Lawmakers want to stop lobbying on the House floor

Utah House of RepresentivesEvery year or so state Rep. Jim Dunnigan runs a House Rule bill to make the rules reflect accepted practice – and this year HR2 is aimed at stopping what some may say is casual lobbying on the House floor.

Not too many years ago, certain well-known lobbyists would pick a comfy chair around the House Chamber walls and sit there for hours at a time – officially the “guest” of a powerful legislator.

And it was normal for a representative to have a lobbyist at their elbow as they presented a special interest bill the lobbyist and his clients wanted.

That is long gone now.

But, said Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, there have been incidents in recent years where a “guest” on the floor may walk up to a lawmaker and engage him or her in a discussion on a bill that is currently up for debate, or soon to be.

“We just wanted to clean up some language and make sure who could and could not lobby,” said Dunnigan.

Another part of the rules says there will be NO lobbying on the floor. That means one legislator can’t urge another legislator to vote “aye” or “nay” on a bill.

But that rule is likely honored as much in the breach as the observance since at one time or another it would be odd to try to stymy free speech between representatives while the House is in session.

One good thing for us few, we honored few, who are credentialed media reporters: Dunnigan said he reviewed the rules on reporters’ floor access and “nothing will be done with that this year; I don’t see any need for changes.”

Before the Capitol was remodeled several years ago, reporters sat on the floor in a corner bench and could catch the eye of a lawmaker, thus asking him to walk off the floor for an interview.

But when we moved back in reporters were put up in the House and Senate galleries. They can still have access to the floor when the House and Senate are not in session.

And they can thus grab legislators for quick interviews.

TV reporters often pull a lawmaker off the floor for video interviews in hallways off the chambers.

And with HR2, it will become easier for a legislator to tell a “guest” of another legislator not to lobby them on the House floor while in session.

The penalty: Maybe a warning, or maybe ask the guest to leave the chamber, but no one being quick-marched off the floor in a hammer-lock.