Delaware lawmakers have launched a new legislative effort designed in part to improve the C- grade the state received on lobbying disclosure from the State Integrity Investigation. The First State’s grade ranked it 22nd among the 50 states in that category.
The bill would require lobbyists to disclose the number of each bill or resolution on which they lobbied. The measure also calls for electronic filing of expenditures and registration forms by lobbyists, and requires the state’s Public Integrity Commission to post reports online “to allow public to review such information organized by bill, resolution, lobbyist, employer and subject.”
In a press conference Wednesday, Senate President Pro Tem Anthony DeLuca (D-Varlano), called the proposed legislation a “big step” for public accessibility.
“If you look overall at what we’re trying to accomplish, and you look at the electronics involved in this and the fact that we’re going to be getting an updated system that the public can easily access, that is a major thing,” DeLuca said.
But the bill does not address several areas in which Delaware lost points in the State Integrity Investigation. Delaware lobbyists would still not be required to disclose their salary or overall compensation — only expenses related to food, travel, gifts and entertainment. And oversight would apparently not be affected. On a State Integrity Investigation scorecard question about effective monitoring of lobbying disclosure, Delaware scored only 16 percent.
The bill charges the state’s Public Integrity Commission with posting the lobbying disclosure forms online. Delaware received a D- in the category of ethics enforcement agencies, due in part to the lack of staff and resources for the two-person public integrity panel. John Flaherty, president of the Delaware Coalition for Open Government, said the new bill could burden the agency with the additional work.
“They’re gonna need more help,” Flaherty said.
Flaherty called the overall proposal a “blueprint for action,” but would like to see several additions, like a requirement for a cooling off period that would prohibit legislators from working as lobbyists for two years.
Gov. Jack Markell said he expects the “bill will help us earn a better grade and create more openness.” He also noted the state’s new open records law, which he ordered in October, would improve the state’s results; Delaware earned its other F grade for public access to information.
The lobbying bill is co-sponsored by members in both chambers of the General Assembly, including DeLuca and House Speaker Robert Gilligan (D-Sherwood Park). Democrats control both chambers and the governor’s office.
“There will be a lobbying bill passed this session,” Gilligan told the Wilmington News Journal. “That’s a fact.”
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