What is the new Massachusetts lobbying law?

Chapter 28 of the Acts of 2009, “AN ACT TO IMPROVE THE LAWS RELATING TO CAMPAIGN FINANCE, ETHICS AND LOBBYING” is the most sweeping change in the ethics and lobbying laws in decades. Changes in the lobbying sections will have widespread impact in the advocacy community.

The term legislative lobbying and executive lobbying are defined in the new law more specificity than in the past. Prior to the change, lobbying was not separately defined, but in other sections was referred in very broad terms such as “any act to promote, oppose or influence legislation, or to promote, oppose or influence the governor’s approval or veto thereof.”
Here is what the new law says:

  • Legislative lobbying,” any act to promote, oppose, influence or attempt to influence legislation, or to promote, oppose or influence the governor’s approval or veto thereof including, without limitation, any action to influence the introduction, sponsorship, consideration, action or non-action with respect to any legislation; provided further, that legislative lobbying shall include acts to influence or attempt to influence the decision of any officer or employee of a city or town when those acts are intended to carry out a common purpose with legislative lobbying at the state level; and provided further, that legislative lobbying shall include strategizing, planning and research if performed in connection with or for use in an actual communication with a government employee; provided, however, that “legislative lobbying” shall not include providing information in writing in response to a written request from an officer or employee of the legislative branch for technical advice or factual information regarding any legislation for the purposes of this chapter.
  • Executive lobbying,” any act to promote, oppose, influence, or attempt to influence the decision of any officer or employee of the executive branch or an authority, including but not limited to, statewide constitutional officers and employees thereof, where such decision concerns legislation or the adoption, defeat or postponement of a standard, rate, rule or regulation promulgated pursuant to any general or special law, or any act to communicate directly with a covered executive official to influence a decision concerning policy or procurement; provided further, that executive lobbying shall include acts to influence or attempt to influence the decision of any officer or employee of a city or town when those acts are intended to carry out a common purpose with executive lobbying at the state level; and provided further, that executive lobbying shall include strategizing, planning, and research if performed in connection with, or for use in, an actual communication with a government employee; and provided, further, that “executive lobbying” shall not include providing information in writing in response to a written request from an officer or employee of the executive branch or an authority for technical advice or factual information regarding a standard, rate, rule or regulation, policy or procurement for the purposes of this chapter.

Note that there are 11 exemptions to the executive lobbying. These exemptions were in previous law and apply to executive branch lobbying only.

In short, the definition of lobbying – in both the legislative and executive branches is quite broad. It is a broader category than who needs to register and informs both the question of who needs to register and what needs to be reported.

NOTE: This interpretation of the law, based on our extensive involvement with its passage, has no legal authority. Under the statute, the Secretary of the Commonwealth (the Secretary) has primary responsibility to enforce and interpret the law. This document is not intended as a substitute for seeking oral advice, or requesting an advisory opinion, from the Secretary pursuant to M.G.L. c. 3, s. 41. Furthermore, in the interest of clarity this memo does not delve into all of the legal nuances of the law, yet another reason to seek advice.