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Bill would stop schools from hiring lobbyists

Published January 28, 2011 3:02 pm

Education • Lawmaker wants to save schools' cash.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Lobbyists hoping to add public schools to their client lists could have to look beyond Utah.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, is sponsoring SB123, which would make it illegal for schools, school districts and charter schools to hire lobbyists as independent contractors.

"I'm trying to save education dollars," Jenkins said Thursday. "We don't believe we need to be lobbied by school districts. [School officials] are our neighbors, our friends. They're in our communities. We see them in the grocery store. I mean, they can talk to us any time."

Jenkins believes Canyons School District, which broke away from Jordan in 2009, is the only district that hires lobbyists. "I'm trying to stop this before it gets fashionable," he said.

But Canyons does not have any contract lobbyists, said district spokeswoman Jennifer Toomer-Cook.

"We comply with the law now and, should the bill pass, we will comply with the law in the future," she said.

The district has a full-time director of government relations, who also serves as chief of staff, earning $124,000 a year. Plus, Canyons has two, part-time government-relations specialists on district payroll, Michael Zuhl and Jordan Garn. According to a state database, both also are registered lobbyists who represent Canyons and several other public agencies and corporations.

At Canyons, Zuhl earned $25,000 last year and Garn earned $12,000, according to public records.

"They're not contract people, they are part-time employees," Toomer-Cook said. "This allows our CEO [Superintendent David Doty] to stay at the district and we send those employees to provide information [to the Legislature] or to other governmental entities."

rwinters@sltrib.com

About the bill

SB123 • Would prohibit schools, districts and charter schools from hiring lobbyists as independent contractors.