Lobbying disclosure requirements could be tightened


The House voted to tighten disclosure requirements for lobbyists, but rejected a measure that would have impacted groups that disseminate “model legislation” to state lawmakers.

Sponsored by Rep. Joyce Peppin (R-Rogers) and Sen. Ray Vandeveer (R-Forest Lake), HF2684/ SF2334* would clarify reporting requirements for public utility companies. It would require that lobbying disclosures be itemized rather than reported as one total number.

On the House floor, DFLers successfully offered several amendments to add to the list of types of spending lobbyists in the state must publicly disclose, including:

  • spending related to efforts to influence recommendations of a legislative council or commission;
  • spending on industry conventions, facility tours, travel arrangements, private jets and other hospitality-related expenses; and
  • spending on efforts to promote or defeat a ballot question or a candidate for public office.

Peppin said she would accept the DFL amendments as “friendly” because she believed they are already covered by current law.

The bill was passed 131-0. It now returns to the Senate, where a different version passed 64-0 on March 27.

Rep. Ryan Winkler (DFL-Golden Valley) unsuccessfully offered an amendment that would have expanded the definition of lobbying to include groups that disseminate “model legislation” for state legislatures to adopt. It would have forced disclosure of spending on things like hotel or travel accommodations for lawmakers to attend conferences where model legislation is promoted.

Supporters said the amendment would bring greater transparency to the activities of groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council, which many Democrats allege has greatly influenced Republican legislative priorities.

“People who want to influence legislation are paying a lot of money to bring legislators to nice locations to influence them, and the public is not being told,” said Rep. Tina Liebling (DFL-Rochester).

Opponents said the amendment could have unintended consequences, such as impacting nonpartisan organizations like the National Conference of State Legislatures. Rep. Sondra Erickson (R-Princeton) said she regularly attends a variety of conferences around the country to learn from colleagues and discuss new ideas.

“I go to those conferences to glean ideas from other states… this is what we’re supposed to do,” she said.

The amendment failed on a vote of 60-72.