Anyone who communicates with an elected official, employee or appointed officer at the state level in Texas for the purpose of influencing the outcome of any legislative measure or administrative action is engaged in the practice of lobbying. The fundamental issue is that some forms of communication require you to register under the Texas Lobby Law, Chapter 305 of the Government Code Act, while others do not.
The distinction between which activities require registration and which do not is often difficult to ascertain, yet the penalties for violation can be significant. And for those who are found to be subject to the Act, the processes of registration, reporting and compliance are often confusing and at times seemingly contradictory, which is why PAAT is a helpful resource for those who lobby in Texas.
And believe it or not, there are significant benefits for properly registering and reporting as a lobbyist, most importantly:
- Your reported expenditures are an exception to bribery provisions that would otherwise apply for for both the advocate and the state official or employee. (Chapter 36.02, Texas Penal Code)
- You are not limited on some expenditures, such as gifts in excess of $50, that would otherwise apply from the Penal Code.
The annual lobby registration fee is $750 for all registrants except organizations exempt from federal taxes under the IRS Code, 26 U.S.C. § 501(c)(3), 501(c)(4), or 501(c)(6) and lobbyists who represent only such organizations. The annual fee for those registrants is $150. The fee is not prorated for lobbyists who are registered for only a portion of the year.
You must file a registration no later than five days after the date you or your employee makes the communication that requires you to register. Gov’t Code § 305.005(e). Registration is for a particular calendar year and expires at midnight on December 31 of that year. Even if you do not register until November or December, your registration expires on December 31 of that year. If you are currently registered and it is likely that you will need to register as a lobbyist for the next calendar year, you may submit a new registration in December to avoid a lapse in your lobby registration.
Think you need to register? Helpful resources:
- First: Determine if Need to Register
- How to File: Ethics Commission Registration Forms & Instructions
- Lobby Electronic Filing: Frequently Asked Questions
- Penalties for Messing Up: Consequences – Weighing Your Options