School board may require lobbyists to register, disclose activities

School Board members Frank Barbieri, Marcia Andrews and Debra Robinson (File photo/Thomas Cordy/The Palm Beach Post)
School Board members Frank Barbieri, Marcia Andrews and Debra Robinson (File photo)

People who try to win business or influence policy decisions at the Palm Beach County School District would have to register as lobbyists under a proposed new rule.

Lobbyists would have to disclose any companies that they work for, as well as any professional or personal ties to school district employees. They would also have to reveal their lobbying activities and expenses.

School district administrators say they are proposing the new policy as a way to “ensure that the public has full knowledge of who is attempting to influence the decisions that affect School Board policy.”

The move comes amid a heavy lobbying campaign by the Cultural Council of Palm Beach County, which has been pushing school board members to allow millions of dollars in prospective sales tax revenue to be redirected from schools to private museums and cultural centers.

Officials are also bracing for a lobbying push by the county’s charter schools, which are expected to fight for a piece of any sales tax revenue raised if a tax increase is approved this year.

But School Board Chairman Chuck Shaw said the proposal has been in the works for more than a year,  part of an effort to create the same transparency already in place for lobbying in county and city governments.

“The important thing is that we know and that people have identified themselves as lobbyists,” Shaw said. “Sometimes people talk to us and you’re not sure where they’re coming from.”

The policy carves out exemptions for union officials, school-affiliated parent groups, such as PTAs, and company sales representatives.

School board members are expected to discuss the proposed new policy on Wednesday, although no formal vote is planned.

The county government and the county’s 38 cities already require lobbyists to register.

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