August 11, 2022 •
Ask the Experts – Where do I get started?
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
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.