Basically, there are two categories of activity that trigger the need to register as a lobbyist in Texas:
- If you spend at least 5% of your compensated time in a calendar quarter communicating (and that compensated time value is at least $1,000); or
- If you spend at least $500 in lobby expenditures in a calendar quarter that would be reportable under the Act, then you must register. And once you are registered, there are no more registration thresholds regarding new clients. As soon as you communicate for a new client, you have to amend your registration by the next reporting date.
There are a couple of factors to remember as you determine if you must register:
- Communication doesn’t have to be about any particular issue; it can simply be “goodwill” communication, and the specifics of your communication may or may not be coming later; and
- When you are figuring whether you have spent 5% of your time communicating, you have to look back over the current calendar quarter and include any time spent preparing or planning for that communication, which would include strategy sessions, briefings, etc., that led up to the actual communication.
The exceptions found in the statutes are general in nature, while most of those in the rules apply to administrative agency lobbying. In the context of legislative lobbying, the only exceptions particularly relevant are that you don’t have to register if your only communication is testifying before a committee, responding to inquiries from a legislative official (inquiries you did not generate) or if you are communicating for solely clerical or administrative purposes (scheduling, etc.).
If yes, how?
Once you have determined you are covered by the Act and need to register, you have 5 calendar days from the day of your first communication which required registration to register with the Texas Ethics Commission. In almost all circumstances, the registration and reports are required to be filed electronically. The Commission has a really good website for accomplishing all of this – www.ethics.state.tx.us.