MultiState identified approximately 80 jurisdictions that responded to current events by modifying aspects of their lobbying divisions.
Changes to lobbying deadlines due to COVID-19 impacted some jurisdictions, like North Carolina, more than others.
As we continue to unpack the idea of working from home the MultiState Lobbying Compliance team continuously evaluates and adjusts our processes to provide great service to our clients. Due, in large part, to our online system the Lobbying Compliance team has maintained the necessary pace and has easily shifted into our new, home environments to aid our clients in tackling their lobbying needs. This includes reporting requirements that were postponed due to Covid-19 and those that weren’t.
Our online system allows clients to communicate directly to our team. This access is especially valuable today because, like many of our clients we, too, needed to adjust by developing our work-from-home spaces and solving technological difficulties. As we adjusted to working from home changes to deadlines and requirements were quickly arising in a large portion of the jurisdictions that we handle.
While some states such as: Georgia, Idaho, and Massachusetts chose not postpone filing deadlines, around 80 jurisdictions took varying approaches to handling the pandemic. Jurisdictional responses that impacted lobbying requirements included: modifying legislative session dates, temporarily closing offices, or delaying lobbying reports.
We saw the majority of the filing postponements early on with jurisdictions like Alaska, Connecticut, and Kentucky’s executive branch.
These delays created an arena where our team could become familiar with roadblocks our clients experienced without running afoul on lobbying deadlines. We are invested in dedicating the time to problem-solve and meet the specific needs of our clients.
North Carolina Reporting Procedures
A few of our bigger lifts are our paper jurisdictions. Our team handles fillings in a few paper oriented states such as New Hampshire and North Carolina which require that some combination of original versions of registrations or reports be signed, notarized, and/or mailed to the state for review.
North Carolina allowed for employer and lobbyist filers to either file in accordance with the regular quarterly deadlines or to delay their first quarter report, which would typically be due in April, until July.
While some of our clients choose to file on the regular schedule, by extending the due date for the first quarter report, North Carolina shifted the pressure off of the majority of filers during a quickly evolving time.
One thing that makes these reports so unique is that they must be notarized. The notarization process requires that you meet with the notary in person. This was a particularly interesting time for our filers as people are spread out across the country and experiencing varying restrictions on visiting their offices where they may have been used to scheduling a time with a colleague to complete notarization on these types of documents. I was asking people to go out to a mail carrier or their local bank where they encountered additional complications such as the unavailable notaries or narrowing appointments to a specified window of time.
Lobbying responsibilities in North Carolina fluctuate depending on lobbying activity during the reporting period. Reports are required monthly during session for anyone who has incurred reportable expenditures and all filers are required to submit quarterly reports. North Carolina requires that reports be filed electronically by uploading through their website and may also require that forms be sent to the state depending on how the form is notarized.
Communication between our team and our clients is critical to the overall success in reporting requirements. While we were familiar with regular obstacles such as conflicting personal time off or accounting challenges, it is important that we continue to have clear lines of communication moving forward. People who share with our team that their computer scanner is broken or that they don’t have printer ink open the door for us to approach alternatives to these specific obstacles related to COVID-19. We also value our relationships within the Lobbyist Division of North Carolina. Their office was available and provided critical updates and confirmation that our team was on the right track in accordance with any new notices and requirements.
At this time it’s unclear how far into the future reporting delays may continue to change or whether changes will be made to various lobbying requirements. The Lobbying Compliance team at MultiState is continuing to stay up to speed on future impacts as we all stay flexible as things continue to develop.