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Lobbying ordinance approved, with some tweaks

By rgordon
Wednesday, June 6th, 2007 at 6:41 pm in Uncategorized.

On Monday, we reported that the Board of Supervisors was considering a new county ordinance to allow the public more scrutiny over lobbyists’ attempts to assert political sway.

In the interest of open government, the Insider is pleased to report, it passed unanimously at the supervisors’ meeting Tuesday. But not without tying up a few loose ends in the original proposal, which was made by Supervisor Rich Gordon.

The rule, which goes into effect Jan. 1, will require lobbyists of supervisors or their aides to pay a $100 annual registration fee and file semiannual public reports of their activity, putting the county on par with other Bay Area jurisdictions.

Before the vote, the supervisors had a back-and-forth over perceived holes or unclear language in the ordinance, ultimately adding in exemptions for the media and non-profits that primarily provide social services for the county (such as homeless shelters).

“We’re trying to reach people that essentially, in this, that are paid to be in the business of coming to elected officials or their aides to press a position,” said Assistant County Counsel Mike Murphy.

Revisions also clarified that affected lobbyists are those “seeking an outcome or action by the county,” as opposed to those attempting to sway a supervisor’s decision in their capacity as a member of a regional or state board. Speaker cards for public meetings will also be updated to require lobbyists to identify themselves as such when they speak on behalf of a client.

A requirement for lobbyists to report, among other items, the exact compensation received from clients was relaxed. Instead, lobbyists will only be required to report a compensation range.

The ordinance is the result of a comparative review undertaken by County Counsel of ethics-related laws and ordinances in San Francisco and San Jose, and Los Angeles and Santa Clara counties.

“Transparency in government is a good thing,” said Supervisor Mark Church. “The public has a right to know who is lobbying the Board of Supervisors.”

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