HB 13 would require outgoing legislators to wait one year before registering as lobbyists

DOVER – Legislation closing the “revolving door” that allows lawmakers to leave their offices and immediately start lobbying former colleagues cleared the House Tuesday.

Sponsored by Rep. John A. Kowalko, House Bill 13 would require legislators 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 would apply to any legislator serving after January 1, 2015, which would exclude any lawmakers who leave office at the end of the 147th General Assembly in 2014.

“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. “While most legislators are honorable, this creates a 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. We can’t take for granted our constituents’ confidence, which we expect and need them to have in us. 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.”

HB 13, which passed 30-11, was amended to exempt uncompensated lobbying activities from the one-year waiting period.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, at least 31 states have some form of restriction on former legislators. More than 20 states have a one-year restriction for legislators, while seven states have a two-year waiting period. 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. At least one other state – Maine – is considering a similar “revolving door” measure this year.

Rep. Kowalko has introduced similar versions of this bill in each of the past three legislative sessions, making this the fourth incarnation of the legislation. He said that a one-year restriction would not infringe on outgoing lawmakers’ ability to make a living.

HB 13 goes to the Senate for consideration.