Lobbyists and Public Schools

January 27, 2010 at 2:30pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

LB 741, presented by Lincoln’s Sen. Bill Avery, would prevent school districts from using state aid money for expenses related to lobbyists. I wish I knew Sen. Avery’s motives. (The bill’s statement of intent isn’t particularly enlightening.) If his purpose is simply to ensure that state aid dollars focus on education rather than recycling back into the political process, that’s something I can support. But if his purpose instead centers around some sort of misguided anti-lobbying crusade, I’m going to have to disagree.

Lobbyists aren’t the bad guys they’re often portrayed to be. Sure, lobbying can be a dirty industry, but only if the politicians allow it. And in that case it’s corrupt politicians, not lobbyists, that are the problem. Nebraska’s lobbying environment is, as far as I know, pretty clean.

Like I said above, preventing the use of state aid for lobbyists is fine. But attempting to halt all formal lobbying by public school districts would be a futile exercise. School districts will always want to have a set of eyes and ears in the Unicameral. Whether or not you call that person a “lobbyist”, a “government affairs coordinator”, a “statehouse liaison”, or anything else is merely a matter of semantics. LPS will always have some sort of representative present at the capitol acting as a bridge between State Senators and the Board of Education; likewise with other school districts, ESUs, and so forth. And that’s a good thing. We want our school districts to be educated on the goings-on in the Unicameral, and we want our Senators to know what our school districts think about legislative proposals.

What do you think about Sen. Avery’s LB 741, or about the concept of school lobbyists in general?

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CP January 27, 2010 at 4:39pm

I don’t have any data to back this up, just a hunch, but I’d bet that any amount of salary paid to the LPS employee who is responsible for being the Unicameral “liasion” (or whatever the title is) is probably far more than made up for in preventing changes to funding allocations that would screw LPS (i.e. Lincoln taxpayers & students.) Probably by a factor of 100. Every year there are “sour grapes” bills presented that would penalize LPS & Omaha for being as large as they are in comparison to the rest of the districts in the state. Luckily for LPS none has passed.

I’d think that if anyone in the state wanted to push this through, it would be a State Senator from a rural area who can’t afford representation by a lobbyist, AND wants more state money for themselves.

Of course, I’m not in that ballgame, so am making wild, uneducated guesses.

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