From tonight at ArgusLeader.com, it sounds as if there’s a move afoot to push lobbyists out of the Senate chamber areas:
State Senate leaders are proposing new rules that would block lobbyists from the chamber and adjacent hallways during working hours.
Supporters of the rule change said lobbyists on the floor and in the hallway to one side of the chamber have become too much of a distraction. The committee deferred action Thursday but is likely to take up the proposal again next week.
At least one member of the committee, Sen. Terri Haverly, R-Rapid City, said she wasn’t sure why the panel was taking up the debate Thursday.
“I don’t have a problem saying, ‘Leave me alone,’ so I don’t know why we need this,” she said.
The committee is set to reconvene as early as Tuesday to vote on the proposal. After the panel decides whether to adopt the rule change, Senate President Pro Tempore Brock Greenfield, R-Clark, will have the authority to implement it as he sees fit.
Greenfield following the meeting told reporters that he would likely restrict state employee lobbyists during the full work day, as that is what senators have supported, and would restrict private lobbyists during the three hours before floor session, during session and in the hour following unless they have an invitation. He said if any problems developed that he would loosen the restrictions.
I read that story tonight with some mixed feelings.
In years’ past, there has been some discussion around moving many of the state employees/agency lobbyists or “blue badges” out, as many legislators see that as an encroachment of the executive branch upon their turf. They feel that branch of government is powerful enough without swarming the 3rd & 4th floors with their numbers.
But as noted in the story, pushing out other lobbyists…. well, that’s a bit more of an issue. Yes, there are industry lobbyists who try to get legislators to pass bills designed to help the company line. But there are also other lobbyists who want to have their say.
So, should legislators push out representatives for Right to Life from the hallway next to their chamber? Or the Concerned Women of America? Or in the case of a group that I and other parents formed for the purposes of having our voices efficiently and collectively heard – should they kick the “Parents for Autism Insurance Reform” out of that side of the capitol because we organized as a group?
Absolutely not. In fact, it’s a bit of an affront to citizen groups large and small, many of whom are the envelope lickers and door knockers for the people who are talking about kicking us out.
Do what you have to do to assert your independence among the branches of government. And when it comes to citizen groups, If you’re busy, just tell the people trying to talk to you. That’s ok. We can handle that. That’s just good manners.
But don’t throw citizen lobbyists out with the bathwater.