AUGUSTA — A bill by Sen. Justin Chenette, D-Saco, would ban legislators from becoming registered lobbyists or being paid for any lobbying activities for at least 4 years after their service has ended.
The after-deadline bill — “An Act to Strengthen the Integrity of the Legislature” — would strengthen ethics laws surrounding the revolving door of legislators and state officials becoming lobbyists after their service.
Under current Maine law, Senators, Representatives, and executive branch state officials cannot become registered lobbyists until a year has elapsed after their service. However, no one is required to register as a lobbyist unless they lobby for more than eight hours in a month. This a loophole allows former lawmakers to participate in lobbying without waiting a year, so long as they stay under the registration threshold.
“We need to put more distance between lobbyists and lawmakers and ensure Maine has the toughest ethics laws in the country,” said Sen. Chenette, who serves on the Senate Committee on Conduct and Ethics. “While former legislators may make good lobbyists, it weakens the integrity of the institution by having a government of the lobbyists, by the corporations, and for the bottom line.”
The bill would ban former lawmakers and state officials from becoming lobbyists or conducting any paid lobbying activities for at least four years. This would mean individuals would have to wait through two legislative sessions/terms before returning to the State House as a paid lobbyist.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), at least 34 states have enacted a “cooling-off period” before a former legislator can come back to work at the legislature as a lobbyist. Eight states — Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Montana, and New York — have the highest bans for former legislators at two years.