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Legislation We Are Tracking
At any given time, more than 1,000 legislative bills, which can affect how you do business as a government affairs professional, are being discussed in federal, state, and local jurisdictions. These bills are summarized in the State and Federal Communications’ digital encyclopedias for lobbying laws, political contributions, and procurement lobbying, and can be found in the client portion of the State and Federal Communications' website.
Summaries of major bills are also included in monthly e-mail updates sent to all clients. The chart below shows the number of bills we are tracking in regards to lobbying laws, political contributions, and procurement lobbying.
Providence, Rhode Island Passes New Lobbying Law
Four years in the making, the Providence City Council passed a lobbyist registration and reporting ordinance this year. First introduced in 2007, the new law delineates who is considered a lobbyist, what activity is considered lobbying, and the various registration and reporting requirements persons who lobby city officials and employees must follow.
The ordinance defines "lobbyist" as an appointed representative seeking to influence municipal decisions. Exempted from the definition are those who are unpaid and represent non-profit organizations, news media employees, and attorneys representing clients before municipal bodies. Grassroots lobbying activity falls under the umbrella of the new law. Lobbying on a contingency fee basis is prohibited.
Lobbyists must register with the city clerk prior to their first lobbying activity. Employers are not required to register. Each lobbyist must pay an annual registration fee of $150. Lobbyists employed by non-profit entities with operating budgets of less than $250,000 are required to pay a $25 fee.
An identification badge is issued to each lobbyist. The badge will include the word "Lobbyist" in bold print, a photograph of the lobbyist, and the names of the clients the lobbyist represents. The ordinance requires the lobbyist to conspicuously display this identification badge while in city hall or city offices at all times of the day.
Employers, while not required to register, are required to file with the city clerk, along with lobbyists, quarterly reports of activity, and expenditures. The lobbyist’s salary related to lobbying activity, the subjects of concern lobbied, expenditures of $25 or more, and the city officials contacted must be reported. There is also a final report due in January which must detail all money or things of value given or promised, in the prior calendar year, to a city official or employee which in the aggregate exceeds $250. A copy of the report must also be submitted to the Rhode Island Ethics Commission and to the named city official or employee.
Violations of the ordinance could subject the lobbyist or employer to fines of $250 per day per incident up to $25,000. Other penalties may include a prohibition on lobbying activity.
Summary of Changes UPDATE
IOWA: Governor Terry Branstad signed House File 126 into law on Tuesday, April 28, 2011. This law, taking effect on July 1, 2011, requires lobbyist registration and reporting only with the legislative branch. This bill changes Iowa’s law to require lobbyists to register and report with the legislative branch only; currently there is separate registration and reporting for the legislative and executive branches. Lobbyists will indicate on the registrations whether they will lobby executive officials in addition to lawmakers. Lobbyists will have a combined annual report due each July 31 and registration will open in December for the following calendar year.
TENNESSEE: Governor Haslam has signed into law Senate Bill 1227, which revises the filing dates for lobbyist employer disclosure reports. The bill requires that employer disclosure reports be filed within 45 days of June 30 and December 31. The new law takes effect July 1, 2011, with the first employer disclosure report under the new law covering the time period from April 1, 2011 to December 31, 2011, having a filing deadline of February 14, 2012.
WEST VIRGINIA: Acting Governor Tomblin signed House Bill 2464 into law late last week. This ethics bill, which takes effect on July 1, 2011, prohibits members of the state legislature, elected executive branch officials, agency heads, and certain other appointed officials from acting as lobbyists for one year after leaving office. Additionally, this legislation will require a public official who files financial disclosure statements to reveal employment information and other "business interests" of his or her spouse. The spousal disclosures are designed to shine light on additional conflicts of interest an official may have even without a personal stake in a matter.
NEW MEXICO: Governor Martinez has signed Senate Bill 432 prohibiting state and local government employees who are involved in the contracting process from subsequently being employed by a contractor. The bill expands the existing Governmental Conduct Act to apply to state and local government employees involved in the procurement process. Under the new law, state agencies are barred from entering into contracts with a business represented by a person who has been an employee of the state within one year if the value of the contract is in excess of $1,000 and the contract is a direct result of an official act by the former employee. The law becomes effective July 1, 2011.
CUYAHOGA COUNTY, OHIO: The newly created county council passed a far-reaching ethics law to regulate and provide transparency in the areas of lobbying, contracting, and the conduct of public employees. This law was passed in the wake of a cascade of ethics scandals plaguing the county. The law will require lobbyists and those doing business with the county to register with the county’s inspector general and undergo ethics training. The law will also prohibit them from giving gifts or even making campaign contributions to certain county employees. The ordinance affects public officials as well; they will be prohibited from hiring family members and must file conflict of interest disclosure statements.
State and Federal Communications Expands Coverage
In a continuing effort to better serve the needs of its clients, State and Federal Communications, Inc. is expanding coverage of laws and regulations for political contributions, lobbying, and procurement lobbying to more municipalities, regional governments, and governmental organizations.
We have added three new jurisdictions for which our online clients will find comprehensive, timely, and accurate information that includes: complete calendar of reporting deadlines; critical statutory citations; extensive directories of contact information; summaries of each state law; detailed reference charts on goods and services contributions; highlights of every statute; copies of all required forms; and much more.
The new jurisdictions are:
ASK THE EXPERTS
State and Federal Communications’ Experts Answer Your Questions
Here is your chance to “Ask the Experts” at State and Federal Communications, Inc. You can directly submit questions for this feature, and we will select those most appropriate and answer them here. Send your questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org. (Of course, we have always been available to answer questions from clients that are specific to your needs, and we encourage you to continue to call or e-mail us with questions about your particular company or organization. As always, we will confidentially and directly provide answers or information you need.) Our replies to your questions are not legal advice. Instead, these replies represent our analysis of laws, rules, and regulations.
Summer is approaching and I will be attending conferences such as NCSL and ALEC. Can I pay for dinners with legislators and/or State Night events?
First and foremost, are you or your company registered to lobby in the state? Most states have more stringent gift laws applicable to lobbyists and lobbyist principals (Texas is the exception to this rule of thumb). The answer will also vary depending upon whether you are paying for a private dinner or sponsoring a State Night event. For example, taking a legislator to dinner, paying for cab fare or other transportation, or giving him a ticket to a ballgame are not considered part of the national conference agenda. Therefore, the normal gift limits will apply.
Many states have gift limit exceptions specifically carved out for expenditures at national conferences to which all members of the legislature are invited. State Night events are considered part of the conference agenda; therefore the gift limit exceptions will apply.
Although a State Night sponsorship may be permissible, it is important to determine if and when the expenditure must be disclosed. The reporting implications for such events range from simple aggregate disclosure to detailed reporting where the name of every legislator attending must be listed.
Wealth of Information at www.lobbycomply.com
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Join the conversation, and make use of this valuable information resource.
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