High-profile lobbyists want to represent Fayette schools in Frankfort

From left, Bob Babbage, Jonathan Miller and Phil Osborne.
From left, Bob Babbage, Jonathan Miller and Phil Osborne. Photo provided

Former state auditor Bob Babbage, former state treasurer Jonathan Miller and political consultant Phil Osborne all asked the Fayette County Public Schools board on Monday for yearlong contracts that would let their lobbying firms represent the district in the 2017 General Assembly.

Superintendent Manny Caulk said the district serves more than 42,000 students, employs roughly 6,000 people and manages a $468.8 million budget, and it’s important that school district leaders’ views are effectively shared with legislators.

Board members didn’t vote Monday to select a firm. They plan to do that at a special called meeting at 5:30 p.m. Thursday and start working to develop a legislative agenda, district spokeswoman Lisa Deffendall said. The General Assembly met last week and will resume in February.

Babbage has a firm called Babbage Cofounder. His staff includes Lexington businessman Alan Stein, who chaired the most recent Fayette school redistricting committee and was at Monday’s meeting.

Babbage said House Bill 103, charter school legislation, and Senate Bill 1, a wide-ranging bill that makes various changes to the state education system, will be part of the focus.

Babbage proposed a fee of $5,000 a month, according to his written proposal.

Miller’s firm, CivicPoint LLC, includes Russell Coleman, former general counsel to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell; Steve Robertson, former Kentucky Republican Party chairman; and Brooke Parker, a lobbyist for Gov. Steve Beshear’s administration, his written presentation said. CivicPoint is a subsidiary of the law firm Frost Brown Todd.

Miller, who also has been Finance Cabinet secretary, and the other lobbyists spoke at the board meeting not only about their passion for education but about their firm’s expertise in educational policy.

The cost of Miller’s contract would be a monthly fee of $6,500, documents said.

Osborne is president of Osborne & Associates, a Lexington consulting firm. He and the other lobbyists provided proposals of several dozen pages. Osborne said a monitoring system would be established so “no issues, regulations, news or legislation takes (Fayette County Public Schools) by surprise.”

He proposed an initial contract amount of $30,000.

Board chairwoman, vice-chairman elected

In other action, the board unanimously re-elected Melissa Bacon as its chairwoman and elected member Ray Daniels as vice-chairman. The posts are for two years.

Bacon, who studied English at the University of Kentucky, was appointed to the board in 2006 and elected in 2007, 2008, 2012 and 2016. She represents District 1, which encompasses portions that include west Fayette County, between Leestown Road and Harrodsburg Road from inside New Circle Road to the county line.

Daniels, the owner of the Waffle House restaurant franchise in Fayette County, was appointed to the board in 2016 and was elected to a four-year term in November. He represents District 3, which encompasses portions that include eastern Fayette County between Winchester Road and Richmond Road out to the county line.

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: 859-231-3409, @vhspears