ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Hundreds of lobbyists in at least 20 states get public pensions because they represent associations of counties, cities and school boards.
Legislatures granted them access decades ago on the premise that they serve governments and the public. In many cases, such access also includes state health care benefits.
But several states have started to question whether these organizations should get such benefits, since they are private entities in most respects: They face no public oversight, can pay their top executives private-sector salaries and sometimes lobby for positions in conflict with taxpayers.
New Jersey and Illinois are among the states considering legislation that would end their inclusion.
But such groups argue that they are entitled to public pensions because they give a voice to government entities that serve taxpayers.
Opponents of hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," held a rally and lobbied Illinois legislators Tuesday. They're hoping to win support for a two-year moratorium on the practice instead of regulations that would allow it.
Fracking opponents say they were ignored during negotiations over a regulatory bill, which proponents say would give Illinois the nation's toughest regulations.
Protesters say they fear the water around their southern Illinois homes could be polluted by the practice.
Fracking uses high-pressure mixtures of water, sand or gravel and chemicals to crack rock formations to release oil and natural gas.