Lobbyist disclosure bill signing

Gov. Tom Wolf signs a bill from Peach Bottom Rep. Bryan Cutler (right) to strengthen Pennsylvania's lobbyist disclosure law on Feb. 14, 2018. Acting Department of State Secretary Robert Torres, whose agency handles lobbyist disclosure reports, was also present.

HARRISBURG — Lobbyists who are paid to influence state lawmakers but don't disclose their work will face harsher penalties under a new law from southern Lancaster County Rep. Bryan Cutler and signed by Gov. Tom Wolf on Wednesday.

The nearly 3,000 registered lobbyists in Pennsylvania will also be required to file their quarterly reports electronically, and the Department of State will have to make them public within a week.

Wolf's signature on the bill marked the end of Cutler's decade-long effort to enact the changes.

“It's been a long time coming," the Peach Bottom Republican and House majority whip said alongside the governor at the Capitol.

Wolf, a Democrat who congratulated a smiling Cutler during the bill-signing ceremony, said the law will “help create a more open, honest and transparent government here in Harrisburg, one that is more accountable to the people."

Specifically, the bill increases the daily penalties for not filing a lobbyist disclosure report by the quarterly deadline.

The fine currently is $50 per day. Under the new law, it will be $50 per day for the first 10 days, then rise to $100 per day from day 11 to day 20, and $200 per day after 20 days.

The maximum penalty will be doubled from $2,000 to $4,000.

But those numbers are also far less than what Cutler originally proposed when he first introduced the idea in the 2007-08 session. That bill would have increased per-day late fees to $250 and set the maximum at $10,000.

He re-introduced the bill in every two-year session since and over time scaled back the penalties.

Late-reporting violations have generally decreased in recent years. The Pennsylvania Ethics Commission handles the cases, and there were 31 in 2015 and 11 in 2016. Cutler said there were about 14 in 2017.

Cutler said he hopes the new filing requirements will help strengthen constituents' belief in the legislative process.

“For people to have faith in the process, in the product, you have to be as transparent as you can on each of these issues," he said.