Republican Sen. Jake Chapman had a basic philosophy in discussion Senate Study Bill 1229 — public entities should not spend public dollars to lobby against the public.
“The fact we have taxpayer dollars being spent on lobbyists to lobby against the taxpayer is a sham,” Chapman said. “I’m sick and tired of seeing these different taxpayer funded lobbyists doing what they think is in the best interest of the client that hired them but failing to recognize who is paying their bill. That is the everyday Iowan.”
Chapman recommended replacing those taxpayer funded lobbyists with liaisons. He left no doubt as to the intention of the bill.
“The point of this bill is to eliminate taxpayer funded lobbyists,” Chapman said.
Robert Palmer of the Iowa League of Cities expressed concern with the bill, wondering if it would remove the voice the cities have to communicate with legislators about the impacts of legislation and how decisions are made and how those decisions will impact the local level.
Many other lobbyists who lobby on behalf of governmental entities were there, but were just monitoring the legislation.
Drew Klein of Americans for Prosperity said his group favors the bill.
“As far as I can tell this legislation still allows the cities to act as a resources to be able to answer questions that you guys have,” Klein said. “Certainly any time we can avoid spending tax dollars to lobby for spending more of our tax dollars, that’s something we can get behind.”
Pete McRoberts of the ACLU said his group likes the bill.
“As you know, a lot of our work goes to protect the rights of people to associate with their own choice and this also includes the right to disassociate,” he said.
The bill is limited in scope, he said, which is a positive. He recommended that cities should not only be prohibited from hiring employees to lobby during most of their work time, but suggested including language to prevent them from contracting as well.
Iowans for Tax Relief is registered for the bill as well. Victoria Sinclair thanked Sen. Chapman for bringing the bill forward.
“It’s common sense taxpayer protection,” she said. “We shouldn’t be employing lobbyists with taxpayer dollars to advocate for the expenditure of more taxpayer dollars.”
A member of the Iowa Hospital Association voiced concern as to whether public hospitals would be included in the bill.
Jim Henter of the Iowa Retail Federation said he supports the bill strongly.
“I would tell you I’m kind of tired of fighting against cities and counties when they are fighting us on ordinances, fighting us on zoning issues,” he said. “And what a date for this…we have going on today the Des Moines and Dallas County money grab again.”
Megan Tooker of the Iowa Campaign Ethics and Disclosure Board said she’s registered undecided, but had plenty of questions with the legislation.
Democrat Sen. Pam Jochum asked for a definition of primarily representing. It seemed the definition would be spending more than 50 percent of someone’s time lobbying.
Republican Sen. Roby Smith said he’d like to invite 100 Iowans randomly to the Capitol and ask if they realize their tax dollars are spent in such a way.
“(Are) they aware that taxpayer money is being used to hire people to come down here to in essence lobby against the taxpayer,” he pondered.
Chapman echoed the ACLU’s concern that taxpayers aren’t allowed to disassociate with the activity.
“If I’m a member of the NRA, I can quit paying dues,” Chapman said. “This again is taxpayer money.”
At the end of the discussion, Chapman said it isn’t a complex issue.
“The fundamental question that 50 senators and 100 house members and the governor have to debate and decide is should taxpayer money go to lobbyists,” he said.