organs. Considering that there are limitations on the amount of funds that the locals can directly contribute to campaigns, lobbyists and interest groups are the channels through which the locals make their voices heard. The locals need to establish a link between lobbying and the change they seek.

The mushrooming of lobby groups means several groups pushing for various legislations. Of these lobby groups, there is about a dozen that have greater funds at their disposal and are thus more influential; these tend to advance their causes at the expense of smaller groups leading to inequalities. The government needs to bridge this inequality gap to make all citizens concerns count. This is achieved through restrictions such as putting an absolute cap on the total amounts that lobbyists can spend on lawmakers regardless of whether the funds come from one or several lobbyists and reducing the amount to be spent entertaining a legislator before the disclosure is required.

To an extent, the collective influence of interest groups overrides individual ability to influence politics. Certain interest groups wield much influence due to their access to resources and are thus capable of influencing political decisions regardless of individual citizens viewpoints.

An example of a modern interest group is The Texas State Rifle Association (TSRA) Political Action Committee. This is an organization that protects the freedoms of ownership and use of firearms by Texans. It also conducts safety training, supports shooting sports and promotes wildlife conservation efforts. The TSRA has influenced lawmaking in Texas State. Specifically, in 2013, it influenced the passage of eight key legislations in Texas State touching on the acquisition and renewal of concealed handgun license, storage of handguns, disposition of seized handguns, and the type of firearm to be used to demonstrate proficiency.

sheldon

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