Bill Would Bar Cities From Hiring Lobbyists to Seek Federal Money

Bill Would Bar Cities From Hiring Lobbyists to Seek Federal Money

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A bill planned for the 2006 Legislature would bar cities and counties from hiring lobbyists to go after federal funds.

Rep. John Dougall, R-Highland, said his bill would stop the practice of hiring lobbyists to work on earmarking federal funds for local governments' projects.

"I don't want Provo, for example, going to Congress to lobby for a road project that should be coordinated through (the Utah Department of Transportation)," he said. "My bill will say (local governments) can't spend money on federal lobbyists lobbying Congress for earmarking."

Dougall's bill would not restrict local government officials from doing their own lobbying. It would just prohibit the spending of local funds to hire professional lobbyists.

"As a state, we need to speak with one voice on federal earmarking of funds for the state," said Dougall. "We don't want everyone going their own way."

Utah's congressional delegation does not share that view.

Two weeks ago, Sens. Orrin Hatch and Bob Bennett, and Reps. Chris Cannon and Rob Bishop, all R-Utah, and Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, sent UDOT Executive Director John Njord a letter saying there is nothing wrong with local governments seeking, nor Congress earmarking, specific projects for the local entities.

"Although there is no requirement to do so, we made every effort to ensure that the vast majority of the locally significant projects and corresponding funding included (in the new, huge federal transportation funding bill) were included in (UDOT's own prioritized building program).

"Therefore, we believe these projects represent a good mix of transportation priorities from across the state," the delegation wrote.

Lincoln Shurtz, legislative analyst for the Utah League of Cities and Towns, said silencing local officials' voices in Congress may cost Utah federal cash.

"The assumption that Utah gets a lump sum of money for "earmarking" -- and that the money will come to Utah whether or not (local officials) get it earmarked (for their special project) -- is not valid," Shurtz said.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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