Maine Senate enacts Chenette bill to limit former lawmakers becoming lobbyists

Posted: April 25, 2019 | Senator Chenette, Veterans and Legal Affairs

AUGUSTA —On Thursday, the Maine Senate unanimously enacted a bill sponsored by Sen. Justin Chenette, D-Saco, LD 76, “An Act to Strengthen the Integrity of the Legislature,” limits the revolving door of legislators from becoming lobbyists.

“We must limit the undue influence lobbyists have over our government, and nothing speaks to this issue more than lawmakers and lobbyists swapping roles,” said Sen. Chenette. “Closing this loophole will ensure former lawmakers will have to follow transparency and ethics rules and hopefully discourage them from getting a lucrative lobbying gig so soon after they leave elected office.”

Current law allows former legislators to immediately become lobbyists at the conclusion of their legislative service as long as they work less than 8 hours a month. Moreover, they don’t have to register as a paid lobbyist. LD 76 would close this loophole by requiring a full year waiting period before any compensated lobbying could take place.

In 2017, the Maine Ethics Commission voted to recommend a similar solution to bar all lobbying by former legislators in the first year after their tenure ends. This bill is modeled on their suggestion.

“Questions of fair access may be exacerbated when some lobbyists have easier access to lawmakers than others, especially for revolving door lobbyists — those former legislators or executive branch officials who leave the government to go into the private sector and work to influence their former colleagues,” said Ann Luther, Advocacy Chair of the Maine League of Women Voters, which endorsed the proposal.

This bill is part of larger campaign finance reform package from Sen. Chenette. In addition to LD 76, LD 256, “An Act To Ensure Responsible Operation of Political Action Committees,” was signed into law by Gov. Janet Mills, and LD 54, “An Act To Limit the Influence of Lobbyists by Expanding the Prohibition on Accepting Political Contributions,” has received support in committee and is expected to come to the Senate floor for a vote.

Sen. Chenette is a member of the Senate Ethics Committee.

LD 76 now heads to Gov. Mills’ desk. She has 10 days to sign it into law, veto the bill, sign it into law or allow it to become law without her signature.