HARRISBURG – In his capacity as chairman of the House State Government Subcommittee on Campaign Finance and Elections, Rep. Ryan Mackenzie (R-Berks/Lehigh) today led a hearing at the state Capitol that focused on lobbying reform legislation introduced earlier this year in the House of Representatives. The 12 bills would increase openness and transparency in the lobbying process, limit the influence of professional lobbyists, and hold lobbyists to a higher standard of ethical conduct.
“The purpose of the hearing was to gain insight and recommendations from regulators, stakeholders and subject-matter experts on the potential impact of these bills and the broader environment of lobbying disclosure,” said Mackenzie. “This topic is vital to the public interest, and as legislators it is our duty to ensure that Pennsylvania citizens have faith not only in the actions, but also in the processes of the General Assembly.”
Subcommittee members heard from representatives of the Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission, Pennsylvania Association for Government Relations (PAGR), Pennsylvania Department of State, and National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). Although they are supportive of the lobbying reform legislation, each of the agencies or organizations offered suggestions for improvements to the bills in their testimony.
“The State Ethics Commission welcomes the opportunity to assist the committee as it brings greater openness, transparency, limiting undue influence and improved ethical standards to the lobbying industry,” testified Robert Caruso, commission executive director.
“We want to be part of the process to make these bills as good as we possibly can, without placing an undue burden on government relations professionals, unnecessarily encroaching on the profession itself or interfering with the right of citizens to petition their government for redress of grievances,” explained Justin Fleming, PAGR president.
Major concerns voiced by the Department of State were the 60-day time frame for making changes to the Lobbying Disclosure Law and the costs involved.
“The department would need to make significant operational changes to implement the new requirements contained in these proposals,” explained Jonathan Marks, deputy secretary of elections and commissions. “In order to make the changes necessary, the department requests a minimum of 180 days.”
Mackenzie and other subcommittee members asked about lobbying reform measures in other states.
“I think state lobbying restrictions are growing more uniform,” Mark Quiner, NCSL Center for Ethics in Government director told them. “Legislators are looking at other states for precedent and are adopting what works.”
“I think we generated a good conversation today and are now better informed as we work on the legislation that we will ultimately end up advancing through the committee,” concluded Mackenzie.
A video recording of the hearing is available here
Representative Ryan Mackenzie
134th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives