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State Revolving Doors:  Where They Exist and What They Might Mean

By Jeff Hartgen | January 30, 2019

Revolving Door Prohibitions

Last year’s elections and term limits in 15 states have provided an opportunity for quite a few former state legislators to consider how to proceed with their involvement in the public policy process. Some may now move to serve in the executive branch as a department head or other senior position, while others may decide to join the private-sector government affairs profession.

At the national level, a recent example of these new career paths is former U.S. Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona. After leaving office in 2013, Kyl returned to service in September 2018 after Governor Doug Ducey appointed him to fill the seat of the late U.S. Senator John McCain. In between that time, Kyl worked for a major law firm, to which he returned earlier this year after leaving the Senate for the second time.

There are prohibitions and rules that govern when former federal officials can actively lobby, and there is a range of such restrictions in the states as well. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), 26 states have “cooling off” periods of one year. Another 10 states have two-year cooling off periods (the Minnesota House also has a two-year cooling off period, while the Minnesota Senate requires no cooling off period for former members). There are also about 10 states with essentially no prohibitions, though there are a few qualifiers, as seen in the excellent chart prepared a year ago by NCSL.

As a former Michigan Senate staffer, my memory was jogged while reading a recent article in the Detroit News about recently retired and term-limited former legislators, including the former lieutenant governor and former Senate appropriations chairman, joining the lobbying corps, as well as former lobbyists joining the new governor’s cabinet. Some people are troubled by such revolving doors, while others argue that individuals with high levels of expertise should be allowed to exercise their knowledge. (Michigan does have prohibitions on a legislator resigning during their term and then becoming a lobbyist, as well as prohibitions on being appointed to an executive branch position during their term of office.)

Other states with limited or no revolving door restrictions include Arkansas,  Idaho, Illinois, Minnesota (Senate only), Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, South Dakota, and Wyoming.

However, so far in this early 2019 legislative sessions, there are bills to institute, amend, or expand the cooling off or revolving door rules in Illinois, Kansas, Oregon, Texas, and Washington. Shortly before this blog’s publication, a bill was also introduced in Michigan that would create a cooling off period.

MultiState strives to keep up with these changes, both for how they could impact our clients who are considering hiring recent former elected officials in various capacities, and as part of our Lobbying Compliance Service, whereby we partner with clients to manage their federal, state and local compliance needs.

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