By JOE GIDDENS
Pima Community College has entered into a three-year contract with the lobbying firm of Bracy Tucker Brown and Valanzano for an annual sum of $84,000. The cost is a flat monthly retainer of $7,000 for the services of a six-person team at BTBV.
“PCC has used contract lobbyists for a number of years, in addition to registering internal lobbyists on the state level,” said Libby Howell, Pima’s executive director/media, community, & government relation, by email.
The firm has a longstanding connection to the local community representing the City of Tucson in Washington, D.C. Founding partner Terrence Bracy started his career working for former Congressman Mo Udall and was a contributor to the Arizona Daily Star.
“We consider ourselves to be fortunate to have to spend a lot of time getting to know the Tucson community,” said Vice President Tracy Tucker. “And work on projects in Tucson that have been instrumental to a lot of change that’s going on in the community. We’ve been involved in practically every project that’s come through in terms of funding, in the downtown and the transportation system. Starting with the Fox Theatre.”
The firm has worked with a list of Arizona legislators in their previous representation efforts with the City of Tucson, including Senators Jeff Flake and John McCain, Representatives Martha McSally, Raul Grijalva and the entire Arizona congressional delegation.
The next step will be to formulate a federal agenda for Pima, by meeting with Chancellor Lee Lambert. The issues identified will then be advanced by the firm toward Congress and the federal agencies, chief among them, the Department of Education.
One of the key issues already identified is workforce development. Last June, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to “expand apprenticeships and improve job-training programs.” This will move funds from existing labor training programs to apprenticeship grants targeting community colleges and high schools.
The Trump administration has proposed cuts to the Department of Labor’s budget for 2019 by $1.1 billion, possibly making it more competitive for such funds to find their way to Pima.
“Congress is looking at the operation of the Higher Education Act, The Perkins Act, a number of different bills that will have a direct impact on Pima Community College,” Tucker said.
The Higher Education Act was first signed in 1965 and has been reauthorized multiple times. Prior to each re-authorization, it has been amended. The law covers the entire student loan system at the federal level. Changes being discussed currently include ending loan forgiveness for public servants and changes to loans limiting the amount graduate students can take out. Changes that have bipartisan support include simplifying the application process for federal student aid.
The Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act was first authorized in 1984 and reauthorized in 2006, with the goal of increasing technical education. It’s the main federal funding source for states to improve career and technical education, though students are not eligible to directly receive its funds.
During its last reauthorization it was passed nearly unanimously. However, its funding to states has been steadily declining by 13 percent over the last decade.
A lobbyist on these two issues would approach members of Congress and sell an idea or position on what changes to make to their reauthorization.
“It’s the persistence as well as some creative thinking and strategic thinking that allows for one going to be successful in lobbying in Washington,” Tucker said. “There’s always folks who might have different agendas within the committees in Congress. They might want to a program cut as opposed to grow. The landmine might be just knowing where that committee chair … is coming from and then being able to work around that to move the issue forward.”
It’s not uncommon for colleges to hire lobbyists. The Wall Street Journal reported that higher education is second only to drug companies in hiring their services, but that figure includes both public and for-profit institutions.
“So much is competing for attention. You know for from federal officials, members of Congress. And there is a language and a protocol that is just unique to Washington, D.C. and federal lobbyists can help their clients navigate that federal language the protocol as well as the infrastructure of Washington D.C.,” Tucker said.
“I just want to reiterate the honor to have been selected and that this is a wonderful opportunity for Pima Community College … We’re thrilled to get started and can’t wait to start the work,” Tucker said.