On January 19, 2017, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan unveiled the Public Integrity Act of 2017. The legislation would impose a one-year lobbying ban on executive and legislative branch staff and prohibit current lobbyists from serving on state boards and commissions.
The proposed Public Integrity Act is part of a broader "Integrity in Government Initiative" announced by the Governor, which includes additional proposed bills that would provide for livestreaming legislative sessions, reform the appointment process for Maryland's Liquor Board and impose a non-partisan redistricting process in the state. In his announcement, Gov. Hogan suggested that there was a "culture of corruption" in Maryland's political system that was overdue for reform.
Broadly speaking, under current law, Maryland requires individuals to register as lobbyists if they receive more than de minimis compensation to communicate with officials and employees of the executive or legislative branch of government, or make expenditures on gifts, in order to influence legislative or executive branch action. Lobbyists are required to register with and to receive training from the State Ethics Commission. Amongst other limitations, lobbyists are subject to certain gift restrictions and required to disclose gifts and campaign contributions.
Lobbyists are currently allowed to serve on state boards and commissions, but required to file a disclosure of interest form and to recuse themselves whenever voting or otherwise taking action in relation to any interest that they have been required to disclose. State employees and officials are prohibited from working as lobbyists while employed by the state, but there are no restrictions on how quickly a state official or employee may become a lobbyist after leaving state service.
Proposed Changes via the Public Integrity Act of 2017
Although the text of proposed Act is not yet available for review, Governor Hogan's announcement outlined a few key provisions of note to anyone lobbying or conducting government affairs work in Maryland. Specifically, the Act would:
- Prohibit anyone employed by, having a financial interest in, or otherwise receiving compensation from a lobbying firm from being appointed to a state board or commission
- Prohibit staff of the Legislature or Governor from lobbying for a minimum of one-year after they leave state service
- Prohibit executive branch staff or interest groups from recommending a particular lobbyist or lobbying firm
- Prohibit legislators from introducing or influencing any legislation that would, in any way, directly benefit them, their employer or a business they have an interest in
In remains to be seen how the legislature will respond to Gov. Hogan's proposals, which have already garnered public support from some open government advocates in the state, but could face opposition in the state legislature. It is also worth noting that the proposed ban on lobbyists' appointment to state boards and commissions appears similar to the Obama Administration's initial ban on lobbyists participating on federal boards and commissions, which was ultimately revised after being challenged in court by industry lobbyists.