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7/6/2016 Lobbying reform act signed into law
STATE HOUSE – Sen. Erin Lynch Prata and Rep. Robert B. Jacquard’s legislation (2016-S 2361 Sub A / 2016-H 7388 Sub A) that reforms the state’s general laws on lobbying was signed into law by Governor Gina M. Raimondo at a ceremonial bill signing today.

“The people of Rhode Island deserve to know that the decisions being made at the State House are not being corrupted by lobbyists who refuse to follow the rules,” said Senator Lynch Prata (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston).  “This legislation provides the public with the means to easily discern who is lobbying for what, as well as, giving the Secretary of the State the means to root out those who are undermining the democratic process through unethical lobbying behavior.”

“Our state’s system of lobbying must be reformed to ensure the integrity of our governmental processes.  Transparency and accountability to the taxpayers of Rhode Island is crucial to reforming the public’s trust in government and I am pleased to say that is exactly what will be accomplished with this legislation,” said Representative Jacquard (D-Dist. 17, Cranston).  “The public deserves to know who is trying to influence the decisions of policy makers and this legislation makes that possible in an easy and transparent way for the taxpayers.”

Developed with Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea, the intent of the legislation is to simplify and clarify the rules governing lobbying, to maximize transparency without imposing unnecessary burdens on the process, to promote a more user-friendly registration and reporting system, and to strengthen the investigation and enforcement scheme of the state’s lobbying rules and regulations.

“Comprehensive reform of the state’s lobbying laws has been a top priority of my administration,” said Secretary Gorbea. “This law strengthens Rhode Island’s commitment to transparency and effective government. “I thank Speaker Mattiello, Senate President Paiva Weed, our sponsors, Representative Jacquard and Senator Lynch Prata, the entire General Assembly, and Governor Raimondo  for working with me to make Rhode Island a national leader in openness and transparency.”

The 2016 Lobby Reform Act came in response to repeated concerns from constituents, lawmakers and lobbyists that the state’s existing lobbying statutes were difficult to interpret and to comply with. In response, Secretary Gorbea initiated a comprehensive review of the two statutes governing lobbying and established a Lobbying Advisory Task Force to help guide efforts that would strengthen and clarify Rhode Island's lobbying laws.

The landmark legislation accomplishes three objectives:

1.        Provides much clearer definitions and bright line distinctions, so those involved    can more easily determine who does and does not have to register to lobby.

2.        Provides a clear process to investigate possible violations of the lobbying law.

3.        Strengthens penalties for violations.

Cosponsors of the two pieces of legislation include Sen. Gayle L. Goldin (D-Dist. 3, Providence), Sen. Frank S. Lombardi (D-Dist. 26, Cranston), Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence), Rep. Deborah Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown, Middletown), and Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee (D-Dist. 33, South Kingstown, Narragansett).

The Department of State is currently developing a new web-based Lobby Tracker Portal to launch ahead of the next legislative session. The new law goes into effect January 1, 2017.

Governor Gina Raimondo signs the lobbying reform legislation in a ceremony in the State House Library on July 6, 2016.  From left are Rep. Bob Jacquard, the sponsor, and Reps. Anastasia Williams and Carol McEntee, the co-sponsors, and Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea.

For more information, contact:
Andrew Caruolo, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903