Powerful new Pa. House committee considers overhauling lobbying rules

The House Oversight Committee was created in January, and held its first hearing Monday.

 The dome of the Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo)

The dome of the Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo)

Pennsylvania’s brand new House Oversight Committee held its first-ever hearing Monday, on whether there should be tighter rules for lobbyists to disclose what they spend on lawmakers.

The creation of the committee was initially seen as a way for the Republican legislature to be more aggressive in its dealings with the Democratic governor.

The House voted to convene it in January, at the start of this legislative session. The chamber’s GOP leaders cast it as a way to check whether existing laws are effective — not just pass new ones.

The committee has a number of special powers—including the ability to subpoena people. When it was first established, spokespeople for the governor’s office said they hoped it didn’t mean the start of a more hostile relationship with the House.

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Seth Grove, the York County Republican heading the committee, said it hasn’t so far.

Committee members spent the last several months doing research on oversight projects—including the lobbying one.

In the first hearing, Grove and other lawmakers floated tighter disclosures for lobbyists.

“If [lobbyists] spend 1,000 and [they] have ten clients, they view it as $100, not $1000,” Grove noted. “Was that the scope of the law? No, it’s supposed to be about transparency.”

Currently, lobbying firms only have to disclose spending over $3,000 every quarter.

The Oversight Committee is scheduled to hold a voting meeting on its proposals next week.

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