Lobbyists in Utah found out first hand how it must have felt for Hester Prynne to be branded with a scarlet letter, that was when a new law took effect requiring that all lobbyists must wear a badge identifying them by name and bearing the label “lobbyist” at all times in the Capitol, and some are not at all happy with the new rule at all.
While lawmakers say that they like the idea saying that it will let them know up front who they are dealing with many lobbyists say that the rule is burdensome and unnecessary because they already identify who their employers are. Which begs the question — If that is true why is there a problem with wearing the badge?
The new law also requires that they identify exactly who they are working for before they may advocate for any legislation whether it is in person, by phone or email.
The lieutenant governor’s office which is charged with registering lobbyists and handing out the badges has said that it expects to hand out about 100 badges over the next few months which will be required to be worn at several meetings prior to the next legislative session which will begin in January.
This is not a new idea. Fourteen other states have a similar requirement for lobbyists and another half-dozen offer the badges but do not require that they be worn.
At the end of each year, as they renew their licenses to lobby in the state, all 500 lobbyists operating in Utah will be required to pick up new badges which are similar to the credentials issued to staffers and reporters.
The law specifies the size of the font to be used and requires that the badges be worn in plain sight at all times within the Capitol, however like many such laws it has no real teeth since there is no penalty specified for failing to abide by the rules.
“This is especially important for newly elected legislators who usually do not know the lobbyist and how many clients that person may have and who the lobbyist is representing in that particular conversation,” Senator Wayne Harper, R-Taylorsville who sponsored the law said in an email.
Co-sponsor Representative Craig Hall also Republican of West Valley City said:
“I remember coming in two years ago for the first time and I didn’t really know who all the players were. I didn’t know if a person in the hallway was just a regular citizen trying to talk to his or her legislator about a certain issue or whether they were a full-time lobbyist.”
Jean Hill who lobbies for the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City said that she has no problem with the law but thinks that it would be more helpful if the badge also identified who each lobbyist represented.
Not all lobbyists are as accepting of the law as Hill, Frank Pignanelli, a lobbyist for 17 years after spending a decade as a legislator says being forced to wear the badge is not only unnecessary, it is irritating.
“The first five seconds, you tell a legislator, even if you know the legislator well, ‘I’m here on behalf of X,'” he said. “If you don’t, it’s very bad lobbying.”