Regents leave lobbying to university, Davies

Story by Kayla HarrellNews Editor and Alicia Steele, Staff writer



President Bob Davies is working against Gov. Matt Bevin’s proposed budget cuts while the Board of Regents leaves personal lobbying for Murray State in his hands. “We are basically leaving it up to the president,” said Harry Waterfield II, Board of Regents chairman, during last week’s quarterly meeting.

Waterfield said Davies is in Frankfort, Kentucky, weekly to discuss the budget cuts, and the staff is working on talking to senators, representatives and members of the administration.

Last Thursday, Davies joined other public university presidents to meet with House Democratic leaders and make their case against cuts. The week before, he testified before the House Budget Review Subcommittee on Postsecondary Education about how the governor’s proposed budget could harm Murray State. Davies’ lobbying also fell on the same day as the March for Education, an event held for all Kentucky universities to join in protesting against Bevin’s budget cuts to higher education.

The Board of Regents plans to send individual letters to their senators; however, these letters will read the same, just with different signatures at the bottom.

“Those pre-printed mass mailings with identical language is not nearly as effective as an individually-prepared document,” said Ken Winters, former Republican state senator from Murray.

More than half of the regents have been involved in the political process in Frankfort.

Six of the 11 regents donated money to state legislators, candidates for governor and legislators’ campaign committees over the last thirteen years, according to The Murray State News’ review of Kentucky Campaign Finance Records. 

The donations show the regents collectively have given to both Democrats who control the state House and Republicans who are the majority in the Kentucky Senate. 

Three regents, Waterfield, Stephen A. Williams and Susan Shaffer Guess, spread their donations between politicians of both parties. Three others – Jerry P. Rhoads, J. Daniel Kemp and Jenny Lynn Sewell – donated to only Democratic campaigns.

“If the same trustee or regent is giving to both, then you have to question the motive of it,” Winters said.

Winters said it is more likely they will give a contribution to the person they think more clearly represents their thinking.

Rhoads, who retired from the state Senate in 2014, worked with many of the lawmakers who remain in the General Assembly and are crafting the next two-year budget for Kentucky.

Winters said the relationships Rhoads would have developed over the years in Frankfort should have established a good reputation for him and friendships, which could help with potential lobbying efforts.

“Know that everything you do and I do is to complement the experience that all of the students here and across the state are receiving,” Winters said.

During Tuesday’s Faculty Senate meeting, Faculty Regent Marty Jacobs said the Board of Regents will hold a special meeting in May to discuss the tuition model.