Nevada advances lobbying cooling-off-period bills
April 24, 2013
Nevada lawmakers advanced efforts this week to bar future elected or appointed local officials and state legislators from lobbying their former colleagues immediately after leaving office.
The Assembly passed Assembly Bill 77 by a 40-1 margin Tuesday, and AB438 cleared the chamber 37-2 Monday. Both measures now head to the Senate.
“Cashing in on a former position of power and influence might give one an undue amount of influence,” said Assembly Minority Leader Pat Hickey, R-Reno, the primary sponsor of AB77.
Current law does not restrict when a state lawmaker can lobby after serving, so, in theory, a lawmaker could resign their position today and begin lobbying tomorrow. Local officials have a one-year cooling off period.
AB77 bars state legislators from lobbying until the conclusion of the next regular session after their last term in office. An amendment allows lawmakers to lobby if it is not the primary component of their new job, and if they are only lobbying for their direct employer.
“If they’re going to work as a lobbyist in the next session, my concern would be it could have an influence on folks this session with respect to a prospective employer,” Hickey said.
Specifically, the prospect of a current lawmaker voting on issues important to a future employer is the biggest concern, Hickey said.
Additionally, it would reduce the influence of political backscratching.
“A cooling off period puts some distance between those past ties and relationships,” Hickey said.
But not all members felt the bill was fair, because being a legislator is not a full-time career.
“We’re part-time. Once we’re gone, the Legislature shouldn’t tell me who I can or can’t work for,” said Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton, D-Las Vegas.
AB438, which was passed Monday, was spawned after an Assembly committee heard the case for restricting when state leaders can lobby. Members decided to apply similar rules to local officials, said Assemblyman James Ohrenschall, D-Las Vegas.
Current law prohibits elected or appointed officials at the local level and on the University of Nevada Board of Regents from lobbying for a year after they leave office. This bill doubles the cooling-off period.
The local officials would be allowed to communicate with the same body they served if employed by that body or another public body or agency.