Interest Groups in Texas

Introduction

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the freedom of speech, which we usually think of as the right of an individual to openly express a point of view – even a controversial one. But the amendment goes on to guarantee “…the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

The right to assemble and express a collective opinion is really a constitutional right to form interest groups, and to lobby on public policy issues. If the Texas chapter of the Sierra Club organizes a group to lobby state legislators on climate change issues, they’re exercising their constitutional right to express a collective opinion. If the Texas Association of Realtors organizes a group to lobby the legislature to repeal a real estate tax they consider unfair, what are they doing? They’re peaceably assembling, and they’re petitioning their state government for a redress of grievances. If the Texas Barber Association lobbies against a sales tax on haircuts, they’re doing the same thing.