‘Revolving Door’ Legislation for Outgoing Legislators Signed into Law

DOVER – Legislation closing the “revolving door” that allows lawmakers to leave their offices and immediately start lobbying former colleagues was signed into law by Governor Jack Markell Thursday.

Under House Bill 13, sponsored by Rep. John A. Kowalko Jr., D-Newark, legislators will have to wait one year after leaving the General Assembly before they would be permitted to lobby current legislators. Violating the proposed law would be an unclassified misdemeanor. The measure applies to any legislator serving after January 1, 2015, which would exclude any lawmakers who leave office through the end of the 148th General Assembly in 2016.

“We have seen veteran legislators leave this building after wielding considerable influence for years, only to turn around a couple months later and use that influence to steer public policy as lobbyists,” Rep. Kowalko said. “This creates a public perception that they have ulterior motives and could call into question decisions legislators make while in office.

“We have an obligation to assure the public that we are acting in their best interests when we vote on legislation. Putting a one-year restriction in place tells the public that we are serious about eliminating any misconceptions about legislators’ actions while they are serving.”

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, at least 31 states have some form of restriction on former legislators. Nearby states New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia all have one-year restrictions, while Maryland’s ban is until the conclusion of the next regular session.