Tennessee Code Annotated

Title 3: Legislature

Chapter 6: Ethics and Lobbying

Part 3: Lobbyists

TCA 3-6-305: Prohibited gifts -- Exceptions.

(a)  (1)  No employer of a lobbyist or lobbyist may provide a gift, directly or indirectly, to a candidate for public office, official in the legislative branch, official in the executive branch, or immediate family of such candidate or official.

     (2)  A candidate for public office, an official in the legislative branch, or an official in the executive branch, or the immediate family of such candidate or official, may not solicit or accept, directly or indirectly, a gift from an employer of a lobbyist or a lobbyist.

(b)  The following are not subject to the prohibition in subsection (a):

     (1)  Benefits resulting from business, employment, or other outside activities of a candidate or official or the immediate family of a candidate or official, if such benefits are customarily provided to others in similar circumstances and are not enhanced due to the status of the candidate or official;

     (2)  Informational materials in the form of books, articles, periodicals, other written materials, audiotapes, videotapes, or other forms of communication;

     (3)  Gifts that are given for a nonbusiness purpose and motivated by close personal friendship, but only to the extent such gifts are specifically defined and authorized by the rules of the ethics commission;

     (4)  Sample merchandise, promotional items, and appreciation tokens, if such merchandise, items and tokens are routinely given to customers, suppliers or potential customers or suppliers in the ordinary course of business;

     (5)  Unsolicited tokens or awards of appreciation, honorary degrees, or bona fide awards in recognition of public service in the form of a plaque, trophy, desk item, wall memento and similar items; provided, that any such item shall not be in a form that can be readily converted to cash;

     (6)  Opportunities and benefits made available to all members of an appropriate class of the general public, including, but not limited to:

          (A)  Discounts afforded to the general public or specified groups or occupations under normal business conditions, except that such discounts may not be based on the status of the candidate or official;

          (B)  Prizes and awards given in public contests; and

          (C)  Benefits of participation in events held within the state and sponsored by, or for the benefit of, charitable organizations as defined in § 48-101-501(1), if provided by an employer of a lobbyist to an official in the executive branch or to an official in the legislative branch; provided, that such events are open to participation by persons other than officials in the executive branch or officials in the legislative branch or the official's immediate family and any benefits received are not enhanced due to the status of the official in the executive or legislative branch; or provided, that invitations are extended to the entire membership of the general assembly;

     (7)  (A)  Expenses for out-of-state travel, if such expenses are paid for or reimbursed by a governmental entity or an established and recognized organization of elected or appointed state government officials, staff of state government officials or both officials and staff, or any other established and recognized organization that is an umbrella organization for such officials, staff, or both officials and staff;

          (B)  Entertainment, food, refreshments, meals, beverages, amenities, goody bags, exhibitor promotional items given in the exhibit hall to conference attendees, health screenings, lodging, or admission tickets that are provided in connection with, and are arranged or coordinated through the employees or designated agents of, a conference, if the conference is sponsored by an established and recognized organization of elected or appointed state government officials, staff of state government officials or both officials and staff, or any other established and recognized organization that is an umbrella organization for such officials, staff, or both officials and staff. For purposes of this subdivision (b)(7)(B), any entertainment, food, refreshments, meals, beverages, amenities, goody bags, or admission tickets provided at events designated as a state night or other events for attendees of the conference shall be deemed to be provided in connection with, and arranged or coordinated through the employees or designated agents of the conference;

     (8)  Entertainment, food, refreshments, meals, beverages, or health screenings that are provided in connection with an in-state event to which invitations are extended to the entire membership of the general assembly; however, a copy of the invitation shall be delivered to the ethics commission and to each member of the general assembly at least seven (7) days in advance of the event by the employer or lobbyist paying for the event; provided further, however, that, within thirty (30) days following the event, the employer or lobbyist shall electronically report to the commission the total aggregate cost paid for the event, as well as the per person contractual cost for the event or the per person cost for the event based on the number of persons invited, which shall not exceed fifty dollars ($50.00) per person per day, excluding sales tax and gratuity. The value of any such gift may not be reduced below the monetary limitation by dividing the cost of the gift among two (2) or more lobbyists or employers of lobbyists. All such information delivered or reported to the commission shall be promptly posted on the commission's Internet site. The filing of a consolidated report may be authorized by rule, promulgated pursuant to § 4-55-103(1), if the costs of the event are shared by two (2) or more employers or lobbyists; however, any such report shall specify the allocation of the costs among the employers or lobbyists; provided further, however, that the employers or lobbyists shall remain individually accountable for the timeliness and accuracy of the consolidated filing. The fifty dollar ($50.00) limitation shall be increased to the nearest one dollar ($1.00) amount to reflect the percentage of change in the average consumer price index (all items-city average) as published by the United States department of labor, bureau of labor statistics, every odd-numbered year on January 1, starting in 2007. The ethics commission shall publish the increased amount on its web site;

