The Chronicle carried a story yesterday in which Sen. Patrick and Rep. Paxton, in separate letters to their presiding officers, questioned TxDOT’s spending of some $7 to $9 million on advertising in support of its roadbuilding policies is a “proper” use of state funds to favor unpopular policies such as the Trans-Texas Corridor. I believe that the use of public service announcement by government agencies can be appropriate in some cases, but not when it is an attempt to influence public opinion.

I haven’t heard any of these announcements, but I have heard a Tx-DOT PSA touting the Texas Lemon Law. A ditty accompanied by a guitar, it runs frequently on the local all-sports radio station in Austin:

If your car just won’t go,
And you have to get a tow,
It’s a lemon. It’s a lemon.
But you should not despair
Over having it repaired.
The Texas Lemon Law is here
To calm your automotive fears.

[music ends]

Then, a voice: “The Texas Lemon Law. Consumer Protection with a twist. Visit our Web site at TLL.US.”

The first time I heard this, I had two reactions: (1) TxDOT is trying to soften its image and persuade the public that they care about them. (2) Hey, I thought the lemon law was administered by the Motor Vehicle Commission.

After reading about Patrick and Paxton’s interventions, I looked up the Lemon Law. Yes, complaints are administered by the Motor Vehicle Commission. Tx-DOT does maintain a Web site for programs, which includes a link to the Texas Lemon Law. But, aside from the fact that lemons can be found on the highways TxDOT builds, the agency has absolutely nothing to do with them.

So the Lemon Law PSA is just feel-good PR. (In addition to the radio spots, there is also a video spot.) I think there should be PSAs about the Lemon Law, but they should be paid for by the Motor Vehicle Commission, not Tx-DOT. Tx-DOT can’t complain about diversions from the Highway Fund on the one hand and then spend money promoting itself as the champion for a program it has nothing to do with on the other.