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Panel: Toss one-year moratorium on lawmakers as lobbyists

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PHOENIX – A state House committee Tuesday narrowly endorsed scrapping a state law the prevents legislators from serving as paid lobbyists at the Capitol for a year after leaving office.

The House Committee on Government voted 5-4 to advance HB 2022.

Its author, Rep. Jack W. Harper, R-Surprise, said the moratorium is intended to keep lawmakers from influencing legislation but fails to recognize that staff members are even better positioned to become lobbyists. He said it’s unfair to deny former lawmakers the same opportunities allowed for staff members.

“To me, it’s ideological: You don’t infringe upon someone’s economic liberties,” Harper told the committee.

“I’ve seen people that have gone into the poor house serving as a state legislator, and to constrict what they could do in a job when they leave the Legislature … doesn’t make sense to me,” he added.

Harper has proposed identical legislation unsuccessfully during the past two legislative sessions.

Rep. Eric Meyer, D-Scottsdale, who voted against the measure, said it doesn’t make sense to undo what’s in place for lawmakers.

“I would expand it to our staff if that’s the problem,” he said.

Others who voted against the bill were Reps. Tom Forese, R-Gilbert, Ben Arredondo, D-Tempe, and Katie Hobbs, D-Phoenix.

Voting in favor were Rep. Judy Burges, R-Sun City West, the panel’s chairwoman, as well as Reps. Michelle Ugenti, R-Scottsdale, Steve Urie, R-Gilbert, David Gowan, R-Sierra Vista, and Steve B. Montenegro, R-Avondale.

Diane Brown, executive director of the Arizona Public Interest Research Group, said the change wouldn’t serve the public good.

“By removing the ability for a cooling-off period between legislator and lobbyist, it provides access and influence to other legislators that ordinary citizens do not enjoy,” Brown said in an interview.

But Harper said elected officials shouldn’t be restricted after serving the public in office.

“Once you finish your time here, you should have the same economic liberty as our senior staff members,” Harper said.