June 13, 2023 •
Q: My organization wants to sponsor a reception in Texas. State legislators, staff, and family members are likely to be in attendance. As a registered lobbyist, what are my limits and reporting obligations? As a registered lobbyist, there are several […]
Q: My organization wants to sponsor a reception in Texas. State legislators, staff, and family members are likely to be in attendance. As a registered lobbyist, what are my limits and reporting obligations?
As a registered lobbyist, there are several items to keep in mind when sponsoring an event. First, a lobbyist can provide an unlimited amount of food and beverage to an official, employee, immediate family member, or guest when the lobbyist attends the event. If not present at the event, food and beverage expenditures are limited to $100 or less.
Next, when engaging with officials at the event, sponsorship is considered a lobbying expenditure and will need to be disclosed on the appropriate lobbying report. These reports break expenditures down by type (food and beverage, entertainment, transportation, etc.) and by recipient. This may seem straightforward, but if your sponsorship goes to the organizing entity, how do you know how your dollars are being used?
The state provides some guidance here. When reporting expenditures for a reception or banquet type event, the Food and Beverage category includes all items needed to hold the event such as room rental, table settings, and printing costs. Other categories may need to be included depending on the specific event.
Additionally, you will need to know who among the attendees are in a reportable category of persons benefitted. Generally, this is state senators/representatives, state officers, state employees, immediate family members, and guests. If a combination of these groups are in attendance, or a combination of covered and non-covered individuals, the expenditure should be divided appropriately based on the numbers in each category. If all members of the legislature are invited, the entire expenditure is reported under that category. As long as all members are invited, it does not matter how many actually attend.
Finally, keep in mind the detailed reporting threshold. If the per person costs exceed the threshold, currently $132.60, the individuals must be identified and other details disclosed.
For more information, please see the “Reports Required” and “Gift Law” sections of the Lobbying Compliance Laws online publication for Texas. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us.
August 11, 2022 •
Q: I have taken on a new role handling our company’s government outreach in Florida. I will likely be lobbying both state and local officials. Where do I get started? A: Florida offers a labyrinth of compliance issues for state […]
Q: I have taken on a new role handling our company’s government outreach in Florida. I will likely be lobbying both state and local officials. Where do I get started?
A: Florida offers a labyrinth of compliance issues for state and local lobbyists. The decentralized nature of the regulatory landscape means you may need to register at the state level, as well as in each individual city or county where you will be active.
At the state level, registration is required prior to engaging in lobbying activities. This includes any attempt to obtain the goodwill of a legislator, executive official, or employee of either branch. Registrants must select whether they will be lobbying the Legislative Branch, Executive Branch, or both. Activity reports for the state are limited to lobbying firms, who must disclose compensation received on a quarterly basis. Gift disclosures may also be required for any registered lobbyist, but we will discuss these in a moment.
Engaging with city or county officials is where staying compliant can be complicated. Most cities and counties have their own registration and reporting ordinances. Luckily, a general theme throughout is the requirement to register prior to engaging with officials. Most locales require annual registration, for either the calendar year or fiscal year, and reporting of lobbying activities. Be careful here to note the reporting periods as they can differ from the registration period. Some cities, such as Orlando, do not require the submission of a report if no expenses were incurred during the reporting period.
Also, be sure to note additional requirements such as meeting logs, lobbyist trainings, or registrations with subgroups of a municipality. For example, Miami-Dade County Publics Schools has its own registration requirement separate from Miami-Dade County.
Finally, whether you are registered with the state or a municipality, state statutes require quarterly disclosures of gifts to certain officials and employees. These reports include gifts valued at more than $25 given to officials or employees who file financial disclosures with the state; however, no such report is required if no reportable gifts were given. And, as always, please be sure any gift is permissible according to the relevant ethics rules.
For more information, be sure to check out the “Registration” and “Reports Required” sections of the Lobbying Compliance Laws online publication for Florida and its municipalities. If you have any questions, please feel free to learn more and contact us at www.stateandfed.com
March 3, 2021 •
Q: The Hawaii State Ethics Commission just released updates to their administrative rules. As a registered lobbyist in the state, how do these changes affect me? A: First, the Ethics Commission’s changes clarify gift rules for registered lobbyists and their […]
Q: The Hawaii State Ethics Commission just released updates to their administrative rules. As a registered lobbyist in the state, how do these changes affect me?
A: First, the Ethics Commission’s changes clarify gift rules for registered lobbyists and their clients. “Gifts of aloha,” items with a value of less than $25, are no longer permitted. Lobbyists were previously allowed to give legislators and their staff items such as food, reusable water bottles, and other trinkets because of ambiguity in the governing statutes; however, the new rules make it clear that this practice is now prohibited. Furthermore, any gift given to a legislator’s office where a recipient is not specified will be deemed a gift to the legislator.
Other items, however, are still permitted. Lei, excluding money lei, as well as promotional pens, notebooks, hats, etc. are allowed. Travel to bona fide professional conferences, including modest food and beverage, are also still permitted. To determine if a gift is permissible, the Ethics Commission strongly encourages consultation with a member of the staff to avoid potential monetary penalties.
A few additional items of clarification simply spell out longstanding advice from the Commission. All expenditures should be reported on an accrual basis beginning January 1, 2021, and time drafting and providing testimony, as well as time spent waiting to testify, are included in determining if the registration threshold has been met. Finally, individuals engaging in “background work” at the direction of a registered lobbyist do not have to register so long as they do not communicate directly with public officials.
March 30, 2015 •
Gov. Terry McAuliffe plans to offer amendments to the ethics reform bill passed last month. HB 2070 creates a $100 per gift cap to replace the current $250 aggregate limit lawmakers must abide by. Gov. McAuliffe announced he would like […]
Gov. Terry McAuliffe plans to offer amendments to the ethics reform bill passed last month. HB 2070 creates a $100 per gift cap to replace the current $250 aggregate limit lawmakers must abide by.
Gov. McAuliffe announced he would like to see a $100 aggregate limit to prevent legislators from accepting repeated gifts from lobbyists.
A legislative session is scheduled for April 15 for lawmakers to consider McAuliffe’s amendments and vetoes.
Photo of Gov. Terry McAuliffe by Edward Kimmel on Wikimedia Commons.
State and Federal Communications, Inc. provides research and consulting services for government relations professionals on lobbying laws, procurement lobbying laws, political contribution laws in the United States and Canada. Learn more by visiting stateandfed.com.