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More sunshine in Pennsylvania

March 20, 2007

Four years after its state Supreme Court tossed out Pennsylvania's lobbyist disclosure law, soon citizens will be able to see who's spending how much to influence their lawmakers.

It's a welcome change, in large part because in the past four years, technology has emerged to allow the information to be posted on a Web site, as opposed to a paper copy that citizens had to request.

According to information provided by The Associated Press, the first part of the new law took effect Jan. 1.

That's when lobbyists and "principals" - those who employ them -were required to register with the state.

In the four years that the state has been without a registration law, the number of lobbyists and principals has grown from about roughly 800 in each group to about 1,000 in each category.

Back in 2001 under the previous law, lobbyists and their employers reported spending $52 million. Citizens will get an idea of what the 2007 totals might be on April 30, when the first quarterly reports required under the new law must be filed with the State Ethics Commission.

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Laws of this sort only work if the public pays attention to what is filed - and to the relationship between how much money is spent and what legislation gets passed.

The one thing we don't want to hear is that the new rules will be a hardship for anyone involved. Those who want to pay to influence elected officials must get used to being scrutinized for it.

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