State Budget and Energy Issues Dominate Ohio Statehouse Lobbying Focus in 2019-20

The state of Ohio operating, capital, transportation and workers compensation agency budgets  along with controversial energy legislation all dominated Statehouse lobbying efforts in 2019 and 2020.  All Ohio lobbying registrations are submitted electronically through the Ohio Lobbying Activity Center (“OLAC”)—a website designed and maintained by the OLIG, andOLAC serves as a database for the public to view, search, and compile this information in real time.  Registered lobbyist must also register what issues they are engaged in.  This requires listing specific executive agency departments that typically report to the Governor.   

Again, the chart above illustrates the large role of the state’s operating budget plays in the work of lobbyist.  The Office of Budget and Management and Department of Taxation top the list of most lobbied state agency.  The Health Department, Jobs and Family Services and Medicaid Department all play a large regulatory role with hospitals, nursing homes, welfare and the health care industry and they all made the top ten list.  The Ohio Department of Commerce has grown in importance as the agency regulates many Ohio based businesses who need a license to operate such as the recently created Ohio medical marijuana program.  The Department of Transportation administrated a multi-billion- dollar infrastructure budget and the Ohio Department of Administrative Services is the focal point for the award of many state government contracts.   

The Governor’s office is typically the most popular statewide elected official that lobbyist register as attempting to influence.  1065 Ohio lobbyist registered they were attempting to influence the Governor’s office with the Lt. Governor coming in at 853, Attorney General at 857, Auditor of State at 639, Secretary of State at 624, and the Treasurer of State at 583 in 2019.xxxiii 

Registered lobbyist must also report specific bills in which they were engaged for legislative lobbying.  As the table below illustrates the state operating budget, transportation budget, Ohio Clean Air Program and workers compensation budget lead the list of most lobbied House legislation.  

House Bills With Most Reported Lobbying Activity 2019 

HB 166 Creates FY 2020-2021 operating budget 1229 
HB 62 Creates FY 2020-2021 transportation budget 296 
HB 6 Creates Ohio Clean Air Program 183 
HB 80 Creates FY 2020-2021 Workers’ Compensation budget 102 
HB 115 Require agencies to reduce regulatory restrictions 94 
HB 2 Create TechCred andMicrocredential Assistance Programs 88 
HB 247 Regards competitive retail electric service law 87 
HB 194 Legalize and regulate sports gaming/tax sports gaming businesses 80 
HB 246 Reform and modernize PUCO and Consumers’ Counsel 72 
HB 432 Grant Ohio occupational licenses to out-of-state licensees 71 

From the Ohio Senate standpoint, easing regulatory restrictions as well as operating budgets, civil rights and infrastructure legislation topped the list for registered lobbyist influencing Senate Bills.  It is worthy of note, that lobbyist are able to lobby the Senate on House bills and only register for the House Bill.  Thus, lobbying activity in the Ohio Senate in 2019 was very focused on the state operating, transportation and workers compensation legislation. 

Senate Bills With Most Reported Lobbying Activity in 2019 

SB 1 Reduce number of regulatory restrictions 165 
SB 171 Enacts a 17-day interim budget 133 
SB 11 Adds protections/mediation to civil rights law/keeps exemption 92 
SB 33 Modify criminal and civil law for critical infrastructure damage 89 
SB 172 Enacts a one-month Workers’ Compensation interim budget 80 
SB 97 Relates to providing estimates for health care preauthorization 77 
SB 246 Require occupational licensing of out-of-state licensees 72 
SB 8 Authorize tax credit for investment in opportunity zone 71 
SB 111 Regulate and levy tax on sports wagering 70 
SB 57 Decriminalize hemp and license hemp cultivation 70 

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Congress Regulates Lobbying Through Public Disclosure & Expenditure Limits 

Lobbyist must also register and comply with federal government regulations dictated by the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate for legislative lobbyists.  For federal lobbying, the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995, which governs federal lobbying, defines lobbying activities as any oral, written or electronic communication made to an executive or legislative branch official on behalf of a client with regard to: 

  • the formulation, modification or adoption of federal legislation; 
  • the formulation, modification or adoption of a rule, regulation, executive order or any other program; 
  • the administration or execution of a federal program or policy; and 
  • the nomination of a person subject to confirmation by the Senate. 

Any preparation or planning activities and research that is intended to be used in lobbying activities is also included in the definition. 

The federal Lobbyist Disclosure Act defines a lobbyist as any individual who is either employed or retained for financial or other compensation whose services include more than one lobbying contact and whose lobbying contact constitutes more than 20% of their service for the client over a three month period.   

A lobbying firm whose total income for matters related to lobbying activities on behalf of a client does not exceed or is not expected to exceed $3,000 in the quarterly period during which the registration would be made is not required to be registered with respect to such client.xxxiv An organization employing in-house lobbyists whose total expenses in connection with lobbying activities do not exceed and are not expected to exceed $13,000 in the quarterly period during which the registration would be made is not required to be registered.xxxv  Section 4(a)(3) of the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA), as amended, provides that the registration threshold dollar amounts be adjusted every four years based upon changes in the Consumer Price Index, and the last adjustment was made on January 1, 2017. The next adjustment will be made on January 1, 2021.xxxvi  As of September 30, 2018, there were 4,543 registrants representing 17,574 clients. The total number of individual lobbyists disclosed on FY 2018 registrations and reports was 13,848. The total number of lobbying registrations and reports processed was 115,922.xxxvii 

Registered federal lobbyists are required to file quarterly reports related to their lobbying activity.  Unlike the state of Ohio rules, federal lobbyist may work on a contingent fee basis but must register immediately upon their work.  Also, unlike most local and state lobbying registration requirements, federal lobbying registration requires a listing of a good faith estimate of income and expenditures gained from clients as well as a listing of what issues and legislation the lobbyist is engaged with on behalf of clients.   

Congressional Lobbying Public Disclosure Report Deadlines 

 Date Reports Due 
January 21, 2020* 4th Quarter report (Oct 1 – Dec 31, 2019) 
January 30, 2020 LD 203 (Year End) Contributions Report (Jul 1 – Dec 31, 2019) 
April 20, 2020 1st Quarter report (Jan 1 – Mar 31, 2020) 
July 20, 2020 2nd Quarter report (Apr 1 – Jun 30, 2020) 
July 30, 2020 LD 203 (Mid Year) Contributions Report (Jan 1 – Jun 30, 2020) 
October 20, 2020 3rd Quarter report (Jul 1 – Sep 30, 2020) 
January 20, 2021 4th Quarter report (Oct 1 – Dec 31, 2020) 
February 1, 2021* LD 203 (Year End) Contributions Report (Jul 1 – Dec 31, 2020) 

Source: U.S. Senate Clerk 

Congressional ethics rules prevent House and Senate members and staff from accepting gifts from lobbyists, foreign agents or organizations that retain lobbyists unless the gift meets a very narrow set of criteria.xxxviii In addition, members and staff are strictly limited in terms of the travel and hospitality they may accept from the public, and the ethics rules are generally interpreted to allow members and their staff to accept free attendance at receptions and events widely open to the public.xxxix The Congressional ethics committees approve attendance at ‘widely attended events’ if it fits the following criteria: 

  • there is a reasonable expectation that at least 25 people will attend the event; 
  • the event is open to individuals throughout a given industry of professionals or those who represent a range of individuals interested in a given matter; 
  • the invitation came from the sponsor of the event; and 
  • the attendance of the member of their staff is related to his or her official duties.xl 

For the executive branch, the Office of Government Ethics also establishes standards of conduct for the executive employees.xli