Tougher state lobbyist law ups tranparency

Here’s something we wish we could say much more often: Score one for transparency and accountability in Harrisburg — thanks to a new measure that stiffens Pennsylvania’s lobbyist-disclosure law.

House Bill 1175 was passed in bipartisan fashion, with overwhelming House and Senate majorities, and signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf.

It immediately doubles the state Ethics Commission’s maximum penalty for lobbyists who violate the disclosure law, from $2,000 to $4,000.

It also increases the flat $50-per-day maximum penalty lobbyists had been paying for late disclosure filings. They’ll now pay $50 a day for the first 10 days, $100 a day for days 11 through 20, then $200 for each additional day.

But what’s more important — and more valuable — for Pennsylvanians is that all lobbyists will now be required to file disclosures with the Department of State electronically, which State must post online within seven days of filing.

This provision means the public soon will have online access to updated information on who’s registered to lobby, what causes they’re lobbying for, and their spending on those causes’ behalf.

There’s nothing wrong with lobbying per se, but when it’s done in the shadows, suspicions arise.

This new law counters such suspicions by shedding light.

After all, the more the people know about who’s seeking to influence legislation in Harrisburg, the better they can judge whose interests lawmakers actually represent.