Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler says there are concerns about the current law that governs lobbyists, so he is considering a move that would update language in the existing statute.
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It is not uncommon for lawmakers to make changes and update legislation already on the books, but when it was learned that the proposed changes included new language that could impact volunteer advocates, AARP Colorado moved to be included in the discussion.
“I think the biggest concern we have is that there could be additions that would require our volunteers to abide by the same reporting rules as professional lobbyists, which are extensive,” said Kelli Fritts, AARP Colorado’s advocacy director. “A change of that nature could discourage some citizen advocates from participating in the political process.”
A bill has not yet been introduced. But the proposed changes already have a House sponsor. Gessler held a meeting on the topic late last month, which was attended by Fritts and AARP volunteer advocates.
“We zeroed in on some language about compensation that could have forced us to operate as though we are professional lobbyists and we are not,” said AARP Executive Council member A.W. Schnellbacher, a Colorado volunteer. “I think we were successful in getting such language removed from the proposed changes.”
In question was a paragraph that that defined compensation and contribution for lobbyists. That clause could’ve insisted that AARP volunteers involved in advocacy at the state level be required to track and report any reimbursement AARP offers as part of their ongoing volunteer activities.
“It’s a win, but we are not leaving anything to chance,” Fritts said. “We’ll have to watch this closely to ensure the final bill is not something that would negatively impact our volunteers in any way.”