This morning, Pennsylvania’s Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) disapproved the Department of State’s proposed increase to the biennial lobbyists registration fee which would have increased fees for lobbyists, lobbying firms and principals from $200 to $400. DOS had originally proposed to increase the registration fee from $200 to $700 but revised its proposal based on comments and feedback from stakeholders, including PAGR and several PAGR members.
In our conversations with the Department of State and the IRRC over the last year and a half, PAGR registered significant concerns with the proposed increase. An increase of this magnitude would create a disincentive for citizens to engage in the democratic process with Pennsylvania lawmakers and members of the Administration. We asserted that increasing the lobbying registration fee would create barriers to transparency; would make compliance with the Lobbyists Disclosure Act more of a burden for smaller entities, particularly nonprofits; and would restrict the voices of Pennsylvanians who may opt not to exercise their abilities to communicate with legislators because fees are beyond their reach.
In PAGR’s many discussions with DOS, the Department cited the increased cost of doing business as one of the
reasons for the proposed increase. As you know well, PAGR members, their registered staff and their principals (all of whom would be subject to this increase) also live with the same limited resources and the same challenges of doing more with less.
PAGR represents not only lobbyists and lobbying firms, but also government relations staff who advocate for small businesses and nonprofits. We believed there was an assumption on the part of DOS that all registered lobbyists can simply pass the increased costs down to their clients, or absorb it within their own infrastructure; this is simply not the case.
DOS also told us that the burden of maintaining the lobbyist registration database and website should not rest solely on the general public and the General Fund. PAGR respectfully disagreed. We support transparency and compliance with the Lobbyist Disclosure Act. However, since the database and website are meant for the public benefit, it is appropriate that taxpayer dollars support it. PAGR reminded DOS that lobbyists are already subject to a tax on lobbying services. PAGR recommended that funds from the lobbying services tax be earmarked for maintaining the infrastructure needed to support the Lobbyists Disclosure Act.
I would like to personally thank all of PAGR’s members who added their voices to this effort, and to the Board members who helped craft PAGR’s responses, joined me in meetings with both the Department of State and the IRRC, and who added testimony to this morning’s hearing. A very special thank you to Judy Eschberger and Katie Dotto.
PAGR will always support transparency and compliance with the Lobbyist Disclosure Act. But we have an obligation to ensure that increased fees don’t create unnecessary barriers to either. We see today as a win, not just for the lobbying community, but for all Pennsylvanians who advocate with members of the Legislature and the Administration for issues that matter to them.
Thank you again for your support as PAGR members. Please share this communication with your colleagues who may not be a part of the only association for lobbyists and GR professionals in Pennsylvania yet.