Monday, March 15, 2010

Lobbyist Registration Begins Today

It's extraordinarily late for the start of lobbyist registration, but this is an extraordinary year. Litigation over the stark increase in the cost of non-profit lobbyist registration is on-going, but we commend the Secretary of State for taking registrations from lobbyists while the details are worked out. Soon, the general public will once again be able to determine who has hired lobbyists, which lobbyists are advocating on whose behalf, and which issues they are concerned with. Knowing who is being paid to petition government is a fundamental public right, and we are glad that Illinois re-joins the other 49 states in making this information available.

There remain open issues. What the lobbyist fee will be has yet to be determined. Many states charge no fee at all; others charge no more than $150, and no one charges even half of the fee set by Illinois statute, $1,000. A federal judge ruled that $1,000 is egregious and unenforceable, but by itself that ruling does not determine the new fee. Nor has the Secretary of State announced how lobbyists are to file "weekly" reports of expenditures. Are they to be filed on Friday for that week, or for the preceding week? And how to reconcile weekly reporting with another statutory provision assuring public officials of a 30-day window to review lobbyist reports for errors, prior to public dissemination? We understand that talks are on-going and that a trailer bill may pop by the end of session.

In the meantime, lobbyists (including ICPR) will be registering with the Secretary of State. And the public can begin to learn who's lobbying on what issues.

No comments: