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January 31, 2013 | By | Posted in Legislature

Cut taxpayer-funded lobbying, lawmaker says

By Melissa Daniels | PA Independent

GOVERNMENT CITY: In Pennsylvania, the state has no law to keep state agencies from hiring outside lobbyists.

HARRISBURG — There’s no shortage of lobbyists making their cases around Harrisburg, but some may be getting paid with taxpayer dollars.

In Pennsylvania, there’s no law against taxpayer-funded agencies spending money on hiring outside lobbyists to take their respective cases to the Legislature.

That means public money would be spent by public officials to persuade other public officials of their best interests.

This session, one Bucks County Democrat said it’s time to end the waste.

State Rep. Tina Davis, D-Bucks, is once again introducing legislation that would prohibit all state government entities from using public money to hire outside lobbyists to lobby sister agencies or branches.

Davis argues this kind of government-to-government lobbying wastes hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“State agencies have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to hire lobbyists to contact State legislators,” she wrote to fellow lawmakers in a co-sponsorship memo. “I am proposing that we end this wasteful and unnecessary spending.”

Davis introduced the measure last year, which received 14 bipartisan co-sponsors. It was referred to the House State Government Committee, but was never called up for a vote.

Davis cites the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission as entities that have engaged in government-to-government lobbying.

The bill would prohibit any arm of government from entering into a contract or otherwise paying an outside lobbyist. That would include boards under the governor’s jurisdiction, judicial agencies, the legislative branch, independent agencies and state-affiliated entities such as PHEAA and PTC.

Records filed with the Department of State show PHEAA hired lobbyists in 2007.

Keith New, communications director for PHEAA, said outside lobbyists were hired when some lawmakers were considering selling off parts of the agency.

It no longer enters such contracts, he said, and does not seek to influence policy-making.

New emphasized the lobbying occurred during “a different world, a different landscape, a different business environment.” The push to sell ended up evaporating, and PHEAA is now under different leadership, New said.

Pennsylvania wouldn’t be the first state to create a restriction on taxpayer-funded lobbying. In South Carolina, lawmakers last year prohibited state agencies and local governments from using taxpayer money to hire lobbyists.

Contact Melissa Daniels at melissa@paindependent.com

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Melissa Daniels is a reporter for PA Independent. She can be reached at 717-350-0962 or Melissa@PAIndependent.com

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