Monday, February 12, 2007


House Speaker introduces bill to bring back embedded lobbyists

American cockroach, Periplaneta americana. Gary Alpert photographer

You probably know that cockroaches can survive for at least seven days, sometimes a month without a head. They are very hardy, so even when we think we've wiped out the last of them, just wait a while and more will come back.

It seems to be the same with "embedded lobbyists." Although they were banned this session, the House leadership is now trying to bring them back. If allowed to go unchecked, the halls of the Legislature will be swarming with them again (see Kristen Consillio's excellent article on last year's eradication program here.)

A new bill has just appeared that on the surface looks pretty good--if you were unaware of last year's damage toll and public outcry. The bill is HB1084.

Here's info on the bill, and here's the hearing notice.

Please check the end of this article for how you can submit testimony to help stomp out interns again this time around.

On its surface, the bill appears to be innocent enough--it would subject the "interns" to the state ethics code. Reading the bill carefully and referring to prior news coverage, it can be seen that the interns are subject to the ethics code anyway, so the bill is not necessary. The primary function of the bill is to return corporate executives to their former positions as embedded lobbyists or spies, working for both their corporate masters and for a legislator at one and the same time.

The wording of the bill may also introduce a loophole if the "intern" is not paid by the legislature. In other words, if the legislature does not provide "consideration" then the provisions of this bill would not apply.

I think the many people who objected to the practice last year when HMSA Executive Administrator Mark Forman worked within Rep. Bob Herkes' office would object equally to their return. Last session brought the unfortunate demise of the health insurance rate regulation bill due in large part to the cumbersome and industry-favorable language inserted by Herkes' staff while Forman was working there.

Legislators always have the ability to go outside their own offices for expertise. Indeed, Herke's defense was that it wasn't Forman who wrote the bill, it was the industry reps.

We'll never know what whispering goes on in legislator's offices anyway. We'll never know what an "intern" hears and reports back to the mother ship. During conference committee deliberations, which are murky and generally opaque to the public anyway, we'll never know what role these corporate operatives play in decisions made in the dark and only announced to the public when complete.

There are no ethics rules behind closed doors where the public never sees. With regard to corporate execs working at the legislature, the best way to eliminate their influence or extraordinary access to legislators is to eliminate their presence from legislators' offices.

Yup, it's going to take some more bug spray.

How can you help? Please submit testimony against this bill. The hearing is set for 2 p.m. on Wednesday. Start by getting a copy of the hearing notice on your computer screen.

Your testimony should be sent either to the House Sergeant-at-Arms via fax or via email to the Public Access Room at the Legislature. Best to send 24 hours before the hearing, or by 2 pm on Tuesday. But late testimony usually gets to the committee if it's not real late.

For faxing, see the instructions at the bottom of the hearing notice (this is real easy to do if you have a fax machine or can send faxes from your computer). To email your testimony, see the instructions at the bottom of this page. This is a great way to participate in the legislative process using your home or a library computer.

This page has a sample format at the bottom.

If possible, it always works best to come down to the Capitol and give your testimony in person.

If you can't write testimony, you can also call the office of Rep. Michael Y. Magaoay, Chair of the Committee on Legislative Management, and ask that your opposition to HB1084 be registered. His phone is 586-6380. His email is: But call before the hearing on Wednesday.

Help keep corporate interests out of our legislature. Please submit testimony on this bill.


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