Limits on campaign contributions and new accessibility measures would give ordinary citizens a leg up on paid lobbyists at the State House
STATE HOUSE – Rep. Aaron Regunberg plans to introduce a legislative package that aims to level the playing field between ordinary citizens and lobbyists and special interests.
“Lobbyists paid by the most powerful and wealthy institutions in our state are always present at the State House — and at the fundraisers that are ubiquitous during the legislative session,” said Representative Regunberg (D-Dist. 4, Providence). “This package is designed to make sure the voices of families who can’t afford a well-connected corporate lobbyist also have access to make their voices heard.”
The Citizen Lobbyist Easier Access Reform (CLEAR) bill (2018-H 7214) contains a number of new accessibility measures and limitations on special-interest spending that that would make way for a shift in the State House status quo.
Transportation - Reserves 100 free parking spaces for visiting members of the public and creates a new bus stop at the State House.
Child care - Establishes a child-care center for visitors to the State House that will operate during long committee hours when the legislature is in session.
Public Priority - The first 10 spaces for testimony during committee hearings will be reserved for members of the public who are not registered as lobbyists.
Remote Testimony - Invest in the needed technology to allow individuals to submit spoken testimony if they are unable to attend legislative hearings in person.
Limits on political contributions from lobbyists -
- The maximum annual contribution total to any candidate from a registered lobbyist would be decreased from $1,000 to $100.
Currently, there are a number of practical barriers that make it difficult for Rhode Islanders to go on the record on pending legislation. The legislature meets on weekdays, starting during business hours, and the State House lacks child care, making it difficult for parents and working people to participate. Parking spaces are largely reserved for State House permit holders, and bus routes are limited. Those who are not able to attend a legislative hearing in person are only able to submit written testimony, which is often overlooked by lawmakers.
- Lobbyists and Political Action Committees would be prohibited from making contributions to political candidates while the legislature is in session.
“The system for public input we have now simply does not work for parents, working people, the elderly and the disabled. It’s stifling our conversation on the issues, but it’s something we can fix,” said Representative Regunberg. “If you can’t afford a State House lobbyist, you still deserve to be heard in Rhode Island. And if you are a State House lobbyist, then your case should rest on the strength of your argument – not on the amount on your campaign check.”
The legislation, which Representative Regunberg plans to introduce today, is cosponsored by Rep. Katherine S. Kazarian (D-Dist. 63, East Providence), Rep. Alex D. Marszalkowski (D-Dist. 52, Cumberland), Rep. Julie A. Casimiro (D-Dist. 31, North Kingstown, Exeter) and Rep. Evan P. Shanley (D-Dist. 24, Warwick).
For more information, contact:
Meredyth R. Whitty, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903