On Monday, a bill that would increase the transparency of lobbying activities in the Capitol was approved unanimously by the Senate Elections and Constitutional Amendments Committee.
Senate Bill 305, authored by Senator Brian Jones (R-Santee), would specifically amend the Political Reform Act of 1974 by allowing electronic signatures on lobbyist registration forms and documents. Presently, a handwritten signature is required on all lobbyist registration forms and documents. The specified lobbyist forms are also currently restricted to be handed in either in-person at the Secretary of State’s Office or sent through the mail.
Senator Jones wrote SB 305 earlier this year because of the delay current procedures have on informing the public. A lobbying registration by mail could delay both the public and media by weeks on knowing which lobbyists are registered for bills or measures. Under the bill, with electronic signing and filings, the delay in being publicly known would be significantly reduced.
“Currently there is a lag time from when entities hire lobbyists, when lobbyists engage in efforts to support or oppose bills, and when the public and media are actually alerted to these lobbying activities,” said Senator Jones in a press release on Monday. “This measure will streamline and open up the lobbying registration process so that the public and media will know much sooner which groups and individuals are lobbying on which issues. Transparency is critical to making sure the law-making process is open and fair to all.”
There has been little opposition to SB 305, with both Democrats and Republicans in the Senate voting for it in committee, as well as others praising it throughout the last two months.
“By not knowing who is lobbying for what right off the bat, lobbyists are given a huge advantage by having a window to indiscriminately try and convince lawmakers without the press being on it,” explained “Charles,” a research assistant at a lobbying firm in Sacramento. “If they know earlier, than the element of surprise can be reduced.
“The press knows who the lobbyists are, but because of the present paper method, they don’t know what they are working on immediately. By seeing who they are talking to and knowing what they are trying to lobby for in a given time span can provide valuable insight into everything from which way lawmakers might be leaning to on a vote to possibly what a lobbyists game plan is to get certain bills passed. This is why SB 305 is important.”
Following passage in the Elections and Constitutional Amendments Committee, SB 305 is now currently awaiting a hearing in the Senate Appropriations Committee.