One of the most important skills you need as a legislator is to be a great listener. We need to listen to the voices of our constituents, the expertise of testifiers in our committees, the impassioned speeches of our fellow members in the House chamber, and the lobbyists who are advocating for their clients and their issues.

Lobbyists play an important role in the legislative process. They carry voices of constituents who do not necessarily fit within legislative district lines. For example, a lobbyist working on behalf of frontline health care workers. We all have those workers in our district, and the lobbyist works on educating the General Assembly on the issues facing those workers statewide, not just within specific district boundaries.

Advocacy is always a welcome and encouraged practice in our lawmaking process. However, it cannot happen in the shadows hidden from the public. This is what we are working to improve.

Every action we take as elected leaders must be transparent and open to the public. In just a few clicks you can see every vote we have taken, watch every committee meeting we have attended, and look up the salary of every public employee in Pennsylvania.

If lobbyists want to remain part of our lawmaking process, they must be held to the same standards. The public deserves that level of transparency and we should demand it as legislators.

It’s why we are supporting legislation that is part of the most comprehensive lobbying reforms to hit Harrisburg in 15 years.

Bills within the legislative package would require lobbyists to disclose and register any lobbying client conflicts with the Department of State; register with the Department of State any equity they may hold in an entity on whose behalf they are lobbying; register with the Department of State for any clients for whom they seek state financial assistance; and complete annual mandatory ethics training. Lobbyists would be prohibited from receiving or giving referral payments, and from collecting incentives through a third party upon a successful public taxpayer dollar-funded state grant program.

The package also includes bills to require campaign consultants to register with the Department of State and prohibit them from being registered lobbyists and prohibiting any state agency or entity from hiring an outside lobbyist.

Our job is to make sure the voices of our constituents in Southeastern Pennsylvania are part of the decision-making process in Harrisburg. The voters chose us to be their advocates, not to have our votes bought and sold by special interests.

We are proud to stand with our colleagues and support this package not just because it promotes transparency during our time in Harrisburg, but because it will protect our processes for the next generation of leaders in Pennsylvania.