Lobbying Reform Advances In House
Late last week the House overwhelmingly approved legislation that would close a loophole that currently allows lobbyists to spend money on trips, meals and gifts for legislators without disclosing it as long as no specific legislation is discussed. House Majority Leader Joe Hackney (D-Orange), who introduced a lobbying reform bill in the House earlier this session (House Bill 6), offered a committee substitute to Senate Bill 612, which has already passed the Senate. The new version of the reform bill would require lobbyists and their principals to report any expenditure over $10. The disclosure reports would have to be filed monthly for legislative lobbyists while the General Assembly is in session and quarterly at other times. By a vote of 52-51, the House trimmed the time period that former lawmakers would have to wait before lobbying the legislative or executive branch of government until 60 days after they leave office instead of the proposed one year following the conclusion of the member’s term. The bill now returns to the Senate, which has already passed a lobbying bill that capped spending on individual legislators at $100 annually, but was less strict when it came to reporting and disclosure and included several broad exceptions, which could present additional problems in the future. Advocates for lobbying reform are encouraging the Senate to approve the stronger disclosure bill, which passed the House. The bill has been stalled by concerns raised by the Department of Commerce with regard to the bill’s impact on business recruitment efforts. Advocates are pushing hard for a resolution before the General Assembly adjourns.