Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Jacksonville Will Do Own Lobbying Now; the City Will Rely on Associations, Legislators, but Will That Be Enough?

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Jacksonville Will Do Own Lobbying Now; the City Will Rely on Associations, Legislators, but Will That Be Enough?

Article excerpt

Byline: MATT DIXON

Since 2007, Jacksonville has spent $1.6 million on state lobbying contracts. According to city records and lobbying reports, the lobbyists helped bring home more than $23 million in state funding for local projects.

Now, to save $430,000 annually during tough fiscal times, the city has decided to drop its state lobbyists and rely solely on statewide organizations and local legislators. The city is keeping its $227,862 federal lobbying contract with Washington-based firm Patton Boggs LLC.

To secure money for state projects, there will be a heavier reliance on area lawmakers, the lobbying might of organizations like the Florida Association of Counties and Florida League of Cities, and city officials - including Mayor John Peyton - traveling to Tallahassee to lobby state lawmakers, according to Peyton spokeswoman Misty Skipper.

That new strategy, however, means that two of the city's three vehicles for securing state cash for projects are associations that have many members and a delegation that has seen state cash for area projects slashed on its watch.

In May, a Times-Union analysis found that the Northeast Florida's legislators brought home about $110 million less for member projects over the past five years than they did during the first half of the decade. That falloff was despite the fact that $200 million more was available for those projects during the second half of the decade, according to state budget documents.

In addition, highlighting the shortcomings of relying on statewide organizations, a spokeswoman for the Association of Counties said its priorities are driven by the needs of all its members, and it may not use resources on wish-list items for individual counties.

"It depends on the issue. But on stuff that ultimately may be good for one county and bad for another, we stay out," said Cragin Mosteller with the Association of Counties.

Mosteller did say that one of the biggest issues the association will work on is the "taxpayer bill of rights." This is a proposed constitutional amendment that would, among other things, require voter approval of new taxes and fees. …

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