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‘Snooki bill’ seeks to cap speaker fees to protect students from dumbed down, yet expensive lectures

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A 2011 guest speaking appearance by “Jersey Shore” star Snooki angered so many people that a new bill is being proposed to prevent a repeat.

Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi was paid $32,000 to speak at Rutgers University and, even though she was one of the biggest stars of the popular MTV reality series, many felt it was an exorbitant amount of public funds to spend on a speaker.

A New Jersey measure, dubbed the “Snooki bill” is seeking to cap speaker fees at public schools to $10,000, according to LawNewz. The bill’s sponsor, GOP Assemblyman John DiMaio, has spent seven years battling to get the bill through. It passed the State Assembly on Thursday and a signature from Governor Chris Christie will make it law.

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DiMaio has been fueled by the desire to cap speaking fees since the 2011 appearance by Polizzi which topped even what that year’s commencement speaker, Toni Morrison, received.

Former President Obama, who spoke at the university’s commencement ceremony last year, did not charge a speaking fee though the school spent nearly $1.43 million on the ceremony.

“When somebody gets paid $32,000 to say ‘Work hard and party harder,’ it gives one pause,” DiMaio told NJ.com. “This is a message to all the state universities: Be prudent about who you’re inviting.”

The “Jersey Shore” actress, who is not even from New Jersey, was brought in by a student committee and made two appearances in one night. She reportedly taught students how to fist-bump and gave lessons on hair styling.

“Rutgers does not use state funds to pay speakers for University Commencement,” Rutgers spokeswoman Karen Smith told LawNewz.  “Those speakers are offered an honorarium funded by revenues generated by our beverage contract with Coca-Cola. Student organizations routinely invite speakers to campus and compensate those speakers using student fees.”

DiMaio believes it’s up to students to raise funds themselves if they want to bring in more expensive speakers.

“They can go out and solicit private dollars,” DiMaio told NJ.com. “And they should be finding private dollars. Any expense you add, adds to the pile and is ‘death by a thousand cuts’ with regard to costs. Kids are leaving with mountains of debt and we need to be absolutely prudent.”

DiMaio was confident that Christie, who has been vocal in his disdain for the “Jersey Shore” series, will go ahead and sign the “Snooki bill.”

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“Why wouldn’t he?” DiMaio asked.  “It’s commonsense, dollars and cents savings.”

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Frieda Powers

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