Lawmakers May Block State Staffers from Lobbying

Utah State Capitol 11Lobbying is not a bad thing in the Utah Legislature.

Lobbyists provide valuable information on many topics; almost all would agree.

But state agency staff shouldn’t be lobbyists, believes Rep. Marc Roberts, R-Santaquin.

He’s introduced HB197, which says Utah’s elected state officers, like the governor, attorney, treasurer, auditor and their executive staffs can lobby the Legislature, but department and agencies bosses and their employees can’t do so.

In fact, the bill says that no state agency can take an official position on any issue before the Legislature.

Roberts says it is time to enforce “the separation of powers” within Utah state government.

“The Legislature sets policy,” says Roberts. And state staffers should carry out that policy; the Legislature appropriates money and staff spend it; and so on.

But does HB197’s prohibition of an agency taking a stand on an issue violate free speech of state workers and bosses?

No, says Roberts.

As an individual, a state employee can come and testify before a legislative committee on a budget or bill, but the agency itself can’t take a position.

“We need good, objective data from state workers and agencies” to make the best decisions, says Roberts.

But individuals’ opinions on that data is not needed via “lobbying.”

There are currently legislative rules against lobbying on the Senate or House chamber floors. And even top executives in the governor’s office need permission to come on the floor and talk to lawmakers.

Roberts’ bill would go further, and further restrict any “lobbying” by state agencies and their employees at any time.