Bill would limit lobbying by former elected officials

Certain former elected officials and public employees would have to wait before joining the lobby under a bill heard Feb. 25 by the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee.

Under LB792, introduced by Heartwell Sen. John Kuehn, former statewide office holders and members of the Legislature, Public Service Commission, State Board of Education and Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska would be required to wait two years after leaving office to be employed as a lobbyist.

An individual employed as staff by the same officials—with the exception of clerical staff or those not engaged in policy making—would be required to wait one year.

Kuehn said the bill would address a public perception that individuals in public service may be tempted to use relationships developed while in elected office to unduly influence legislation after they leave office. The bill also would align Nebraska law with guidelines governing federal officials and staff, he said.

“Thirty-three other states have some sort of statutory cooling off period for elected officials,” he said, although most do not limit the ability of staff to take positions in the lobby.

“Political transparency and maintaining the trust and confidence of the people should be first and foremost,” Kuehn said.

Gavin Geis of Common Cause Nebraska testified in support of the bill, saying constituents may feel betrayed by elected officials who use the influence given to them by voters for personal gain.

“In a representative democracy we should be trying to stay away from that as much as possible,” Geis said.

Frank Daley, executive director of the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission, testified in a neutral capacity, saying the commission has no position on when public officials are allowed to become lobbyists.

However, Daley said, the definition of which staff members are covered by the bill’s provisions should be made clearer if the committee advances the bill.

No opposition testimony was offered and the committee took no immediate action on the bill.

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