The General Assembly has completed passage of a lobbying reform act today after the House of Representatives approved Sen. Erin Lynch Prata’s legislation (2016-S 2361 Sub A) that reforms the state’s general laws on lobbying. Rep. Robert B. Jacquard’s companion legislation (2016-H 7388 Sub A) passed the Senate last week and now both bills head to Governor Raimondo’s office for action.
“The people of Rhode Island deserve to know that the decisions being made at the State House are not being corrupted by lobbyists who refuse to follow the rules,” said Senator Lynch Prata (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston). “This legislation provides the public with the means to easily discern who is lobbying for what, as well as, giving the Secretary of the State the means to root out those who are undermining the democratic process through unethical lobbying behavior.”
“Our state’s system of lobbying must be reformed to ensure the integrity of our governmental processes. Transparency and accountability to the taxpayers of Rhode Island is crucial to reforming the public’s trust in government and I am pleased to say that is exactly what will be accomplished with this legislation,” said Representative Jacquard (D-Dist. 17, Cranston). “The public deserves to know who is trying to influence the decisions of policy makers and this legislation makes that possible in an easy and transparent way for the taxpayers.”
Developed with Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea, the intent of the legislation is to simplify and clarify the rules governing lobbying, to maximize transparency without imposing unnecessary burdens on the process, to promote a more user-friendly registration and reporting system, and to strengthen the investigation and enforcement scheme of the state’s lobbying rules and regulations.
“When I first entered office, I identified the need for a comprehensive reform of the state’s lobbying laws. This legislation is the result of our efforts to clarify, streamline and strengthen those laws. I thank House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed along with bill sponsors Senators Lynch Prata, Goldin, and Lombardi, Representatives Jacquard, Williams, Ruggiero, and McEntee; and the full House and Senate for working with me to reinforce Rhode Island’s commitment to transparency and effective government,” said Secretary of State Gorbea.
Provisions of the legislation include: clarifying the definitions of lobbyist and lobbying; providing a solid framework for investigations and hearings; authorizing administrative subpoena power in the course of conducting investigations; bringing the Department of State in line with standard practices currently used by other state agencies such as Department of Business Regulations and Department of Environmental Management; strengthening and simplifying lobbying reporting guidelines for those involved while making it easier for the general public to access these reports and understand the information being reported; and increasing maximum penalties for non-compliance to more than double the current amounts.
Cosponsors of the two pieces of legislation include Sen. Gayle L. Goldin (D-Dist. 3, Providence), Sen. Frank S. Lombardi (D-Dist. 26, Cranston), Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence), Rep. Deborah Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown, Middletown), and Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee (D-Dist. 33, South Kingstown, Narragansett).