Grassroots lobbyists in Colorado may be required to register as professional lobbyists if they engage in lobbying activity on more than one occasion under new lobbying rules.
Under the new rules, volunteer lobbyists are required to register with the Colorado General Assembly.
The Colorado Secretary of State recently issued new rules concerning lobbyists. While the rules update the reporting requirements for professional lobbyists (individuals who are paid to lobby) they also impact volunteer and grassroots lobbyists in Colorado. The new regulations have raised concerns about individuals who engage in lobbying activities but who are not professional lobbyists.
Colorado has specific definitions for grassroots lobbyists and volunteer lobbyists. The new regulations state that an individual is a grassroots lobbyist if they engage in lobbying activity on behalf of the organization they work for only once a year and are not paid solely to lobby. Additionally, the new regulations state that an individual is a volunteer lobbyist if they engage in lobbying activity and their only receipt of money or “other thing of value” consists of nothing more than reimbursement for actual and reasonable expenses, such as meals, travel, lodging, and parking.
The new regulations make clear that grassroots lobbyists and volunteer lobbyists are not required to register with the Colorado Secretary of State.
However, the new regulations also clarify that grassroots lobbying can occur “only once” a year. This could imply that employees of organizations, including non-profit organizations, would have to register as professional lobbyists if they engage in lobbying activity on behalf of their organization multiple times a year. Registering as a professional lobbyist will subject individuals, who would otherwise be considered grassroots lobbyists, to registration and reporting requirements which must be strictly followed to avoid complaints, fines, and enforcement action.
The new regulations also have implications for volunteer lobbyists. Volunteer lobbyists do not have to register as lobbyists with the Colorado Secretary of State, but they are now explicitly required to register with the Colorado General Assembly. It is important to note that to be considered a volunteer lobbyist in Colorado an individual must engage in lobbying and be reimbursed for expenses. This distinction means that citizens meeting with or contacting legislators on their own behalf about a particular bill or other concern are not required to register with the General Assembly. However, the new regulations could impact organizations who are organizing a lobby day if they plan to reimburse participants for expenses they incur in relation to the lobby day.
To ensure that you are in compliance with lobbying requirements in Colorado or any other jurisdiction, reach out to MultiState’s compliance team.