Lobbyist spending dipped during 2019 legislative session

The amount spend on lobbying at the Statehouse last year was below average.

The 2019 legislative session was a down year for lobbyists in the Statehouse, with only $5.8 million being spent on their services during the first half of the biennium.

Approximately $20 million was spent on lobbying each of the past two bienniums — 2015-2016 and 2017-2018 — but in 2019, despite contentious issues including abortion rights and gun control, spending on lobbying was down.

The top issues that drew the most lobbying spending in 2019 were health care, $1 million; the environment, $396,000; pharmaceuticals, $304,000; energy, $302,000; and telecommunications, $285,000.

Lobbying on behalf of the health care sector has long been the top category in Vermont, with $1.1-$1.8 million being spent on average each year since 2011 to represent the interests of insurers and health care providers in the Statehouse. 

VTDigger published a full report of lobbying in January 2019 on how much money is spent representing health care interests into Montpelier.

Planned Parenthood was among the groups that spent the most money on lobbying last year as it pushed for lawmakers to support H.57, a bill that would prohibit restrictions to abortion, and a constitutional amendment which would make reproductive freedom a fundamental right.

Planned Parenthood Northern New England/Planned Parenthood Vermont Action Fund spent $109,000, behind only the $116,000 spent by the Vermont State Employees’ Association as it haggled for its new union contract, and tobacco giant Altria.

The top spenders on lobbying in 2019 also include Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Systems (VAHHS), with more that $99,000. VAHHS spent $346,000 representing its health care clients in 2017-2018 and has spent $1.8 million over the last six years.

Another of the top spenders was GlobalFoundries, which before it closed on Nov. 19 spent $83,918 in the Statehouse. 

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While Republican Gov. Phil Scott signed the abortion legislation into law, Altria and the tobacco industry were less successful with their lobbying efforts.

Last year, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. — which produces Camel cigarettes and also owns the e-cigarette brand Vuse — and Altria which owns 35% share of the popular e-cigarette company Juul, pumped $196,683 into Vermont in a failed attempt to cushion a 92% tax on vaping devices and nicotine pods as well as banning online sales of products. 

The two tobacco companies are expected to spend more in the state this year, as lawmakers plan to propose legislation to ban flavored e-cigarette and tobacco products — including menthol cigarettes.

The Vermont House and Scott have signaled they would support banning flavored vaping products. 

The Trump administration announced on Jan. 2, it would forbid the sale of most flavored e-cigarette capsules. Menthol products, however, were exempt from Trump’s ban.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated Gov. Scott did not sign the abortion bill, H.57.

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Kit Norton

About Kit

Kit Norton is the general assignment reporter at VTDigger. He is originally from eastern Vermont and graduated from Emerson College in 2017 with a degree in journalism. In 2016, he was a recipient of The Society of Environmental Journalists' Emerging Environmental Journalist award. Kit has worked at PRI's weekly radio environmental program, Living on Earth, and has written for the online news site Truthout.

Email: [email protected]

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David schwartz

It would be interesting to see which legislators received health care lobbyists funds. Can this be reported in? We need more disinfecting lights.

Karen McIlveen1

Does the lobbying money go to buying anything positive for the citizens or just line the pockets of the politicians?
Maybe we should find out how much is donated to specific people for campaign funding, trips and gratuities.

Jenny Kingsbury

ONLY $5.8 million …

that’s a lot of money going toward influencing policies and votes – we should all want to know who it went to and how much

lobbying is a sleazy business at best

Walter Carpenter

“The top issues that drew the most lobbying spending in 2019 were health care, $1 million”

The thing to remember is that we subsidize this lobbying money with our premium and tax dollars, with which we subsidize the industry.

Jim Barrett

Always interested in the way a lobbyist spends their money and what politician gets their hands on it….?

Don White

this may be a tale of when the lobbyist becomes the politician and or when the politician becomes the lobbyist, the overhead cost of money spent to influence votes goes way down. Not all lobbying is paid for with direct money. In VT it is very common for politicians and bureaucrats to take well paid positions in the business fields that they along with lobbyist have all crafted the rules too help regulate and distribute funds . It’s a very small world in the legislature with billions up for grabs. With a super majority, its not to expensive to push through a well paid for agenda

Sandy J Rhodes

Why do politicians get paid by Lobbyists? I thought that they were supposed to make laws based on the wants and needs of the voters they represent, not industries and special interest groups handing out bribes. And, bribes are exactly what lobbying is; try lobbying a cop to not give you a ticket and see what you’ll be convicted of.

Peter Everett

So, they’ve finally all been paid off by the lobbyists!!! Guess that is constituents lose once more!!! Such a great place to live???

Mark Moore

Given that healthcare spending in over 6 billion dollars, 1 or even 2 million seems like minimal lobbying money – less than .02%. Money that helps pass provisions protecting your rights and preserving the viability of rural community healthcare – and you’re complaining?


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