Advisory Opinion NO 2011-06

QUESTION PRESENTED

Whether or not the wearing of a lobbyist badge is required in facilities rented and leased, as well as owned, by the state government. Whether or not a registered lobbyist who is serving as a member of a state agency board, commission, department, or authority is required to wear and display their lobbyist badge while serving on that state agency board, commission, department, or authority in a government building.

ADVISORY OPINION

The Commission has been requested to issue an advisory opinion seeking guidance on lobbyist conduct with respect to the two above points of inquiry. As the Commission has reiterated in recent opinions, it is bound by the Ethics in Government Act (the “Act”) “[t]o do any and all things necessary or convenient to enable it to perform wholly and adequately its duties and to exercise the powers specifically authorized to it in this chapter.” O.C.G.A. § 21-5-6(a)(8) (emphasis supplied). Accordingly, the Commission must follow the statutory text of the Act. Id.; see also Barnett v. Farmer, 308 Ga. App. 358, 361 (Ga. Ct. App. 2011) (holding “[t]he Supreme Court of Georgia has instructed that the best indicator of the General Assembly’s intent is the statutory text it actually adopted…”). Hence, the Act’s text controls this, and all, inquires that are placed before the Commission.

With the above mandatory framework in mind, the controlling portion of the Act for both of the questions presented is O.C.G.A. § 21-5-71(g) which states: “[e]ach lobbyist while engaged in lobbying at the capitol or in a government facility shall display said identification [a lobbyist badge] in a readily visible manner.”

Under O.C.G.A. § 21-5-71(g) a lobbyist “shall display” their lobbyist badge “while engaged in lobbying”. Therefore, a lobbyist who is engaged in lobbying in a building owned, rented, or leased by the state government must display their lobbying badge.

Similarly, a registered lobbyist who is serving as a member on a state agency board, commission,
department, or authority inside a government building is not required to display their lobbyist badge
because that lobbyist is not engaged in lobbying; i.e., that registered lobbyist is serving on a state agency
board, commission, department, or authority. If, at anytime, the registered lobbyist serving on the state
agency board, commission, department, or authority inside a government building begins to engage in
lobbying, then that lobbyist would be required to display their lobbyist badge.

Prepared by Kevin Abernethy
July 29, 2011

Approved at 8/5/11 Commission Meeting


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