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Independent school districts across Minnesota spent nearly $1.5 million of taxpayer funding to lobby state legislators and agencies in 2018, according to the latest report on local government lobbying expenditures from the Office of the State Auditor. Overall, local government entities spent $8.7 million on lobbying state lawmakers in 2018, down slightly due to a shorter legislative session than in 2017.
An American Experiment analysis found that 244 of the state’s 336 school districts, nearly three in four, dedicated a total of $1,441,726 to hiring lobbyists to advocate for increased public funding and policy issues last year at the State Capitol.
Two metro school districts, St. Paul ($104,734) and Minneapolis ($90,097), spent the most taxpayer funds on lobbying by employing a full-time staff lobbyist in addition to contracting with outside lobbying firms.
“We understand why schools and local government wants boots on the ground at the Capitol,” said Kim Crockett, American Experiment vice president and senior policy fellow. “That said, it is a troubling idea that local units of government can spend taxpayer money, largely unregulated, to lobby state officials on spending and policy matters. This is government lobbying government.”
The vast majority of school districts paid local government associations that specialize in education to lobby on their behalf. As a result, local government associations catering to public school districts received more taxpayer-funded lobbying expenditures than all but two local government associations at the legislature. The Minnesota Schools Boards Association ($417,494), Association of Metropolitan School Districts ($324,328), Minnesota Rural Education Association ($215,565) and Schools for Equity in Education ($214,894) were surpassed only by the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities ($777,695) and League of Minnesota Cities ($705,858) among associations in scooping up taxpayer funds to lobby the state government.
The auditor’s report noted that Education Minnesota’s lobbying expenditures were excluded from the report because “the association does not directly represent school districts or school district management personnel.”