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Legislative Ethics Commission proposes new rules

Lobbyist and employer spending on food and beverages

1.            Recommendation:  Repeal the provision allowing each lobbyist and employer to spend up to $100 annually on food and beverages for each legislator and his or her immediate family. 

 Lobbyists and employers of lobbyists could continue to sponsor events to which groups of legislators (such as committees or caucuses) are invited, but could not purchase meals or beverages for individual legislators or members of a legislator’s immediate family.

 Out-of-state travel

 

2.            Recommendation:  Prohibit lobbyists and their employers from paying for out-of-state travel, food, or lodging expenses for members of the General Assembly or candidates.   

Current law permits a legislator, with the approval of the Senate President or House Speaker, to accept transportation, food, beverages, and lodging for an out-of-state event.  With such approval, a legislator’s out-of-state travel may be paid for by a lobbyist, employer of lobbyists, an organization which does not employ lobbyists, or by the General Assembly.  

3.            Recommendation:  Define the term ‘in-state’ so that areas contiguous to Kentucky, such as Cincinnati, are included in the definition.   

Under current law, if a committee or caucus of legislators is invited to an event in Cincinnati, each legislator is required to get the Senate President’s or House Speaker’s approval to attend.  This change would subject the Cincinnati event to the same requirements as events held in Kentucky.

Candidates

4.            Recommendation:  Treat candidates in the same manner as legislators by limiting the interaction between lobbyists and candidates who have filed to run for election to the General Assembly.   

Currently, lobbyists and employers are not prohibited from giving "anything of value" to a candidate, or from spending more than $100 a calendar year on food and beverages on a candidate, but they are prohibited from giving “anything of value” or spending more than $100 per year on members of the General Assembly. 

Campaign contributions during regular sessions 

 5.            Recommendation:  Prohibit employers of lobbyists and political action committees from making a campaign contribution to a legislative candidate or a legislator during a regular session of the General Assembly.   

                Allow candidate or legislator to return such a contribution within 30 days after the contribution is required to be reported to the Registry of Election Finance. 

6.            Recommendation:  Prohibit lobbyists from directly soliciting contributions for an election campaign of a legislator or legislative candidate. 

Registration and reporting by lobbyists and employers 

7.            Recommendation:  Prohibit the spouse of a legislator from being employed as a lobbyist.   

The drafters of the Code of Legislative Ethics included this prohibition in the original legislation, but removed it prior to enactment.  No legislator’s spouse is registered as a lobbyist. 

8.              Recommendation:  Amend KRS 6.807, governing the filing of updated registration forms by lobbyists and their employers, to add that a form sent through the U.S. Postal Service or another recognized mail carrier shall be timely filed if it is postmarked by the mail carrier by the last day for filing with the Commission. 

9.            Recommendation:  Delete the language in KRS 6.821 that requires a lobbyist to list expenditures "whether or not reimbursed" by an employer.   

This requirement may lead to double reporting if a lobbyist reports the expense and the employer reports the reimbursement, resulting in inflated lobbying totals.  If the employer reimburses a lobbyist for an expense, that is actually an employer expense.   

10.          Recommendation:   Delete the language in KRS 6.611(22)(a)2. referring to “a legislative liaison.”   

As presently defined, “legislative liaison” would include people who may not have direct contact with legislators, which is inconsistent with the definition of "lobby” which states that lobbying is direct communication with the person being lobbied. 

 11.          Recommendation:  Clarify the definition of “employer” in KRS 6.611(12) to ensure that the proper employer of a lobbyist registers with the commission.  

This change would end confusion about whether a law firm or public relations firm may register as the employer for its employees who are lobbying for third parties who have hired the firm to lobby.   

Use of official legislative stationery 

12.          Recommendation:  Prohibit any mass mailing by a legislator at public expense for 60 days prior to an election, as provided in the Commission's guidelines for use of official legislative stationery.  

Current Issues Seminar

 

13.          Recommendation:  Require ethics training for legislative staff and change the Commission’s Current Issues Seminar from three hours to two hours.   

Each new legislator participates in the mandatory freshman orientation session.  Ethics education and updates can be comprehensively covered in a two-hour session. 

Complaint Process 

14.          Recommendation:  Authorize the Commission to dismiss a complaint without prejudice if the complaint or preliminary inquiry is publicly disclosed by the complainant, or the complainant comments publicly about the complaint.   

This change would address the situation in which a complaint is filed during an election campaign, where a complainant may be attempting to use the complaint process for political purposes.  

15.          Recommendation:  Delete the requirement that a complaint be filed prior to a Commission investigation, but add language to clarify that "the Commission shall have no jurisdiction in the absence of a complaint to impose any penalty, except administrative penalties listed in KRS 6.807 and 6.821.” 

Ethics Commission staff 

16.          Recommendation:  Restrict the political activity of the staff of the Legislative Ethics Commission, as was originally intended by the General Assembly in the ethics code. 


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