Senator Lewis proposes historic reforms to lobbyist – legislator disclosure laws

| October 5 2012

(State Capitol, Phoenix)—State Senator Jerry Lewis (R-Mesa) today unveiled a legislative reform package that will dramatically simplify the public’s ability to find out who is lobbying their elected representatives and on behalf of which interests—all with a simple click of the mouse. “For too long, our legislative activities—including meals with lobbyists—have been hidden behind a confusing curtain of unclear rules and an antiquated public database—but no longer,” Senator Lewis declared. “This proposal aims to shine the light of transparency on the legislative process and ensure that the public has the information it needs to hold elected officials accountable.” When enacted, Senator Lewis’s proposal will establish an online interactive database on the Secretary of State’s website and require that lobbyists and legislators use the site to independentlydisclose any meal, event ticket, or other event paid for by a lobbyist in the course of legislative advocacy, thus creating a checks-and-balance system that holds both parties in the transaction accountable for its disclosure. As currently envisioned, this innovative online tool will significantly enhance legislative transparency by:

  • Providing up-to-date tracking of lobbyist expenditures
  • Requiring real-time reporting by lobbyists and legislators
  • Making both reporting and searching easy with a simple interactive tool
  • Allowing the public to search for disclosures by legislator, lobbyist or client
  • Simplifying the reporting process for legislators and lobbyists

Under Senator Lewis’s plan, lawmakers and lobbyists will use the website to report any expenditure that is required to be disclosed by state statute. Lawmakers will be required to disclose the event and the lobbyist with whom they met, while lobbyists will be required to disclose the legislator and the client they were representing. “While lobbyists are currently required to disclose virtually any transaction they make on behalf of an elected official, current statute only requires those transactions to be disclosed every three months, after which they are displayed on a technologically obsolete database that provides very little practical information to the public,” Senator Lewis explained. “This proposal aims to fix these shortcomings and bring the state’s database into the 21st century.” Senator Lewis’s plan has already received the backing of some of Arizona’s most respected community leaders and elected officials. “Having previously identified needed areas of reform, I am encouraged by Senator Lewis’ proposal that we will undertake steps necessary to reform reporting requirements and mechanisms,” County Attorney Bill Montgomery said. “I look forward to working with Senator Lewis in the upcoming legislative session.” Arizona State Senate President Steve Pierce (R-Prescott) announced that Senator Lewis’s proposal would have his support. “I fully support Senator Lewis’s plan, which I believe will enhance transparency and strengthen the public’s trust in their elected officials.” State Senator John McComish (R-Ahwatukee) echoed Pierce’s remarks. “I am glad to see Senator Lewis take on this critical issue and will be proud to co-sponsor the legislation when it is formally introduced in January.” “In Phoenix we’ve taken active steps to make sure the public has full confidence that decisions are made in the public interest, including improving transparency and forming an ethics task force,” says Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton. “The more we can improve public confidence at all levels of government, including the state legislature, the better off we’ll be as a state. Jack Brown, a former Senate Minority Leader and longtime lawmaker, endorsed the concept in Senator Lewis’s proposal. “Common sense is a rare thing at the State Capitol, but this proposal makes sense to me. I would gladly vote for it if I were still at the legislature.” Senator Lewis, who began working on this issue immediately upon taking office last January, made it clear that he intends to sit down with members of the lobbying community and elected officials before the next session begins to ensure that his proposal is a consensus bill that enjoys broad support. “I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure that this important piece of legislation is among the first to pass in the upcoming legislative session.”

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