At its regular meeting on Tuesday, the Baldwin County Commission shelled out $85,000 to a pair of lobbying firms to represent its interests in Montgomery and Washington, D.C. next year.
The county will pay Adams and Reese LLP $54,000 and Christie Strategy Group $31,500 for lobbying related to economic development and infrastructure improvements from Jan. 1, 2016 until Sept. 30, 2016. The appropriations were approved with a pair of 3-1 votes, with Commissioner Frank Burt the lone “no” vote each time.
Commission Chairman Tucker Dorsey said the county needs adequate representation at the state and federal level because of the amount of road and infrastructure projects that rely on state and federal grants.
“Our transportation issues rely solely on the state getting the job done,” Dorsey said. “This is how the game is played right now, and we need to have representation in Montgomery right now. I think we have to make our presence as strong as possible in both D.C. and Montgomery.”
Burt said he opposed the measures because he does not want to spend taxpayer dollars for lobbyists, whom he said the public has become wary of in recent years. He also objected to the amount of money spent, saying the county already pays the Baldwin County Economic Development Alliance to seek out new businesses in the area.
The commission included a $350,000 payment to the BCEDA in its 2016 fiscal year budget for economic development purposes.
“Right now I believe many people across the nation and in Baldwin County are opposed to and tired of the lobbyists getting more say in what’s happening with elected representatives than the people who elected them,’ Burt said. “That’s not the way our forefathers intended this nation or our state to be run.”
Burt also said he and the commissioners have easy access to the Baldwin County legislative delegation without paying a lobbyist.
“I don’t understand why we need additional lobbying in Montgomery,” he said. “We certainly already have access to our elected representatives.”
The commission debated the issue at a work session in October. In a letter from Adams and Reese partner Britton C. Bonner, the firm says Bonner and team members Mark Gaines, Michael Berson, Stacey Harvie and Rusty Russell would work to develop integration and a continuous flow of information between the commission and representatives at the state and federal level in addition to working with the BCEDA and the State Department of Commerce.
A similar letter from Christie Strategy Group tells the commission the firm will help the county at the state level to develop a comprehensive plan for transportation that would include an extension of the Baldwin Beach Express from Interstate 10 to Interstate 65 and other infrastructure improvements.
Christie’s letter also indicated the firm would assist the county with the BP Oil Spill process and the numerous funding streams that have resulted from ongoing recovery efforts.
Christie’s services will be provided by its president, Martin W. Christie, and other members of the firm as needed.