JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — The number of business and interest groups lobbying in state capitols has risen nearly 11 percent in recent years as organizations have shifted some efforts away from the stalemates in Washington to statehouses, which are more apt to act on key policy initiatives, according to a new study.
An analysis released Thursday by the Center for Public Integrity found that the growth in statehouse lobbying coincided with a nearly one-fourth decline in the number of entities registered to lobby the federal government from 2010 to 2014.
"The basic, most likely explanation would just be there's more potential policy being passed now in state capitols, and there's less potential policy being passed in Washington, D.C.," said Matt Grossmann, director of the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research at Michigan State University. "Lobbying tends to be reactive to things that might stand a chance of passing — either in blocking them or shaping them."
The trend could be influenced partly by Republican electoral victories in 2010. The GOP takeover of the U.S. House restored a partisan divide to Washington after two years of Democratic control of Congress and the White House. Republicans also surged in statehouses that year, winning 25 legislatures and 29 governors' offices, and have continued to build their state majorities since then.
Whenever a political party gains control of a legislature after years in the minority, there tends to be a gush of new initiatives. That can be accompanied by a surge in lobbying, Grossmann said.
States have addressed numerous weighty issues in recent years, including Medicaid expansion, business-backed income tax cuts, transportation tax increases and the government's role in regulating new technologies such as online ride-sharing services.
The Washington-based nonprofit analyzed lobbying registrations gathered by the National Institute on Money in State Politics. It found 101 businesses, associations or interest groups that had lobbyists in at least two-thirds of the states between 2010 and 2014. That includes 21 entities registered to lobby in every state at some point during that period.
Pharmaceutical maker Mylan, which distributes EpiPen to treat allergic reactions, enlarged its lobbying efforts from nine states in 2010 to 45 by 2014, the center reported. Online ride-sharing service Uber Technologies has lobbyists in 35 states.
Although state lobbying has grown, the simultaneous decline in federal lobbying might be somewhat overstated, said Tim LaPira, an associate political science professor at James Madison University in Virginia who specializes in interest groups and lobbying.
He said a 2007 federal law that added reporting requirements for lobbyists has led some to stop registering. Those who do drop their federal registrations must spend no more than 20 percent of their time lobbying for clients.
The decline in federal lobbying registrations also might include entities that have shifted their focus to an executive branch agency and do not have to register because they deal with only a single person at that agency, LaPira said.
Center for Public Integrity report: http://www.publicintegrity.org/
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