Former state Rep. Roger Kane is lobbying state legislators despite a state prohibition against doing so within 12 months after leaving office. Kane served three two-year terms in the state House, representing District 89 (the Karns area) of Knox County. His term ended with the election of Rep. Justin Lafferty on Nov. 6, 2018.
Kane ran for Knox County Clerk in the August Republican Primary but was defeated by Sherry Witt. He was then hired by newly elected Mayor Glenn Jacobs for an $80,000-a-year post as “educational liaison,” a job Jacobs created. Read Betty Bean’s story here.
Kane initially said he would be lobbying Nashville on behalf of Knox County, then he amended that to acknowledge the so-called revolving door statute (Tenn. Code Ann. § 3-6-304).
Yet, in an email dated 1/25/19 to members of the Knox County Board of Education, Kane wrote: “I have reviewed your legislative agenda and wanted to know if you are aware of a specific piece of legislation you think the district needs that I need to find a member to carry.
“I have a member carrying a bill to improve the percent in BEP formula in the area of CTE funding. I also have a member who is working on the licensing of CTE instructors to make that program more equitable and efficient. I have a bill on retainer about signs on school property that violates TCA code 54-21-104. (I can talk to each of you if you need an explanation on that one.) Now is the time to find a member because bill cut-off will be the second week in February and the member has to have it drafted. I serve you so I need your ideas. Have a great weekend.”
Tennessee law defines a lobbyist as “any person who engages in lobbying for compensation.” (Tenn. Code Ann. § 3-6-301.) And to lobby means “to communicate, directly or indirectly, with any official in the legislative branch or executive branch for the purpose of influencing any legislative action or administrative action.” (Tenn. Code Ann. § 3-6-301.)
Legislators earn $22,667 per year plus per diem and mileage. Educational liaisons for Knox County earn $80,000 and can still hobnob in Nashville under the guise of lobbying. Except the law requires them to sit out for one year.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, “Revolving door is a phrase that describes the practice of legislators leaving public service and heading immediately for lobbying positions. Ethics laws in all but nine states limit this practice by setting mandatory waiting periods before a legislator may register as a lobbyist or engage in lobbying activities.”
The law is clear, and Kane is in violation. What’s not clear is why Jacobs created this position (was it to lobby Nashville?) and then hired Roger Kane. If he’d also hired Harry Brooks, Jacobs would have landed the only two guys in town legally barred from lobbying for a year. And at least Brooks, who served on the school board and chaired the House Education Committee, would know something about education.