TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senators Stephen M. Sweeney and Joseph V. Doria which would prohibit school districts from hiring registered lobbyists was approved by the Senate Education Committee today by a vote of 3-0.
“With New Jersey’s soaring property taxes, parents want to know their tax dollars are being spent on educating their children, not greasing the wheels of government,” said Senator Sweeney, D-Gloucester, Cumberland and Salem. “For one level of government to hire a private firm to influence another level of government seems ridiculous, particularly when funds are tight, and schools have built-in advocates in their legislative representatives. Education funding should be going to the classroom, and not into the pockets of a well-connected lobbyist.”
The bill, S-2062, would expressly prohibit any board of education from expending funds to hire a registered governmental affairs agent in the State of New Jersey. School boards which violate the provisions of the bill would be subject to a penalty to be determined by the Commissioner of Education at a later date. The bill specifically exempts dues paid to the New Jersey School Boards Association, the advocacy group which represents all of the State’s school boards, as well as other non-profit educational advocacy groups, and any expenses paid to a government affairs agent solely for the purpose of a grant proposal or an application for grant funding.
“Through this bill, we’ve made some reasonable exceptions, but the message is clear – school boards have no business hiring lobbyists,” said Senator Doria, D-Hudson, a member of the Education panel. “Taxpayers in the Garden State are being crushed by the property tax burden, and we need to account for every cent of public money being spent. To divert needed education funds into lobbying the State for more needed education funds is absurd, and the practice should be banned.”
The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.