     (9)  Entertainment, food, refreshments, meals, amenities, or beverages that are provided in connection with an in-state event at which a candidate for public office, an official in the legislative branch or an official in the executive branch, or an immediate family member of the candidate or official is a speaker or part of a panel discussion at a scheduled meeting of an established and recognized membership organization that has regular meetings; however, the cost of the entertainment, food, refreshments, meals, amenities, or beverages shall be paid for or reimbursed by the membership organization and the per person cost of the event, which shall not exceed fifty dollars ($50.00) per person per day, excluding sales tax and gratuity. The value of any such gift may not be reduced below such monetary limitation by dividing the cost of the gift among two (2) or more lobbyists or employers of lobbyists. The fifty dollar ($50.00) limitation shall be increased to the nearest one dollar ($1.00) amount to reflect the percentage of change in the average consumer price index (all items-city average) as published by the United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, every odd-numbered year on January 1 starting in 2007. The ethics commission shall publish the increased amount on its web site;

     (10)  (A)  Food, refreshments, meals, or beverages that are provided by an employer of a lobbyist in connection with an in-state event to which invitations are extended to an official or officials in the legislative branch or official or officials in the executive branch; provided, that:

                (i)  No employer of a lobbyist may provide food, refreshments, meals, or beverages, the value of which to the official exceeds fifty dollars ($50.00) per event per day, excluding sales tax and gratuity; nor may such employer of a lobbyist provide any such items to any official pursuant to this subdivision (b)(10)(A)(i) that have a cumulative value of more than one hundred dollars ($100) to the official during a calendar year;

                (ii)  The value of any such gift may not be reduced below such monetary limitations by dividing the cost of the gift among two (2) or more employers of lobbyists;

                (iii)  This exception to the prohibition in subsection (a) only applies to a member or members of the general assembly, if the member or members do not receive a per diem allowance pursuant to § 3-1-106, for the day on which the event is held and the member or members do not receive any food, refreshments, meals or beverages that are provided in connection with the in-state event that are not offered or provided to other nonmembers in attendance at the event; and

                (iv)  An officer or management- level employee of each employer of a lobbyist paying for the event shall attend the event; however, a lobbyist shall not be considered to be an officer or management-level employee of an employer of the lobbyist paying for the event for purposes of this subdivision (b)(10)(A)(iv).

          (B)  The fifty dollar ($50.00) and one hundred dollar ($100) amounts in subdivision (b)(10) (A)(i) shall be increased to the nearest one dollar ($1.00) amount to reflect the percentage of change in the average consumer price index (all items-city average) as published by the United States department of labor, bureau of labor statistics, every odd-numbered year on January 1 starting in 2007. The ethics commission shall publish the increased amount on its web site;

     (11)  Occasional or incidental local travel for which no fare is ordinarily charged; or

     (12)  Contributions to a fund established and controlled by a 501(c)(3) corporation for the benefit of an extremely ill  immediate family member of an employee who is included within the definition of an official in the executive branch; provided, that this subdivision (b)(12) shall expire when the ethics commission promulgates rules pursuant to subdivision (b)(3) concerning gifts for nonbusiness purposes and motivated by close personal friendships.

(c)  If an official in the legislative or executive branch attends an event and accepts a gift that is provided by a person or entity not subject to the prohibition set forth in § 3-6-305(a), and if a lobbyist also attends the event and knows or has reason to know that the gift has been provided at the suggestion or direction of the lobbyist, then, within seven (7) days following the event, the lobbyist shall electronically report the following information to the ethics commission:

     (1)  Name of the official or family member;

     (2)  Nature and purpose of the event;

     (3)  Name, address and business of the person or entity that provided the gift;

     (4)  Description of the gift; and

     (5)  Cost of the gift; however, if the cost of the gift is unknown and not reasonably discernible by the lobbyist, then the lobbyist shall report a good faith estimate of the cost of the gift.

(d)  A gift made contrary to this section, shall not be a violation of this section, if the candidate, official or immediate family member does not use the gift and returns it to the donor within the latter of ten (10) days of receipt or ten (10) days of having knowledge that the gift was a violation or pays consideration of equal or greater value within the latter of ten (10) days of receipt or ten (10) days of having knowledge that the gift was a violation.

History: [Acts 2006 (1st Ex. Sess.), ch. 1, § 35; 2006, ch. 803, § 1; 2008, ch. 965, § 2; 2009, ch. 556, § 23.]