Legislative Coverage

Bill Regulating Lobbyists Passes Committee Test

(KCPW News) A bill that would require more regulation of lobbyist activity passed a Senate committee on Monday.

SB 97, sponsored by Republican Senator Todd Weiler, would ensure that lobbyists report donated time spent with individuals seeking to fill a midterm vacancy. For example, if a state representative resigns or leaves office in the middle of their term, there will be a handful of candidates considered to replace that representative. According to Weiler, because of the unique nature of midterm appointments, candidates for those positions are particularly vulnerable to the influence of lobbyists.

“What often happens—and I’ve witnessed this firsthand experience—is registered lobbyists will swoop in. Sometimes they’ll actually choose the candidate,” Weiler said. “They will tell them what to do. They’ll write their materials for them. They’ll tell them who to contact. They’ll raise money for them. They’ll tell them what to say in their speeches. They will basically orchestrate the process in a very short time period, and often the result is that they will basically pick the winner.”

Weiler said that, under current law, a lobbyist’s interactions with midterm candidates happen in the dark. But his proposal would set up a system in which lobbyists would have to provide more disclosure during the time when a special election occurs.

Weiler argued that this is an important step to take to give average Utahns a fighting chance to win special elections.

“I don’t think it’s a level playing field for some average joe citizen who’s never run for office, never been intimately involved in politics,” Weiler said. “I don’t think they have much of a fighting chance if they’ve got Candidate Y on the other side of the district that has two or three lobbyists that have done this ten, twelve, fifteen times before and are hooking them up with all the right people and all the right things.”

SB 97 received a favorable recommendation unanimously from the Senate Government Operations and Political Subdivisions Committee. It moves to the Senate floor next.

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