Lawmakers Debate Lobbying Limits

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

Former state lawmakers and high-level executive government officers in Michigan would be banned from lobbying for one year after they leave office under terms of a bill overwhelmingly passed Thursday in the state House.

The bill is an attempt to limit what some call the "revolving door" between the Legislature and lobbying firms that work to influence legislation. Supporters say the bill could remove potential conflicts of interest for lawmakers who are ready to leave elected office and are looking for other jobs.

"Any time we have a chance to renew or restore the public's confidence in this body, it should be done," said the legislation's sponsor, Democratic Rep. Marc Corriveau of Northville. "Far too many believe that a culture of corruption exists not only in Washington D.C., but here in Lansing."

At least 26 other states have similar restrictions on former lawmakers.

The bill passed by an overwhelming 99-6 vote. It now goes to the Senate.

A similar bill overwhelmingly passed the House in 2005 but died in the Senate without a vote. This time, the bill likely will be assigned to the Senate's new Campaign and Election Oversight Committee. New Republican Majority Leader Mike Bishop of Rochester will look at the legislation "with interest," spokesman Matt Marsden said.

The bill would apply to a former lawmaker, governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state or non-elected head of a major executive branch department.

The former officer could not spend or receive money for lobbying exceeding the threshold that triggers a requirement to register as a lobbyist in Michigan. That level this year is $550.

Six representatives voted against the bill. They were Doug Bennett, D-Muskegon; Judy Emmons, R-Sheridan; Ed Gaffney, R-Grosse Pointe Farms; Lee Gonzales, D-Flint; Virgil Smith, D-Detroit; and Glenn Steil Jr., R-Grand Rapids.

Rep. Chris Ward, a Republican from Brighton who sponsored the similar legislation that passed the House in 2005, was absent Thursday and didn't vote. Others not voting were Brenda Clack, D-Flint; LaMar Lemmons Jr., D-Detroit; Fulton Sheen, R-Plainwell, and John Stakoe, R-Highland.

The House bill could unfairly shut off a career path for former lawmakers, critics say. Term limits, approved by voters in 1992, restrict House members to three two-year terms and senators to two four-year terms.

There were 43 former lawmakers listed as lobbyists in Michigan in 2005, according to the Center for Public Integrity.

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