PROVIDENCE, RI – A key Senate committee is set to vote this Thursday on legislation from Secretary of State A. Ralph Mollis that would improve State House lobbying reporting.
Just hours before the full House of Representatives approved the its version of the bill 70-0 last Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee put a vote on S 735 on its agenda for Thursday.
Introduced by state Sen. Juan Pichardo and co-sponsored by state Sen. Maryellen Goodwin at Mollis' request, the bill would bar lobbyists from registering for the upcoming legislative session until they had filed all their legally mandated lobbying reports from the previous year.
"This legislation merely provides lobbyists with additional encouragement to align their reporting practices with the spirit and the letter of the law," said Mollis.
State law requires everyone who is paid to lobby the General Assembly to register with the Secretary of State’s office and to file monthly and annual reports that include expenses and campaign contributions as well as the issues they are following. Mollis posts the reports on his website at sos.ri.gov.
Currently, state law allows lobbyists and their lobbying firms and clients to register even if they have not yet filed all the legally required reports from the previous year.
“This legislation keeps faith with the law's requirements. It’s hard to argue with a bill that merely reinforces the intent of the legislature,” said Mollis.
Mollis contends that his bill will pose no hardship on lobbyists or their clients. They can file reports on-line 24/7 from anywhere there is access to the Internet. In addition, his office will help lobbyists file late reports in person when they register for the new legislative session.
The House version was introduced by state Rep. Deborah Ruggiero and co-sponsored by state Representatives Joseph McNamara, Ray Gallison, John Savage and Daniel Reilly at Mollis' request.
In 2010, 377 lobbyists registered with the Secretary of State’s office to lobby the General Assembly. Two weeks into the 2011 legislative session, more than 160 lobbyists had failed to file at least one 2010 report. The final delinquent 2010 report was filed May 23.
"This bill is win-win. We no longer have to invest resources in a months-long process to encourage compliance and the public gets access to the information sooner," said Mollis.
Secretary of State Mollis is committed to making it easier to vote, helping businesses grow and making government more open and accessible. For more information about State House lobbying, visit www.sos.ri.gov.