Utah Lobbying Regulations: A Comprehensive Guide for Businesses
Transparent and In Compliance: The Importance of Following Lobbying Guidelines
When lobbying, it is critical to be aware of the regulations and laws pertaining to lobbying in order to ensure you are acting ethically and legally. Integrity is your currency as a lobbyist. If you are acting unethically when lobbying, you may earn a negative reputation that will make it almost impossible to get an audience with legislators and key stakeholders. Depending on the severity of your actions, you could also lose your ability to lobby. For that reason, it is critical that you ensure that you are doing everything transparently and in accordance with the rules and regulations set out by your state. Here is a full guide of Utah lobbying regulations for your business.
Utah Lobbyist Regulations
In Utah, lobbying is regulated by the Utah State Legislature and the Utah Lieutenant Governor’s Office. You can go to https://lobbyist.utah.gov/ to find out all the information about lobbying as well as see a list of the registered lobbyists for the state of Utah. When you register to lobby in Utah and in addition to paying a registration fee, you are required to take an online ethics test to ensure you understand the lobbyist statute and rules.
Lobbyist Registration: What is a Lobbyist?
Anyone who engages in lobbying activities in Utah is required to register as a lobbyist with the Utah Lieutenant Governor’s Office. But what exactly is a lobbyist? “Generally, you are a lobbyist if you get paid to communicate with a public official, local official, or education official for the purpose of influencing legislative, executive, local, or education action.“ (State of Utah lobbyist page FAQ)
You can look over that statement to determine if what you are doing would be seen by the state of Utah as lobbying. A key part of that definition is getting paid to do the communication. So if you are constantly contacting your local legislators and sharing your concerns without payment, that doesn’t make you a lobbyist. However, if you are being paid for that contact, you would be considered a lobbyist. If you fit that criteria, then you need to register in the state of Utah as a lobbyist.
Before you can register as a lobbyist, you need to determine what type of lobbyist you are: state or local.
State lobbyists primarily communicate with state officials that are in the legislative and executive branches of state government, State lobbyists also communicate with staff who work at the state office. So if you are working with someone who has oversight and works at the state level, you would be a state lobbyist.
If you are a state lobbyist, you will need to do annual training and pay a fee. You also need to file disclosures.
Local lobbyists work primarily with local government officials who have decision making abilities for local governments such as city, county, etc. If you lobby for education with the local school boards or state school board, that would also be considered being a local lobbyist.
If you are a local lobbyist, then you will need to register and also file disclosures.
Both state and local lobbyists are required to file disclosures. The Lieutenant Governor’s Office requires that all registered lobbyists file yearly disclosure reports. Under certain circumstances, lobbyists must file disclosures more often.
Gift and Campaign Contribution Restrictions:
One thing to be very careful of when lobbying is the giving of gifts to legislators, public officials, or their family members. Utah has strict gift restrictions for lobbyists. There are some exceptions for certain types of gifts, such as food or drink provided at a public event.
Another thing to be very careful of when lobbying is inviting legislators, public officials or their family members to unapproved events.
Utah’s Lobbyist Disclosure Act has very specific rules as to what a lobbyist can give to someone. It also clarifies if a lobbyist can invite someone to an event. The Utah Lobbyist office has provided flow charts to help lobbyists determine if it is appropriate to invite someone to an event. There is a different flow chart for state and local lobbyists.
Prohibited Actions for Lobbyists:
Utah law prohibits certain types of lobbying activities. These would include lobbying for or against a pending lawsuit. Lobbyists can not intervene in legal matters like lawsuits or try to influence the outcomes.
Another example of lobbying that is prohibited in the state of Utah is offering compensation to a public official in exchange for official action. Any time you are offering some kind of compensation for an action that is considered unethical and illegal.
Penalties for Non-Compliance:
Not being in compliance with Utah lobbying rules can have serious consequences. Failure to comply with Utah’s lobbying regulations can result in civil penalties, fines, or even criminal charges.
It is very important to be knowledgeable and understand the regulations and rules associated with lobbying in Utah. You can use the state lobbying page as a guide to help you make decisions. You can also review the study materials they provide.
If in doubt, contact the Lt. Governor’s office, consult with a qualified attorney or compliance professional for clarity to ensure that you are following all applicable regulations. With the severity of the penalties and the risk to your reputation, you cannot be too careful in ensuring that you are in compliance with Utah lobbying regulations.
The Lockhart Group has over 25 years of lobbying experience and works to help its clients achieve the best results possible. We work first with the client in order to establish the need, then work together with them to find the most applicable solution and actions to take in order to achieve their goal. We know how to find the government officials who can enact the right solution.