Following last year’s significant changes to Minnesota’s lobbyist regulations, Governor Tim Walz has signed two bills that further amend these provisions. The Elections Omnibus bill, H.F. 4772 (MN Session Laws 2024, Chapter 112), was passed first and sought to provide some clarifications, while an additional provision was added to the Omnibus Tax and Supplemental Budget bill, H.F. 5247 (MN Session Laws 2024, Chapter 127), in the waning hours of session to address certain individuals who provide professional expertise but may be newly classified as lobbyists. Below is a brief summary of the latest round of changes.

New Registration Requirements Stayed Until June 2025

Prior to passage of last year’s lobbyist registration changes, those who lobbied metropolitan governmental units were already subject to registration and reporting requirements. Those requirements remain in place at this time. However, individuals who are newly subject to lobbyist registration and reporting due to the expansion of regulations to all political subdivisions do not have to register until June 1, 2025.

Study of Lobbyist Laws Authorized

The Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board (CFB) has been tasked to “study and make recommendations to the legislature on the definitions of ‘lobbyist,’ ‘local official,’ ‘public official,’ and ‘official action of a political subdivision’ for purposes” of lobbying registration and reporting requirements. The study must be completed and submitted to the Legislature by January 15, 2025, allowing the legislature time to act on the recommendations prior to the registration requirements taking effect on June 1, 2025.

Are Professional Experts, including CEOs, Lobbyists?

One topic most in need of clarity following the 2023 changes was the role of professional experts who offer information to elected officials at the request of a lobbyist. Both the House and Senate included a provision that excluded individuals providing such expertise from the definition of a lobbyist, but that provision was removed at the last minute. The removal followed a discussion among members of the conference committee regarding the issue, including whether CEOs would fall under this exclusion. The conferees were conflicted about excluding CEOs and expressed a desire to have the CFB examine the issue during the study.

Lobbyists and Contingent Fees

Minnesota law has long prohibited lobbyists from being paid on a contingent fee basis, in other words, only getting paid if they have legislative success. However, one of the concerns with the expanded local lobbying regulations is that certain individuals who have long been paid on a contingent fee basis and have never been considered lobbyists, may now be classified as lobbyists under the 2023 changes. While the legislature examines this predicament over the next several months, a provision was included in H.F. 5247 that states:

Not withstanding any law to the contrary, an attorney or financial advisor participating in conduit financing through a local unit of government may be paid on a contingent fee basis.

This section expires on June 1, 2025, presumably following further clarification in law.

It is clear that the Legislature will again revisit the issue of local lobbyist registration and reporting requirements in 2025. In the meantime, please let us know if you have any questions.

Important Reminder

Lobbyist reports are due on Monday, June 17, covering the period from January 1, 2024 – May 31, 2024. As a reminder, these reports will contain different information than was required on previous reports. Once the new forms are available, please let us know if you have any questions.

June 3, 2024