A bill in the Minnesota legislature that would ban local governments from hiring lobbyists runs the risk of cutting rural Minnesota's voice out of state government, making it even more difficult for the outstate area to get a fair shake at the Capitol.
The bill would ban any city, county, town, school district or other public subdivision of the state from spending money on lobbyists. The bill says governments can pay dues to an association representing local governments if no more than a certain percentage of the dues are used for lobbying. If that percentage is set low, organizations like the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities would be squeezed out.
It may be sensible that local cities and other governments shouldn't be spending taxpayer money on lobbyists, but if the bill pinches long-established groups like the coalition, which give rural areas a much-needed voice in St. Paul, then it's gone too far.
Twin Cities-area local governments can easily send representatives to the Capitol to make a case, but that's not always true with rural Minnesota, where elected representatives often have other jobs and would face a long drive to St. Paul. These governments rely on advocacy organizations to help them get their message out.
If legislators pass the bill, they must be sure to set the restriction on associations to a sensible level that will allow cities, counties and school districts to belong to organizations that work on their behalf.
-- The Albert Lea Tribune
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