Monday December 02, 2013 | 12:37 PM

If you've happened to visit the Taxation Committee room while the special task force is evaluating the state's $1 billion in annual exemptions and economic development incentives it's hard not to notice who is taking all the seats: Lobbyists.

Interest and industry groups have a lot at stake in the panel's recommendations, which are expected Monday (Colleague Eric Russell tweeted earlier that the committee is having difficulty reaching the finish line). But the public will never know which groups spent the most amount of time attempting to influence the panel, which is tasked with finding $40 million to keep the state's budget balanced during for the 2015 fiscal year.

That's because lobbyists' influencing the panel's work are exempt from the state's lobbying disclosure law. Why? Because the panel is a task force, not a bona fide committee of lawmakers crafting legislation.

Here's the exemption language:

"Lobbying" does not include time spent by any person providing information to or participating in a subcommittee, stakeholder group, task force or other work group regarding a legislative action by the appointment or at the request of the Governor, a Legislator or legislative committee, a constitutional officer, a state agency commissioner or the chair of a state board or commission.

So if you're trying to connect the dots about how a particular tax exemption was left intact or repealed/changed by the panel, you won't be able to look up the lobbying disclosure reports for clues. Lobbyists will be required to disclose if they participate in the drafting of a bill that will actually implement the $40 million in savings.

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Steve Mistler covers politics and government for the Portland Press Herald. He spends a lot of time in the hallways of the State House.

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