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State of Texas
Texas State Senator Paul Bettencourt
News Release
Thursday, January 18, 2018

Texas AG Responds to Senator Paul  Bettencourt's Request for Opinion
on Taxpayer Monies in Politics

Opinion against promoting candidate or issue oriented electioneering will be sent to TEA and SOS Elections Division

Austin –  Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office released their opinion in response to a request by State Senator Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) who asked whether school districts, encouraged by a third-party advocacy group, are operating within the bounds of Texas law by promoting the use of taxpayer resources to nearly mandate participation in candidate or issue oriented electioneering and even calling for the use of public resources to transport voters to and from polling locations.

"I asked for this opinion because this is the first time this new political activity has occurred," stated Senator Bettencourt. "That’s why it’s different, and needed to be opined on plus stopped before it got out of hand.  I am all for increasing voter participation in registration and elections, but it cannot be done by violating the Texas Constitution, nor by spending public monies to influence voters to vote for or against a particular measure or candidate," he added.

In his AG opinion request Senator Bettencourt asked that that the following two questions be addressed:
 Does a school district providing or securing transportation for employees or students to and/or from polling places violate the Gift Clauses of the Texas Constitution?
 What legal constraints exist regarding a school district’s ability to spend or authorize the spending of public funds for political advertising or communications designed to influence voters to vote for or against a particular measure or candidate?  In the opinion, General Paxton found that certain actions taken by school boards could constitute a violation of the Texas Constitution and Education Code. Specifically, the use of dollars to transport certain specific voters to the polls would probably  be a violation of Texas Constitution.  Additionally, the Attorney General also found that a court could find a violation of the Election Code that prohibits the use of District funds for electioneering.

"I believe this is a Center Stripe Opinion of what I understand the law to actually be," stated Bettencourt.  "It is imperative that School Districts know what the legal lines are and that those lines are not crossed, either intentionally or unintentionally.  I am urging TEA Commissioner Morath to make sure that every school district in Texas review the AG’s opinion on this issue.  I have already requested the Election Division of the Texas Secretary of State to inform them as well, and they have agreed to do so," he added.

To see the Attorney General’s opinion, click below/

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