Six months ago, in July 2013, my weekly column at Civil Beat pointed to Kauai County’s failure to regulate lobbyists (“Hawaii Monitor: Kauai’s Free Range Lobbyists“).
But on Wednesday, the Kauai County Council’s Committee of the Whole voted unanimously in favor of a bill to regulate lobbyists. It is now scheduled for a final vote at the council’s January 16 meeting.
I wasn’t able to navigate the council’s document system yesterday to find the text of this final version of the measure, but here’s how it was described by the Garden Island newspaper.
A lobbyist, according to a draft version of the bill, is defined as any individual who is paid to engage or is engaged in lobbying or lobbying activities on a particular county government issue or action for more than five hours in any month or spends more than $750 during the county’s six-month financial disclosure period.
The ordinance, however, would exempt individuals who represent themselves; federal, state or county employees acting within their official duties; media companies; attorneys in an advisory capacity; and certain experts and consultants.
The proposed bill also included amendments expanding the amount of financial information that must be disclosed, including how much is spent on print, electronic, broadcast or other media advertisements, and changed the registration deadline date from Jan. 31, 2014 to Jan. 31, 2015.
It would also exempt 501(c)(3) nonprofit employees from registering as lobbyists but require them to submit financial disclosure forms.
Members of county advisory committees or tasks forces would also be barred from lobbying on topics being considered by those boards.
The county Office of Boards and Commission, which will maintain all the financial and registration records, must also post the forms on a department-maintained website within 10 business days of it being received by the Board of Ethics.
Council chair Jay Furfaro said the bill will “help us be compliant with the other counties….”
While I’m glad to see the county finally take this step, the chairman’s comment sort of underplays the matter. The problem isn’t that Kauai wasn’t keeping up with the other counties. The problem is that the State Constitution includes a requirement that each of the counties establish an ethics commission that, among other things, regulates lobbyists. Kauai simply failed to comply for decades.