As a famous reporter used to say, “and now for the rest of the story.” The recent story in last Tuesday’s Roundup reporting on the successful lobbying on the part of Gila Community College lobbyists was basically factual, but not correct. Acting on behalf of GCC is the point in question.
Senator Sylvia Allen began a year-long process to achieve GCC independence that culminated with the legislative process. “Our” lobbyists were instrumental in orchestrating a compromise with the other community colleges which resulted in a loss of $6.2 million per year for GCC.
When the desire for independence was adequately conveyed to Senator Allen, she put together a Senate Task Force to develop a way for this to become a reality. She appointed two committees, one for legislation headed by myself and one for accreditation headed by Dr. Cullen, dean of GCC. Throughout the fall, the legislative committee developed concepts and language to best allow GCC to become independent. These were turned into two bills, SB 1213 and SB 1217.
Both bills cleared the Senate but the $6 million called Equalization Aid was not included. It could not make it through the Legislature with the Equalization included, so Senator Allen removed it from the bill. When the bills moved over to the House they ran into a block. The community colleges did not want to give up any of “their” workforce funds and Sen. Allen had to promise to amend the bill before the House Higher Education Committee would vote it out of committee.
She and I worked on language that would satisfy the colleges and yet provide as much funding as GCC could get. The language basically would allow GCC to directly receive the $81,000 workforce funds as soon as they became independent. The proposal also would allow GCC to receive the $200,000 workforce funds as soon as they were able to accredit their own courses.
Normally, one would expect their lobbyists to push the language presented to them. Triadvocates instead supported language from the community colleges’ lobbyists which eliminated the $200,000 all together and sent the $81,000 to Eastern Arizona College “for the benefit of GCC.” This is not what Sen. Allen agreed to nor does it comply with their contract with GCC. The contract states Triadvocates would “Work to defeat any legislation that will have a negative impact on GCC or the funding thereof.”
As was reported in the Roundup, at the end of the legislative session, Sen. Allen stated legislatures lose control when the lobbyists get a hold of the bill. They work with one another to satisfy everyone’s wishes but not necessarily push the intent of the original bill. In this case Triadvocates told me straight out my wording would not fly and they were instead going to present to the House the language the lobbying group developed.
In the final analysis, Sen. Allen did not amend the bills to give up the workforce funds but rather to receive it as GCC moved forward. Triadvocates did not push her language. The senator’s exact language benefiting GCC never reached the floor of the House.
“And now you know the rest of the story.”