HOUSE BILL REPORT
This analysis was prepared by non-partisan legislative staff for the use of legislative members in their deliberations. This analysis is not a part of the legislation nor does it constitute a statement of legislative intent.
As Reported by House Committee On:
Title: An act relating to requiring lobbying reports to be filed electronically.
Brief Description: Requiring lobbying reports to be filed electronically.
Sponsors: Representatives Moeller, Gregerson, S. Hunt, Cody, Hudgins and Pollet.
State Government: 1/20/15, 1/29/15 [DP].
HOUSE COMMITTEE ON STATE GOVERNMENT
Majority Report: Do pass. Signed by 7 members: Representatives S. Hunt, Chair; Bergquist, Vice Chair; Holy, Ranking Minority Member; Van Werven, Assistant Ranking Minority Member; Appleton, Gregory and Hawkins.
Staff: Marsha Reilly (786-7135).
The Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) was created and empowered by an initiative of the people to provide timely and meaningful public access to information about the financing of political campaigns, lobbyist expenditures, and the financial affairs of public officials and candidates. The PDC also ensures compliance with contribution limits and other campaign finance restrictions.
Lobbyists and lobbyist employers are required to register with the PDC and report lobbying activities on a monthly basis. Information reported includes such things as the expenditures for lobbying activities, contributions made to candidates and political committees supporting or opposing ballot measures, subject matters being lobbied, and gifts in the form of food and beverage in excess of $50.
Unless otherwise expressly authorized by law, state and local agencies may use public funds for lobbying, but that lobbying activity is limited to providing information on matters pertaining to official agency business or advocating the official position or interests of the agency to any elected official, officer, or employee of any agency. Agencies that expend public funds for lobbying must file quarterly statements to the PDC that include information such as the names; titles; job descriptions; and salaries of those who lobbied; a description of the nature of the lobbying; the proportionate amount of time spent on lobbying; and a listing of expenditures incurred for lobbying.
In 1999 electronic filing was made available to candidates, public officials, and political committees for filing financial affairs reports, contribution reports, and expenditure reports. By 2002 it was mandatory. Electronic filing was made available to lobbyists and lobbyist employers for submitting their reports in 2002, although it is not mandatory. Lobbying reports are available on the PDC website, but the format of those reports is not compatible for searching purposes with the current system.
Summary of Bill:
As of the effective date of the act, local agencies that lobby must file lobbying reports electronically over the Internet. No later than January 1, 2017, all lobbyists and lobbyists' employers must file the required reports electronically over the Internet. The PDC is required to design, develop, implement, and maintain computer hardware and software or other applications to accommodate electronic filing of reports that are compatible with its current architecture, technology, and operating systems.
Fiscal Note: Available.
Effective Date: The bill takes effect 90 days after adjournment of the session in which the bill is passed.
Staff Summary of Public Testimony:
(In support) This bill has been introduced in previous years, but it had fees associated with it. The fees have been stripped out. It is very difficult for people to keep track of lobbying expenditures. The database must be searchable. While lobbyists may file electronically, it is rarely used. Lobbying reports are hard to read and hard to find. There needs to be an improvement to the lobbyist filing system. The PDC is doing the best they can with what they have. For those who want to file electronically, the PDC system is not compatible with current applications. The public expects everything to be digital. People on the outside need to be assured that everything is done according to law.
(Other) The PDC has not had an opportunity to take a position on the bill. The PDC has, however, consistently approved of bills that allow for more disclosure and transparency. In 2014 nearly $60 million was spent to influence laws in the state. The PDC concurs that a new lobbyist filing system is needed. The current system was, in its time, one of the best in the nation. The current system is limited and is not compatible with newer applications, and resources must accompany the mandate. Reports that are filed are not easily accessed or searchable. The public expects and deserves this information. The PDC has made requests for technology improvements in its decision package.
Persons Testifying: (In support) Representative Moeller, prime sponsor; and Steve Gano, Public Disclosure Commission.
(Other) Andrea Doyle, Public Disclosure Commission.
Persons Signed In To Testify But Not Testifying: None.