Share story

OLYMPIA — State legislators have balked at imposing a one-year “cooling-off” period for top state officials before they can take lobbying gigs.

Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, the prime sponsor of the cooling-off proposal, House Bill 1136, said there was not enough support to bring it to a floor vote in the Democratic-majority state House prior to a Wednesday cutoff deadline for legislation.

The proposal would have applied the cooling-off period to state legislators, statewide elected officials, the directors and senior staff of major state agencies and top legislative aides. Staff at smaller state agencies would have been barred for a year from lobbying the agency they used to work for.

Carlyle said he was disappointed at the death of what he believed to be a “modest” ethics proposal, designed to fix the “revolving door” perception regarding state officials who trade on their connections to become well-paid lobbyists.

“Of course I respect legitimate differences of opinion, but I cannot hide my personal sense of disappointment that we are embarrassing the institution of government,” he said.

Carlyle said he’d heard concerns from some legislators that the bill would overly restrict their employment options after leaving public service. He declined to name the legislators.

House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, D-Covington, said members of his caucus raised a number of concerns about the bill, including “is there a problem right now that needs to be fixed?”

Sullivan said Washington has strong disclosure laws and is generally considered “a fairly clean state.” He said legislators could take another look at the idea in future sessions.

The legislation was requested by state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, a Democrat whose office has come under scrutiny for its dealings with former officials turned lobbyists, including former Attorney General Rob McKenna, a Republican.