Ask The Experts - Registration Threshold in Washington - State and Federal Communications

August 7, 2023  •  

Ask The Experts – Registration Threshold in Washington

Washington State Capitol Building - Cacophony

Q: I’ve had a few discussions with legislators in Washington. Do I need to register?

A: Unlike some states that require registration before you begin lobbying, Washington is not a “first toe in the water state.” As a result, there are some activities that you can engage in before or without the need to register as a lobbyist.

Washington requires you to register as a lobbyist once you have either conducted lobbying activities for more than four days, or parts of four days, in a three-month period, or made total expenditures exceeding $35 in a three-month period for or on behalf of public officials. So, if your lobbying activity is extremely sporadic and limited, you may not need to register.

But Washington also has a relatively narrow definition of what constitutes lobbying. Lobbying is defined as an attempt to influence the passage or defeat of any legislation or the adoption or rejection of any rule, standard, rate, or other legislative enactment of any state agency. This definition excludes acts of goodwill lobbying, like small-talk with lawmakers or general relationship-building with public officials. But, be mindful of your activities, because if your small-talk conversation turns to shoptalk about a specific issue or piece of legislation, then that conversation will put you closer to crossing the lobbying registration threshold.

Similarly, the state’s lobbying law carves out several activities that it does not consider lobbying. If you limit your activities to appearing before public sessions of committees of the legislature or public hearings of state agencies, then you will not need to register. Similarly, activities by persons whose participation was solicited by an agency under a negotiated rulemaking or pilot rulemaking agency will not, by themselves, require you to register as a lobbyist.

More information about registration requirements can easily be found on our website in the Registration section of the Lobbying Compliance Guidebook.

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