Brown County became the second entity to decline to renew a two-year contract with former State Rep. Bob Turner’s Rural Issues Consulting.
    A motion by Brown County Commissioner Larry Traweek died without a second after the commissioners court heard comments — some for, some against — from several citizens. Commissioners and County Judge Ray West also commented some for and some against, before West called for the motion.
    A nearly identical situation occurred last month in the Early City Council meeting, when a motion there died without a second.
    Four of the original six entities who formed a partnership to hire Turner have voted to renew the contract. Those entities are the Brownwood City Council, Brownwood Municipal Development District, Brownwood Area Chamber of Commerce and Brown County Water Improvement District.
    Supporters have said Turner’s fee is well worth the expense because he monitors the legislature and state agencies for potential legislation and regulations that could have a negative impact on those entities.
    Recently, opponents — many of them members of Big Country We the People Facebook groups — have said they are opposed to hiring a lobbyist with taxpayer funds and have said taxpayers are receiving little if any benefit in exchange.
    Until now, the six entities have equally participated in paying Turner’s fee of $44,000 over each of the contract’s two-year periods. The cost to each entity has been $3,666.67 per year.
    Ray Tipton, executive director of the chamber of commerce — which has facilitated the partnership since it began in 2011 —  said earlier the chamber and municipal development district had agreed to pick up the extra cost incurred from Early dropping out.
     With the county also dropping out, it’s too early to know how that impacts the future of the contract, Tipton said.
     Tipton said he will probably present the contract to the chamber’s Legislative Affairs Committee, and members of that committee will re-assess the contract.
    Robert Porter, chairman of the Brownwood Area Chamber of Commerce’s Legislative Affairs Committee and chairman of the Brown County Republican Party, has said Turner is the “eyes and ears” of the Brown County partnership as he follows the legislature and state agencies.
    “That’s very disappointing,” Porter said by phone after learning commissioners had declined to vote on the Turner contract.

Speakers’ comments      
    • Van Stewart said she supports grassroots movements but said she’s surprised that the Turner contract is the issue that’s created controversy.
    Stewart said commissioners can’t be expected to follow “thousands of bills” or have the contacts to get issues solved. “That’s what these guys do for a living,” Stewart said, referring to Turner, “so I’m here saying we need to do this.”
    • Margaret Coleman spoke briefly in favor of the Turner contract, saying her late husband, Stuart, had known Turner.
    • Daniel Graham said he’s against the contract and reminded commissioners he’d used the terms “efficiency and redundancy” when he addressed the commissioners court last month.
    Graham said it’s his understanding that commissioners have access to a Texas Association of Counties (TAC) lobbyist who can get commissioners the information they need.
    • West responded that a TAC lobbyist works “only on issues that affect all counties. They represent rural Texas and metropolitan Texas. If there is a conflict between the two, they will  not lobby for or against a bill. So it’s not like we have a lobbyist.”
    West also said if it hadn’t been for Turner’s efforts in 2011, Brown County would have been split into two U.S. congressional districts during the redistricting process.
    West said a bill in the legislature could contain a rider that affects Brown County or rural Texas. It’s not possible to track the legislation “unless you’re there every day and in every committee room, and you can see where a rider pops up on another bill that could have some serious impact,” West said.
    • Julia Taylor said Turner’s newsletters she possesses “are filled with general comments on the comings and goings of the legislature. There’s nothing mentioned on policy or upcoming legislation.”
    Taylor said she’s learned from District 60 Rep. Mike Lang that Lang had no discussions or phone calls with Turner in 2017, but Lang speaks with the 3M lobbyist “on a regular basis.”
    • Ronnie Taylor said there is a common theme in Turner’s reports and actions that “embraces government and more spending. There is no mention of policy to reduce regulation on private enterprise or policy that helps individual small businesses. In my opinion the lobbyist has an attitude of spend at any cost.”
    • Tipton said the idea of hiring Turner started as a collective idea in 2010. “From my perspective and the chamber’s perspective, it’s all about jobs, protecting our local jobs,” Tipton said. “Initial discussions were about protecting those jobs.
    “There is a whole philosophical issue about having taxpayer money pay for a lobbyist. Who is for that? That’s the system we have, and until there is legislation to abolish that kind of thing, this is just what we have to do to ensure that we’re keeping our economy safe.”
    • Commissioner Joel Kelton, who earlier said he’s against renewing Turner’s contract, said he has “yet to see a report from Mr. Turner. I talked to Mike Lang the other day and he concurs that he has not seen or heard from them.”
    • Commissioner Wayne Shaw, who also said earlier he’s against renewing the contract, noted commissioners had said “no” several times during budget talks and had declined to give county employees a raise, and had reduced the amount of money the county gives to Good Samaritan Ministries.
    Referring to the Turner contract, Shaw said he doesn’t favor spending money “where I don’t feel like does all that much good.”
    • Traweek said he’s talked to Turner numerous times. “I can call him and he’ll keep me up to date on what he’s working on,” Traweek said.
    Traweek said he’d had calls from Precinct 4 constituents and “I will vote for what the majority of Precinct 4 tells me they want.”