Tennessee report claims lobbyists have leg up on state panels
Registered lobbyists represent about one in 12 of Tennesseans on state boards and commissions—and some of those lobbyists’ clients stand to benefit from the positions, a recent report concludes.
Education lobbyists are cited in the report, called “Influence From the Inside.” It was released Oct. 24 by the Tennessee Center for Policy Research, a conservative-leaning think tank in Nashville.
Fifty-seven of the 874 people who were registered as lobbyists in the state for some or all of 2002 to 2005 were serving on state commissions in 2004, the report says. Lobbyists stand a much better chance of serving on the state panels than other citizens do, according to data in the report.
“Even more alarming is the number of lobbyists with clients likely to benefit from the decisions, recommendations, and policies made by the boards on which those lobbyists serve,” it says.
Authors of the report point to current Gov. Phil Bredesen, a Democrat, as the public official responsible for most of the lobbyists’ appointments, with 18. Former Gov. Don Sundquist, a Republican, was second on the list, with 13 lobbyist appointments.
One lobbyist for a charter schools’ group, Betty Anderson, for instance, serves on the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth, which advocates policies to improve the lives of children.
Also among those listed in the report is Judy Beasley, the president of the Tennessee Education Association since 2002, a registered lobbyist who serves on a state advisory council on teacher education and certification. Ms. Beasley, whose group is a National Education Association affiliate, said last week that she simply serves on a panel of volunteers that examines teacher licensure and academic standards. “We never address any kind of funding issue,” she said.
The union president began serving on the teacher-advisory council while on the state board from 1991 to 1997, and later was appointed to the advisory council as a voting member when her term on the state school board ended, she said.
“In my role, I am just advocating for quality public schools,” said Ms. Beasley, a former speech therapist and media specialist in the 6,300-student Murfreesboro, Tenn., city schools, 30 miles southeast of Nashville.
Vol. 25, Issue 11, Page 23