TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg which would improve transparency in lobbying conducted on behalf of government agencies was approved today by the full Senate.
Current law imposes reporting requirements on governmental affairs agents who are employed, retained or engaged to influence legislation, regulations or governmental processes, but excludes activities of governmental affairs agents retained by public entities in the state. The bill (S1530) both repeals that exemption and requires government entities to justify why they are retaining lobbyists, including providing an explanation as to why an employee cannot provide the same services as the lobbyist.
“Lobbyists hired by the government should not be exempt from reporting requirements, particularly since their services are being paid for with taxpayer dollars. This bill closes a gaping loophole in the law that for too long has kept government contracts with lobbyists in the shadows,” said Senator Weinberg. “If a government agency is going to spend taxpayer dollars on a high-priced lobbyist, the public deserves to know how much is being spent and the sort of services they are being paid to do. Government entities should also be held accountable for justifying why an employee could not have performed the same work. This is a common sense improvement to our state lobbying laws. It increases government accountability and provides taxpayers with the level of transparency they deserve.”
This bill would also require government entities that retain governmental affairs agents to file annual reports about representation by such agents. In addition to the information required to be provided in such an annual report, and a justification for retaining the agent, a government entity would be required to: describe the terms of the agreement with the agent, including total anticipated cost of the agreement; explain why the schedule or method of payment set forth in the agreement was deemed appropriate; and describe the result achieved by the agent.
The bill was approved by a vote of 38-0. It now heads to the Assembly for consideration.