Nevada County hires lobbyist to keep funds flowing | SierraSun.com

Nevada County hires lobbyist to keep funds flowing

Dave Moller
Sun News Service

GRASS VALLEY ” The Nevada County board of supervisors agreed Tuesday to hire a Sacramento lobbyist to help keep state money flowing into the area for key programs and projects.

The decision comes as state government has cut funding to counties to balance its budget. Nevada County experienced some cutbacks this year, and the prospect of a $5 billion state budget deficit next year has raised concern about deeper cutbacks in the future.

“It’s a tough row to hoe down in Sacramento without some representation,” said Supervisor Ted Owens of Truckee, before voting unanimously with the four other board members to hire the lobbyists for $36,000 per year.

The county has hired Paul Yoder of Shaw/Yoder Inc., along with Peterson Consulting, bringing six lobbyists to bear.

The county hired the lobbyists earlier this year for $24,000, but solely to seek relief in Sacramento from soaring wastewater treatment plant costs. Under the new agreement, the lobbyists will monitor all bills that might affect the county, work with state legislators on county matters, attend meetings in the county interest and provide regular reports, among other duties.

“We don’t just lobby the Legislature,” Yoder said. “We lobby the bureaucracies and the administration.”

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Yoder said the two firms work together.

Nearly two years ago, a staffer for Congressman John Doolittle (R-Roseville) suggested Nevada County hire a lobbyist to land money for a long-stalled interchange on the Golden Center Freeway. The comments distressed some residents because of Doolittle’s previous ties to a now-jailed lobbyist ” dealings that remain under federal investigation.

Owens has discussed the possibility of a Sacramento-based lobbyist several times at board meetings. Earlier this year, the supervisors also had placed the hiring of a lobbyist on a priority list.

“I brought this idea to Truckee Town Council when I was mayor, and I brought this to the board the first week I was on the board of supervisors,” Owens said in an interview Wednesday.

He said Truckee’s use of a lobbyist has proven a success for the town.

“It’s been controversial in the western county, but Truckee’s advocate has been worth his weight in gold, Owens said. “I believe this will close the gap on success with the state with Truckee.”

Lobbying for money to widen Highway 49 from the south county to Grass Valley should be a priority, according to Supervisor Sue Horne, calling it a “huge issue.”

“There will be a benefit to this,” said board Chairman John Spencer. “Right now, all we can do is mail a letter” to gain influence in Sacramento.

The county’s contacts with the lobbyists will be handled by assistant county CEO Laura Matteson to keep a tight reign on requests and information flow, according to county CEO Rick Haffey.

Placer County has employed lobbyists for 15 years, Mary Herdegen, legislative coordinator for Placer County, told the Sun Wednesday.

“In our minds it has been very beneficial in assisting the county, whether it’s for needed legislation or budget discussions,” she said.