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Kavanagh bill targets ASBA’s district fees, politicking

Rep. John Kavanagh (File Photo)

Rep. John Kavanagh (File Photo)

An influential Republican lawmaker who backed a ballot measure to sweep hundreds of millions of dollars from a childhood development agency has a message for an education group that opposed the effort: You don’t kick a hornet’s nest without risking a sting.

Rep. John Kavanagh of Fountain Hills has introduced a bill to prohibit school districts from paying membership fees to any organization that tries to influence elections. The bill, H2002, was among 15 measures that have been filed in anticipation of the 2011 legislative session, which will begin Jan. 10.

Kavanagh’s bill was targeted at the Arizona School Boards Association (ASBA), which collects membership fees from school districts and uses some of the money to advocate for or against ballot measures. ASBA is the only education association in the state that is allowed by law to collect fees from school districts.

This year, ASBA spent $50,000 to defeat Proposition 302, which would have diverted more than $300 million from an early childhood development agency called First Things First.

Kavanagh, who serves as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, was among Republicans who voted during the past legislative session to put the measure on the ballot.

“Taxpayer dollars should never be used to influence an election, any election, and if they want to maintain a relationship with the school districts, then they need to prohibit such actions from happening in the future,” Kavanagh said.

ASBA lobbyist Janice Palmer said the bill is a “disappointment,” especially because the group prides itself on being nonpartisan and representing the views of all its member districts.

“I feel like our organization epitomizes the belief that education is not partisan, which makes this bill even more frustrating,” she said.

Arizona voters rejected Prop. 302 on Nov. 2 by a margin of 70 percent to 30 percent.

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