A state lawmaker promises to introduce legislation that could address alleged lobbying done by state Rep. Jim Murphy in his role as general manager of a special district in Houston.
According to the NBC affiliate in Houston, state Rep. Sarah Davis, R-West University Place, said that if Murphy’s work for the district exploits a gap in state law prohibiting lobbying for one government agency while serving in the Legislature, she would seek to address that gap.
Records obtained by The Texas Monitor show that Murphy, R-Houston, has received $78,600 since 2014 for his work to achieve benchmarks that include obtaining funding and other favors from groups such as the city of Houston and the Texas Department of Transportation.
“It really sounds like lobbying to me,” Hugh Brady, director of the Legislative Lawyering Clinic at the University of Texas Law School, told The Texas Monitor in February after reviewing Murphy’s contract with the Westchase District in Houston.
“There is an Attorney General opinion that says he cannot be involved in any contract if it involves state or county funds,” Brady said.
Testifying before the state House Committee on General Investigating and Ethics last month, the Texas Ethics Commission general counsel, Ian Steusloff, said there is no law prohibiting communication between a legislator hired by one government agency from lobbying another.
Murphy was an employee of the district until he took office in 2006. He then sought an opinion from the office of then-Attorney General Greg Abbott regarding his serving in the Legislature and working for a government entity at the same time.
Abbott’s office ruled a sitting lawmaker could serve in the role as a consultant for a government agency.
The district’s board is considering seeking a new opinion.
“Laws do change, and we’re not saying that the laws that the [Abbott] opinion relies on have, but we are aware it can happen,” Westchase board chairman Philip Schneidau told The Texas Monitor in March.
Murphy receives annual, no-bid contracts with Westchase and has been paid $2 million since 2010, with his pay increasing 40 percent between 2010 and 2017, from $249,000 to $350,194.
The district is funded by a combination of grants and a tax levy on properties within its 4.2 square mile boundaries.
Steve Miller can be reached at [email protected].