- Associated Press - Friday, February 20, 2015

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - Vermont lobbyists differ on a proposal to increase disclosure requirements for people trying to influence legislative debates through advertising, members of a Senate committee considering the measure were told Friday.

Under current law, such advertising is reported just three times a year. The bill being considered would require anyone spending $1,000 or more on advertising to disclose it within 48 hours.

Montpelier lobbyist Andrew MacLean told members of the Government Operations Committee the filing requirements of the legislation could be difficult for lobbyists to meet within the required 48-hour timeframe. He suggested increasing the frequency of lobbyist disclosure reports, which he felt could accomplish the same goal of informing lawmakers and the public about the groups that are behind certain advertisements without the bureaucratic difficulties.

MacLean said the proposal focuses only on advertising and could infringe on free speech rights.

“A simpler way may be to change your disclosure dates and maybe add one or two,” he said.

“The bottom line is, you guys make the rules, we’ll live by the rules,” MacLean said.

But Julia Michel, of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, said the proposal is a good step toward more transparency about who is trying to influence public policy.

“We believe that requiring lobbyists to disclose relevant information about large advertising expenditures designed to influence the legislative process is a commonsense proposal,” Michel said.

Committee Chairwoman Sen. Jeanette White, D-Windham, said the proposal grew out of a case in which a lot of money was spent trying to get members of the House to vote against an issue. She did not say what the issue was. There were no reporting requirements that could tell people who was behind the advertising.

The bill was introduced by the five members of the Government Operations Committee. The committee took no action on Friday.


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