Lobbying reform group to miss report deadline

Delay will keep issue out of Assembly session that begins in January

November 03, 1999|By Greg Garland | Greg Garland,SUN STAFF

A state task force that is reviewing lobbying practices in Maryland said yesterday that it will not meet its Dec. 31 deadline for recommendations to strengthen laws and regulations governing lobbyists.

The failure to make the General Assembly's year-end deadline means lobby reforms will not be addressed in the legislative session that starts in January.

"In my opinion, we cannot conclude our work in a proper way by Dec. 31," Donald B. Robertson, the chairman and a former state legislator, told task force members at a meeting yesterday.

Other task force members agreed that they need more time to write a report.

James Doyle, a lobbyist and task force member, said he saw no choice but for the group to seek an extension.

"I don't see what else we can do," Doyle said. "I wouldn't want my name on a work product that is shabby. We need to send a product out of here that we're not going to be embarrassed about."

Robertson, a Montgomery County Democrat and former majority leader of the House of Delegates, , said he will ask the General Assembly to extend the deadline to September.

The task force will meet twice before the end of the year then suspend its work until May, he said.

Robertson said presiding officers in the House and Senate indicated that they would be receptive to an extension of the deadline.

The task force is reviewing sweeping proposals that could change the way lobbyists are regulated in Maryland and strengthen sanctions for those who violate ethical standards -- possibly by revoking or suspending their privileges.

The 13-member task force was formed in the wake of a series of embarrassing incidents involving lobbyists and legislators.

Since the group began meeting in September, it has discussed a range of issues, including tightening requirements that lobbyists report gifts to and entertainment of legislators.

The task force is also considering whether those who lobby for colleges and local governments should have to register as lobbyists and meet reporting requirements. They are exempt.

The panel also is debating whether attempts to influence executive branch decisions should fall under the lobbying law.

Robertson suggested that lobbyists in Annapolis be required to take a brief ethics training course each year, as is required of legislators.

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