Barring a bizarre turn of events President Bush will sign S.1, the lobbying and ethics reform bill, today. That means that many of the changes will go into effect as of Saturday while other changes will come into effect later this year or by next year. By the beginning of next year there will be a much greater level of transparency in Congress as this bill requires online posting of congressional materials and the creation of numerous online databases. Let’s do a little run-down.
1) As of December 12, all Senate committees and subcommittees must post a transcript or audio/video file of each committee hearing within 21 days.
2) As of January 1, 2008, the Secretary of the Senate will have established a publicly searchable online database of privately paid travel reports.
3) As of August 1, 2008, the Clerk of the House must post online in a manner that is searchable, sortable, and downloadable both personal financial disclosures and privately paid travel reports.
4) All lobbying changes will go into effect on January 1, 2008. The Clerk of the House and the Secretary of the Senate will begin posting the first quarterly lobbying disclosure reports online on January 1, 2008.
The date that disclosure of bundled contributions by lobbyists will go in effect is a bit difficult to determine because it requires the Federal Election Commission to set regulations governing this disclosure. It is likely, however, that bundlers will be disclosed by the first semi-annual period in July of 2008.
Congressional Quarterly gives a good run-down of what kind of restrictions are going into effect immediately:
Life in the Senate is about to change.
Senators will no longer be able to take gifts or junkets from lobbyists.
Senate spouses will be banned from the lobbying business, unless they were lobbyists before their spouse’s most recent election or before they married a senator.
Senators and their top aides will have to notify the Ethics Committee within three days when they begin negotiating new jobs.
Those are some of the changes that will take effect when President Bush signs a lobbying overhaul bill (S 1).
Bush is widely expected to sign the bill on Friday. Unless he uses his veto, it will become law by Saturday, whether or not it has been signed.
In addition, within 60 days on enactment privately paid travel will be altered forever for Senators as lobbyists are no longer allowed to participate in these “fact-finding” missions, conventions, and lobbying get-togethers.
This is just the beginning in changing the way Congress works, but for now I’ll agree with CQ: Life is about to change.