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State and Federal Communications' Experts Answer Your Questions
January 2018

Here is your chance to "Ask the Experts" at State and Federal Communications, Inc. Send your questions to experts@stateandfed.com. (Of course, we have always been available to answer questions from clients that are specific to your needs, and we encourage you to continue to call or email us with questions about your particular company or organization. As always, we will confidentially and directly provide answers or information you need.) Our replies are not legal advice, just our analysis of laws, rules, and regulations.

I'm an in-house lobbyist planning to meet with California legislators to influence state government action. If I go to the meeting accompanied by a registered lobbyist, isn't my time at the meeting exempt from counting toward the lobbyist registration threshold under the "ride-along" exception?

That depends. The California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) amended its regulations in 2016 to narrow the so-called "ride-along" exception. The exception is now only available to in-house employees who act as "subject matter experts" in communicating with California government officials while accompanied by a registered lobbyist employed or retained by their employer. If the exception does not apply to your circumstances, you must include the time from the meeting in your lobbyist registration threshold calculation.

A meeting-by-meeting analysis must be conducted to determine whether an in-house lobbyist qualifies as a subject matter expert with regard to a given meeting. The regulations do not define what constitutes a subject matter expert; however, an FPPC memo has defined the term "subject matter expert" using Merriam Webster's definition of "expert" as "having or showing special skill or knowledge because of what you have been taught or what you have experienced."

If you will be attempting to influence a state official, feel free to give us a call prior to your meeting to discuss lobbyist registration requirements.

This information can also be found on our website in the "Registration" section of the California entry.

Renae Bomba, Esq., Compliance Associate