Sometimes there are personal ties between local governments and their lobbyists. The Yucaipa Valley Water District paid more than $110,000 to Platinum Advisors during the last two-year legislative session. One of the firm’s lobbyists, Brett Granlund, is the brother of district board member Bruce Granlund and ex-husband of another member, Lonni Granlund.

By Anthony York, Los Angeles Times
March 17, 2013, 6:36 p.m.

SACRAMENTO — Although many of California’s cities and counties have been struggling financially, putting off road repairs, cutting back library hours and reducing police patrols, there is one way in which they have not held back: hiring Sacramento lobbyists.

Local governments’ spending on advocacy in the Capitol has surged in recent years, topping $96 million during the two-year legislative session that ended last fall — an increase of nearly 50% from a decade ago.

The sum dwarfs the lobbying bills of the state’s largest labor unions, big oil companies and other energy interests combined, according to the California secretary of state’soffice. No sector spends nearly as much trying to influence government in California as government.

One reason is more than two decades of term limits. Turnover in the Capitol and in some local offices has weakened relationships between state and local officials. Many lobbyists work in Sacramento for decades, are more knowledgeable about policy details and intricate funding formulas than sitting lawmakers, and have long-standing relationships with Capitol staffers.

Another is the state budget crises of the last decade, which have taken an ever larger bite out of allocations to local governments, putting municipal and state leaders at loggerheads.

With tens of millions of local dollars going to capital insiders “at a time when cities and counties are cutting back essential services, it’s worth asking whether this spending is the best use of taxpayer money,” said Phillip Ung, a spokesman for the watchdog group California Common Cause.

Local officials say the lobbying expenses are a small price to pay to protect their share of exponentially larger state dollars. The right advocate can steer some state funds in one direction or another, and these days, a lobbyist’s blessing for a policy proposal can carry more weight in the Capitol than a legislator’s endorsement.

Lobbyists may be retained as a defensive measure against decisions made in the Capitol that could adversely affect local communities. They may be asked to help secure state contracts or bond money, or to arrange meetings with leaders of the Legislature and other top government officials.

Orange County officials credited their Sacramento lobbyists, Platinum Advisors, for arranging a meeting last summer with Assembly Speaker John Pérez (D-Los Angeles) that led to last-minute legislation restoring $48 million to the county budget.

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