Measure requires local governments to disclose lobbying expenses - East Valley Tribune: Politics

Measure requires local governments to disclose lobbying expenses

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Posted: Friday, February 24, 2012 7:51 am | Updated: 9:54 am, Wed Feb 29, 2012.

The state House voted Thursday to require more reporting by local governments of what they spend lobbying lawmakers.

But they refused to require themselves to disclose who pays for trips they get from special interest groups.

Under current law, public bodies are supposed to file annual reports about what they spend on lobbyists. That covers not only cities and counties, but also state agencies, boards, and commissions as well as the universities.

As crafted, HB 2462 would expand the reporting to cover other "lobbying related activities.'' Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said that would inform the public of what is being spent on unseen items like the time and expense to prepare legislation and testimony.

Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, said that's a good idea. But he said Kavanagh's bid for greater disclosure does not go far enough.

He wants to expand current laws which require legislators to report annually any gifts they get to also include travel, lodging and registration fees for conferences paid by others. More to the point, the report would spell out exactly which businesses are picking up the tab.

Farley's measure specifically targets the American Legislative Exchange Council.

That organization includes lawmakers who say they support its principles of limited government regulation and states' rights. It provides "model legislation'' for lawmakers to introduce in their home states.

But many of those bills are actually crafted by employees of businesses who pay from $7,000 to $25,000 to keep the organization going.

"Our whole process up here is suspect if we don't show people where we're getting our ideas,'' Farley continued. "If our ideas are coming from corporations that are wining and dining us in New Orleans or wherever else, and then we run a bill for them, the public should know that.''

Kavanagh, however, blocked efforts to attach that reporting requirement to his measure. He said such issues should be debated on their own and not attached to his legislation.

Farley had, in fact, crafted a bill to do just that. But House Speaker Andy Tobin, who is a member of ALEC, refused to even assign it to a committee where it could have possibly gotten a hearing.

Tobin told Capitol Media Services after the floor debate he wasn't trying to preclude disclosure. He said House Majority Whip Steve Court is working to craft some broader changes in laws governing lobbyists.

Anyway, Tobin said, state law already requires legislators to report when they get travel funds for ALEC conferences.

But Farley said that does not help the public, as the forms lawmakers file simply list "ALEC'' as the source of the funds and not the individual corporations who put money into the scholarship fund -- the same corporations that craft the bills the lawmakers take back to Arizona to push.

"That's an important thing for the public to know,'' he said.

Farley acknowledged that many bills originate with special interests.

But he pointed out that when a lobbyist in Arizona buys lunch or drinks for a lawmaker, that shows up on the lobbyist's public spending report. And other public reports list the lobbyist's clients.

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