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The citizens’ right to speak freely in order to influence petitions and decisions made the government is known as lobbying or advocacy. This activity is a very important right and also a crucial organ of the legislative procedure. Ever since its conception, the industry has since generated a strong powerhouse which has expanded dramatically.
Overview of the laws that govern lobbying
According to a survey done by the Center for Public Integrity in the year 2006, there are over 40,000 paid pressure groups at state legislatures and this number is still increasing. Due to the propagation of the ‘’third house’’ and the influence it puts forth, several state laws have since been established in response to the expansion of the industry. In the US, the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 ensures accountability of these practices. These laws include:
- reporting requirements that the pressure groups must meet
- registration and identification requirements
- the use of public fund on such activities.
The details of these laws, however, differ remarkably in each state. The difference is so big that almost 50 different accounts exist. This article is going to discuss in details these legislations that govern the industry.
Each and every state usually necessitates lobbyists to report on particular activities. That is the only similar factor about reporting requirements that is similar in all states. These laws differ on who to report that is; the pressure groups, the employers, the principals or even others.
The details allowed to be disclosed in those reports also differ from state to state. For example in a state like Alabama, Alaska and Arizona it is the responsibility of the principals to report. The principals who must report are not inclusive of employees of the public who are lobbyists. The same is not the case in states like Arkansas, California, and Delaware where the activists themselves are the one responsible for reporting. In other states like Iowa, the legislation only allows the clients to report.
Issues to be reported such as the amount paid to the people hired to advocate for various issues and the time they spend in the State Capitol building also differ from state to state.
Registration and identification
The legislation that governs the identification and registration of lobbyists also differ from the state. There are laws set to determine who can register, what necessities they must meet in order to be allowed to lobby, the amount of fees that they are required to pay and how they should categorize themselves.
In some states like Washington, there are no fees supposed to be paid by lobbyists. This is different in other states like Utah where lobbyists are supposed to pay an annual fee of 100 U.S Dollars during and after their registration. The amounts payable to register actually do vary from state to state. The same applies to the identification details suppose to be provided during their registration. States like Utah doesn’t recognize lobbyists’ registration but rather require them to acquire a license. The details supposed to be filled while applying for the license slightly differ from the one supposed to be filled during the registration.
Use of public funds
There are several states which do not allow state agencies to use public funds to maintain an activist. These are states like Florida, North Carolina, Connecticut, Texas, Virginia and Utah. In a state like Illinois, registered lobbyists are not allowed to receive compensation from organizations for lobbying on a legislation exploit. However, the law does provide an exception for full-time employees of state agencies who get a piece of their earnings so as to be able to influence a legislative, administrative or an executive action. The same applies to those who are maintained by the state through a contract. The use of public funds to finance lobbying have been diminishing at a very high rate since the establishment of this legislation prohibiting members of the legislative from using state funds to finance these activities. Pleate take not that in other countries such as in United Kingdom, legislation is even stricter.
Despite the existing dissimilarity in the legislation in different states, there are also common subjects in state’s lobbying laws. Each and every state describes who is a lobbyist and what lobbying pertains in almost the same way. The definition of the term is common in all states in that they all describe lobbying as an effort to manipulate government decisions and actions. A pressure group registration requirement though slightly differing, it is almost similar in all the states. The requirement registration aspect that is common in all states is the requirement that necessitates pressure groups to convey on their activities.
It is also important to note that the above concerns in the lobbying industry are usually facilitated by the Center for Ethics in Government. This is the body that is responsible for setting up legislative rules on such activities. It is the one which has ensured there is a limitation on the spending of public funds for lobbying. They have also gathered enough information on the lobbying mistaken bodies. In addition to this, they have been working hard to reveal or rather expose any relations between lobbyists and the members of the legislation. Last but not least, it is the duty of the Center for Ethics in Government to ensure that activists are not using false statements and accounts to manipulate legislative decisions and petition.