Legal Alert

Major Changes to Illinois Lobbying Laws Are Now in Effect

by Kate A. Belinski and Clayton C. Keir
January 4, 2022

Summary

Effective January 1, 2022, Illinois has expanded its lobbying rules to cover local lobbying, require reporting of lobbying consultants, and mandate training for lobbyists.

The Upshot

  • The new law expands lobbying rules in Illinois to apply to all localities within the state. The law preempts all local lobbying regulations except for the City of Chicago.
  • Lobbyists now must report any lobbying consultants they hire as well as the consultants’ expenses.
  • Lobbying prior to completing the ethics and sexual harassment/discrimination training is a violation of state law.

The Bottom Line

Corporations, non-profit organizations, and other entities that engage in lobbying at the local level in Illinois are now subject to registration and reporting with the Illinois Secretary of State. In addition, entities that engage consultants at the state or local level will have to disclose those relationships on their lobbying reports. Lobbyists also must ensure they have completed their required ethics and sexual harassment training before engaging in any state or local lobbying activities.

Through Public Act 102-664/Senate Bill 539, Illinois has amended its Lobbyist Registration Act to extend lobbying rules to localities, require reporting of lobbying consultants, and mandate ethics and sexual harassment training for lobbyists. The state law preempts all local laws in jurisdictions with fewer than 500,000 people, leaving only the City of Chicago’s lobbying laws intact at the local level.

Local Lobbying

The amendments extend the state’s lobbying regulations to localities by expanding the definition of “official” to include:

  • County and township elected officials and board members;
  • Mayors, commissioners, trustees, alderman, or presidents of a locality;
  • Officials, whether appointed or elected, with the authority to make binding recommendations or determinations.

Lobbying at the local level includes any attempts to influence any ordinance, rule, regulation, order, decision, determination, contractual arrangement, purchasing agreement or other quasi-legislative or quasi-judicial action or proceeding. This broad definition means that many routine local level communications now will trigger lobbying registration and reporting.

All persons or entities that lobby at any level within the state of Illinois must register with the Secretary of State, except for those lobbying only Chicago City. There are no thresholds in Illinois; the very first lobbying contact would trigger registration, and registration is required within two days after being employed or retained as a lobbyist or making a lobbying contact. Re-registration is required by January 31 of each year. Once registered, semi-monthly expenditure reporting is required.

Consultants

The amended law requires registered lobbyists to identify consultants they have retained. The law defines “consultant” as “any natural person or entity who, for compensation, provides advisory services, including but not limited to rendering opinions on or developing strategies for lobbying or influencing, to a lobbyist or lobbying entity for the ultimate purpose of influencing executive, legislative or administrative action.” In short, consultants no longer can avoid disclosure by remaining “behind the scenes.” Lobbyists must report consultant expenses on their semimonthly lobbying reports due on the 5th and 20th of each month. These expenses include expenses made by employees of the consultant but not personal travel, lodging, meals, and office expenses.

Consultants may not communicate with officials in the same manner as a lobbyist. If a consultant advocates or makes expenditures for the purpose of influencing government action, they must register as a lobbyist within two business days of the communication and may no longer be retained as a consultant for the registration period.

Ethics and Sexual Harassment/Discrimination Training

Lobbyists now must complete the ethics and sexual harassment/discrimination training before their registration will be considered complete. There is no 30-day grace period. Any lobbying performed prior to completion of the training is a violation of state law.

Need Help?

Our Political and Election Law Group at Ballard Spahr counsels clients on their federal, state and local lobbying and ethics compliance obligations and assists with registration and reporting.

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