March 30, 2022
New for 2022, Illinois has enacted a significant change to the Illinois Lobbyist Registration Act. As amended, the Act for the first time requires individuals and entities that lobby local government officials to register with the Secretary of State. Prior to this change, only state-level lobbying activities triggered the registration requirements. The amendment took effect on January 1, 2022.
Local governments and private parties that interact with them should be aware that the new legislation, Public Act 102-664, expands lobbying registration requirements to require registration and reporting for lobbying activities at the county, municipal and township level.
Significantly, however, PA 102-664 imposes no new requirements on local governments with regard to lobbyist registrations. The requirements are on the lobbyist, and not the unit of government being lobbied. That said, existing local government lobbying regulations that are inconsistent with the new legislation are superseded, except in the City of Chicago.
Who must register as a lobbyist?
Any individual or entity engaging in lobbying activity at the local level (except those lobbying only the City of Chicago) are required under the new rules to register with, and report to, the Illinois Secretary of State. As noted, the new amendments do not impose any reporting requirements on the local government itself, or any of its elected or appointed officials.
Lobbyists that retain consultants to provide advisory services in connection with lobbying activities must report and provide information about the consultant’s services. If, in the course of providing consulting services, the consultant advocates or engages in communications for the purpose of influencing government action, that consultant must register as a lobbyist within two business days after the communication.
Notably, attorneys and law firms, “in connection with the practice of law,” are explicitly exempt from the registration requirements. Further, attorneys providing legal services to lobbyists, including drafting legislation or advising and rendering opinions to clients as to the construction and legal effect of proposed or pending legislation or any executive, legislative, or administrative action, are also not required to register.
Lobbyists must register on an annual basis. Registration must be completed before lobbying activity takes place and/or within two business days after the lobbyist is employed or retained.
What activities constitute lobbying?
Lobbying activities include communicating, or soliciting others to communicate, with “officials” for the purpose of influencing executive, legislative, or administrative action. “Influencing” means any communication, action, or expenditure used to promote, support, affect, modify, oppose, or delay any executive, legislative, or administrative action.
Importantly for local governments, PA 102-664 amended the definition of “Officials” to add the following categories of government officials:
- mayors, presidents, aldermen, commissioners, and trustees of a city, village or town;
- county board members and countywide elected officials; township board members, and township elected officials; and
- members of any board, commission, authority, or task force created by a local ordinance or order of a mayor or village or town president.
Communications to covered officials related to the introduction or adoption of any local ordinance or resolution, including zoning ordinances or resolutions in support of property tax incentives, will now trigger lobbyist registration requirements on the part of advocates and petitioners for these legislative actions.
Note that “officials” does not include municipal managers, administrators, department heads, municipal attorneys, and other local government staff, and thus communications with these individuals will not constitute lobbying under the amended statute, and will not trigger registration requirements.
Home Rule Preemption
Public Act 102-664 preempts home rule. No unit of local government, including home rule units, with the exception of the City of Chicago, may regulate lobbying in a manner inconsistent with the Illinois Lobbyist Registration Act. Any existing local government lobbying laws or ordinances that are inconsistent with the Act are superseded by this amendment.
Failure to register or other violations of the Illinois Lobbyist Registration Act are punishable by fines of up to $10,000 per violation. Every day that a report or registration is late is regarded as a separate violation. A conviction may also result in a prohibition on lobbying for three years from the date of the conviction (25 ILCS 17/20).
The Act prohibits lobbyists from providing services on a contingent fee basis. Given that many licensed real estate brokers provide services on a contingent fee basis, brokers should exercise caution and avoid engaging in activities that trigger lobbyist registration.
The Secretary of State has provided preliminary guidance on the new mandates for lobbyists, available here. For general information regarding lobbyist registration, reporting, and training requirements, access the Illinois Annual Registration guide available here.