by Max Brantley
(b)(1) As used in this subdivision (b)(2)(B)(v), "planned activity" means an event for which a written invitation is distributed electronically or by other means by the lobbyist, person acting on behalf of a lobbyist, or a person employing or contracting with a lobbyist to the members of the specific governmental body at least twenty-four (24) hours before the event.The House and Senate and Bureau of Legislative Research, which handles scheduling of some committee planned activities, have been reasonably reliable in posting notice of such planned activities. They must. Meetings of the House and Senate, if gathered officially (even if just for purposes of evading the ethics law), must be open to the public under the Constitution.
Max,I've asked for Senate policy as well.
It is not necessary that an event be placed on our House Events Calendar to be legal. If the sponsors of the event invited an entire governmental body to a planned activity, it is exempt from the Amendment 94 prohibition of providing food and drink. If the sponsors sent out a 24 hour written or electronic notice and, if, the sponsors have not sponsored another planned activity in the past 7 days, they are good to go.
It is not a requirement that the events be listed on our House Events Calendar.
We provide the House Events Calendar on our website as a courtesy to the members. In order to be on our website and on the Legislative Events Committee Calendar (that is placed in the members’ mailboxes) you have to go through the above vetting process by completing and signing the Legislative Events Committee’s event form. This indicates that the sponsors are aware of and have followed the laws. However, you can lawfully host an event without going through the Legislative Events Committee or by appearing on the House Events Calendar.
The Speaker would like to extend you a personal invitation to attend the event as his guest.
First, the definition of gift excludes “Anything of value that is readily available to the general public at no cost.” The ice cream is available to anyone that wishes to participate. Because it is an open space and not within either of the chambers, then it would be my position that it is available to the general public. This can be evidenced by the fact that so many non-legislators are getting ice cream. Again, it would be my opinion that in this type of situation, an invitation to the public would not be necessary to make it available to the general public.
Secondly, planned activities are not official meetings of the legislature. In fact the amendment to the law this past session provided that “planned activity” does not include food or drink at a meeting of a specific governmental body for which the person elected is entitled to receive per diem for attendance at the meeting. This was amended to prevent lobbyists from providing food and beverage during a committee meeting. Since it is not an official meeting, then no notice is required.