The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, 1/20/9

Legislation was filed in the Senate on Monday to limit state agencies’ use of taxpayer funds to hire contract lobbyists.

The bill was filed in response to a legislative study that indicated various state agencies, including some universities and community colleges, spent almost $2 million in the last four years to contract with private lobbyists to try to influence the Legislature.

“We believe Mississippians will benefit greatly from this bill by making government more transparent and eliminating wasteful spending,” said Senate Ethics Committee Chairman Merle Flowers, R-Olive Branch.

Under the legislation, no state general funds could be used to hire a lobbyist. It would not prevent a university from using privately raised foundation funds to contract with a lobbyist; neither would it prevent an agency from using special funds to do the same.

General funds are those generated from various taxes, such as sales, income, corporate and casino gambling. Special funds agencies are those supported by a specific fee or tax, such as a fee on barbers to fund the agency that regulates them.

The biggest special fund agency is probably the Mississippi Department of Transportation, which is funded primarily through a motor fuel tax.