Lobbyist reform bills in Pa. Senate

Greg Gross

York County Republican state Sen. Scott Wagner and four of his colleagues are planning to roll out a series of bills they say will make how lobbyists interact with lawmakers more transparent.

The package of six bills, which haven't yet been formally introduced, would bring sweeping reform, such as requiring lobbyists to report anything of value given to lawmakers or state employees, the senators said.

"To me it just seems to be common sense that everything should be laid on the table," said Sen. Camera Bartolotta, R-Washington, Beaver and Greene counties, who will introduce one of the bills.

Joining Wagner and Bartolotta in introducing the bills are Sens. Ryan Aument, R-Lancaster County; John Eichelberger, R-Bliar County; and Guy Reschenthaler, R- Allegheny and Washington counties.

About five senators, including one Democrat, have shown interest in co-sponsoring the bills, said Jason High, Wagner's chief of staff.

The bills: Wagner, R-Spring Garden Township, has taken the lead, sponsoring two of the bills, including the one that addresses the gift requirements. The other senators will each sponsor a bill.

“Lobbyists have their place in the legislative process, but the influence they wield continues to grow exponentially and must be reined in," Wagner said in a news release.

The five other bills would:

  • Add "representing a membership organization" to the definition of lobbyist — Wagner
  • Make public a Department of State-commissioned audit of the lobbying community — Aument
  • Prohibit a lobbyist from being paid to work for any political campaign. Would also forbid a lobbyist from owning, being a partner in or serving as an officer or board member of a consulting firm that receives money for work done with political campaigns — Eichelberger
  • Increase the fine for violations of the lobbyist law from $2,000 to $4,000 — Reschenthaler
  • Require everyone who has to file a Statement of Financial Interest to disclose immediate family members who are required to register under the Lobby Disclosure Law. Would also require registered lobbyists to disclose family members who are required to file a Statement of Financial Interest — Bartolotta

Public officials, public employees, solicitors, candidates and nominees are required to file a Statement of Financial Interest.

The package: While the lawmakers would like to see all the bills become law, getting a few signed by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf would bring more transparency to the lobbying system, High said.

"Any one of these makes things better," he said. "All of this stuff makes it more transparent."

Bartolotta said one of her staffers is married to a lobbyist and they told her they don't see any problems that could stem from the bills.

"This may be the freshman senator in me, but I can't imagine anyone having a problem with it," she said.

— Reach Greg Gross at ggross@yorkdispatch.com.