Lobbying Disclosure Bill Shines Critical Sunlight on Lawmaking Process
DOVER – A bill that would dramatically expand disclosure requirements for lobbyists was introduced today with broad bipartisan support. Governor Jack Markell joined Senate President Pro Tempore Tony DeLuca, House Speaker Bob Gilligan and legislators to introduce Senate Bill 185.
“How can you tell who’s working to influence the bills that could become the laws that will affect your life? The problem is, in many cases right now, you can’t, because state disclosure laws simply haven’t kept up. This proposal helps solve that problem, bringing needed light to the process,” Markell said. “As a Delawarean, you shouldn’t have to be in the lobby of Legislative Hall or in the offices of a state agency to know who’s trying to shape a law that matters to you. This bill would make that information more available.”
Currently, lobbyists only need to disclose that they are working for a client, but do not need to share what work they are doing on that clients behalf. Senate Bill 185 would require that lobbyists specifically identify each piece of legislation, each area of the budget or the bond bill, or each proposed state agency regulation that they are lobbying to change.
“This will enable people to go online and see who’s lobbying on a specific bill,” said DeLuca. “The intent is to make the information transparent so the public is given a better idea of lobbyists’ interests.”
The new disclosures must occur within five business days of the lobbyist having “direct communication” with a legislator or the Lieutenant Governor or Governor on a bill, or within same time frame from communication with a state agency employee regarding a proposed regulation. If the communication takes place before a bill is introduced or proposed regulation published, the disclosure will be within five business days of the bill introduction or regulation publication.
“Improving government transparency and public access to information has been a top priority of mine since I became Speaker in 2009,” said Gilligan. “In this age of technology, there’s no reason why the public should not be able to easily find out which lobbyists are lobbying for a particular piece of legislation. This will remove any perceived shroud of secrecy and give the public more information about the legislative process.”
The reporting by the lobbyists will be done electronically and all the reports will display on a public website. The Governor thanked Common Cause for their advocacy on this issue.
“A lobbyist who spends every day in the state capitol operates in a different reality than the average citizen. This bill opens an important window on what’s really going on in Dover, and it will make it much easier to track what lobbyists are doing and to hold them accountable,” said James Browing of Common Cause.