Government entities and their representatives don’t appreciate Texans seeking information. Take the city of Farmer’s Branch and our latest request to see the city’s current contract and communications with revolving door lobbyist Fred Hill.
Farmer’s Branch uses tax dollars to lobby for increased tax revenue and thwart conservative reform efforts in the Texas Legislature. Periodically we check on Farmer’s Branch and collect records of their tax funded lobbying activities. Our most recent request sought emails for one month and the current contract between the city and Fred Hill.
Since contracts can change we always ask for the current contract. Farmer’s Branch voiced annoyance with this part of our request since their contract with Hill hasn’t changed since we requested a copy last year.
Besides exposure of a pompous attitude our request turned up that Hill’s email was recently hacked, the city is still paying him $3,500 a month, and per usual Hill is worried about a reform that could lower tax revenue. Specifically Hill is concerned about the process by which owners of high valued property contest property valuations.
In 2009 a pilot program passed into law that funneled the appeal of real and personal property valued at over $1 million to an administrative law judge with the State Office of Administrative Hearings. The pilot was limited to a handful of counties but 2013 could see the program extended statewide.
Hill doesn’t like the SOAH judges, he calls them unqualified in communications with Farmer’s Branch. He also dislikes that the decision rendered by the SOAH is final and can’t be appealed. Finally Hill wants to keep things fragmented claiming that the SOAH judges aren’t familiar enough with the appraisal needs of entities around the state.
Local control is a tool that Hill and other government renters use to keep government large and difficult to interact with making it easier for special interests to control. Last session he worked against efforts to unify election dates, something recently advocated for by Harvey Hilderbran at the Republican Party convention.
The bills leading to Hill’s angst were authored by State Representative John Otto whose office noted that this measure has had the affect of lowering court costs and resulted in Central Appraisal Districts settling more often within this subset of appraisal appeals.
Our request for information wasn’t completely filled with at least one email attachment being cut short. We are following up with Farmer’s Branch and will continue to report on the activities of tax funded lobbyists in Texas.
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