A tough ethics bill that would force lobbyists to disclose how much they spend influencing lawmakers inched a step closer to becoming law Monday when a House Business and Labor Committee voted 12-3 to send HB94 to the House floor for further consideration.
The bill mandates that all lobbyists register with the state and disclose all expenditures to lawmakers of $100 or more. It would also require private individuals and businesses spending more than $100 to disclose such payments, to whom they were made and what legislation they were interested in.The bill, as amended Monday, would also require religious organizations and political parties to disclose their lobbying activities if their representatives spend more than $100 influencing a lawmaker. Previous versions of the bill had exempted religions and political parties from the disclosure requirements.
"This is good public policy," said Rep. Kevin Garn, R-Layton, "and it's time we quit the stalling tactics and get this out on the floor."
But some lawmakers expressed concern the bill goes too far in restricting free access to the legislative process.
"I want a good bill, one that I am proud of. But I am anxious, and I have some grave concerns about this one," said House Minority Leader Frank Pignanelli, D-Salt Lake.
Rep. Blaze Wharton, D-Salt Lake, also expressed concern over wording in the bill that would require disclosure if a lobbyist spent more than $100 on lunch for a group of lawmakers, but would not require disclosure for a one-on-one lunch even though the lobbyist engaged in the same amount of lobbying.
He was also concerned about the criminal penalties associated with failure to disclose. "Do we want anybody to go to jail who harmlessly and inadvertently forgets to disclose he took a representative to lunch?" he questioned.
More amendments to the bill are expected when it reaches the House floor, including one lowering the $100 threshold to $25.