With the extensive portfolio of new laws passed during the 2023 Minnesota legislative session, several issues stayed under the radar, including fairly significant changes to Minnesota’s laws regarding lobbyists and lobbying reporting. If your organization is already required to file lobbying disclosure reports, you will be impacted by these changes. Further, due to the expanded scope of the law, if anyone within your organization communicates with any elected official or government entity, you may now be required to file lobbying disclosure reports, regardless of whether you are currently required to file.

Increased Threshold for Required Registration

The Legislature made it easier for individuals to lobby without having to register as a lobbyist. Previously, if a person spent more than $250 of personal funds on lobbying, they were required to register with the Minnesota Campaign Finance Board. Effective January 1, 2024, only those who spend more than $3,000 will need to register..

Local Government Lobbying Greatly Expanded

Previously, communication with local governments was only qualified as lobbying if it was directed at “metropolitan governmental units,” which was defined to include:

  • The seven counties within the identified Seven-County Metropolitan Area (Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, Scott and Washington counties)
  • Cities within those seven counties with a population of more than 50,000 (14 cities)
  • Metropolitan Council
  • Metropolitan Airports Commission
  • Regional Railroad Authority

Beginning on January 1, 2024, this will be expanded to now apply to all “political subdivisions.” According to the Campaign Finance Board, “for the purposes of lobbying, political subdivision means a county, town, city, school district or other municipal corporation or political subdivision of the state authorized by law to enter into contracts.” This will encompass the following:

  • All 87 counties in Minnesota
  • 853 cities
  • 330 school districts
  • 1,764 townships
  • Regional Railroad Authority
  • Soil and Water Conservation Districts
  • Water Management Boards
  • Hospital Districts
  • Any other “political subdivision”

Further, lobbyist principals must register once reaching the $3,000 threshold for official actions spent at any level of political subdivisions, and once that threshold is met, they must register all subsequent clients. Examples of such official actions that have been cited by the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board include:

  • Zoning or ordinance changes
  • Approval of a housing subdivision
  • Liquor license
  • “Budget, and so much more”

The expanded scope of lobbying to include all political subdivisions is likely to greatly expand the number of individuals who are required to register as lobbyists, despite the increased $3,000 threshold.

Legislative Action Defined

A definition of “legislative action” has been created in statute and means any of the following:

  • The development of prospective legislation, including the development of amendment language to prospective legislation;
  • The review, modification, adoption, or rejection by a member of the legislature or an employee of the legislature, if applicable, of any (i) bill, (ii) amendment, (iii) resolution, (iv) confirmation considered by the legislature, or (v) report;
  • The development of, in conjunction with a constitutional officer, prospective legislation or a request for support of opposition to introduced legislation; and
  • The action of the governor in approving or vetoing any act of the legislature or portion of an act of the legislature.

This had not been defined previously, and this definition comes into play when filing lobbyist reports as described below.

Significant Changes to Lobbyist Reports

Minnesota currently has two types of reports related to lobbying, and both will continue to exist, but with significant changes.

Lobbyist Principal Reports

These reports are filed each March and have previously primarily contained a single dollar amount, rounded to the nearest $20,000, that an entity spent on lobbying and related expenditures. Beginning with the report filed in March 2025, which covers calendar year 2024, this report will now need to include the total lobbying-related expenditures (including lobbyist compensation, paid advertising for grassroots lobbying and other administrative expenses) rounded to the nearest $9,000 for each of these four separate categories:

  • Legislative Action (as newly defined)
  • Administrative Action
  • Public Utilities Commission (PUC)
  • Political Subdivisions

Lobbyist Disbursement Reports

Previous lobbyist disbursement reports require reporting on broad categories of issues, as well as a breakdown of associated costs. Beginning in June 2024, however the Campaign Finance Board is creating a completely different report that lobbyists will need to use. The report will no longer require any funding amounts to be reported, but will instead focus on what issue is being lobbied. The specific information required will differ, depending on whether the issue falls within the Legislative Action, Administrative Action, PUC or Political Subdivision categories.

Regarding legislative action, as of now, the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board is estimating that it will have 26 general topics, and within those nearly 700 specific topics, that lobbyists will have to choose from. Lobbyists will be expected to include each of the general topics that they lobby for, along with up to four specific topics within each general topic. If they lobby on more than four specific topics, lobbyists are to choose the ones that are most important to the client. This means that the specific topics being lobbied will be more publicly available than under the previous reporting system.

Administrative action refers to attempting to influence the content or adoption or repeal of administrative rules. Lobbyists will be expected to report each state agency, board and commission that they seek to influence, and further list the draft rule number as assigned by the Revisor of Statutes and the specific subjects that they seek to influence within the rules.

PUC lobbyist reporting requirements are similar, and refer to attempting to influence rate setting, power plant and powerline siting, or granting of a certificate of need. Information to be reported will be the project docket number and the full project name, as provided on the PUC website.

The political subdivision reporting is expected to include a listing of the official actions the lobbyist is trying to influence, along with the specific area of interest for each action. This will be required for each political subdivision that the entity or person lobbies.

Rulemaking Process Beginning

Many questions remain regarding exactly how these various changes will be implemented. The Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board is just beginning the process of drafting Administrative Rules, which will provide further clarity on the changes, but if your organization has any questions or wishes to engage in the rulemaking process, please contact us.

October 11, 2023