Government Administration and Elections Committee
JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT
AN ACT CONCERNING MUNICIPAL LOBBYING.
Joint Favorable Substitute
SPONSORS OF BILL:
Representative James F. Spallone
REASONS FOR BILL:
Presently state statutes are completely silent on the act of municipal lobbying. This bill would require municipal lobbyists to register with the Office of State Ethics, wear a badge while engaging in municipal lobbying, and – per the substitute language – permits the general counsel of the Office of State Ethics to issue informal written or verbal staff opinions concerning the requirements set forth in the bill.
LCO 5341 makes technical changes to Sec. 2(1), adds new Sec. 3(6) (which requires registrants to indicate each municipality within which they expect to lobby), and adds a new Sec. 5 (to allow the General Counsel to issue informal verbal or written staff opinions regarding the registration requirements).
Amendment “A” creates an exemption in line 113 after the word “year” by not requiring people who “undertake[s] to guide or direct an application or request through an official process of approval without seeking any substantive change in law, ordinance, code or regulation” to register with the Office of State Ethics.
RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:
Carol Carson, Executive Director, Office of State Ethics (OSE): This bill expands state oversight of lobbying activities to the municipal arena by requiring registration of municipal lobbyists with the OSE. OSE's online lobbyist registration portal has been recently overhauled to provide a user-friendly system that facilitates timely and efficient registration and reporting of lobbying activities. The OSE anticipates that the cost of administering additional registrations related to municipal lobbying will be minimal and will not significantly increase the cost of such registrations for the lobbying community.
Although this bill places administrative duties associated with municipal lobbyist registration upon the OSE, the language of the bill does not articulate how or under what provision of the Connecticut General Statues the enforcement of municipal lobbyist registration will take place; or whether the OSE has any interpretative authority – either through regulations or advisory opinions – over the administration of municipal lobbyist registration. If this bill is voted out of committee, the OSE requests that the drafters provide guidance regarding enforcement and interpretation of municipal lobbying matters. Such requested guidance will prove useful to both the OSE and to those persons who may be subject to its jurisdiction. (Note: this request is addressed in the substitute language.)
NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:
Attorney Eric Knapp, Executive Committee of the Connecticut Bar Association Planning & Zoning Section: In the past there were many concerns associated with this bill, chiefly that similar bills did not appreciably solve the real problem. This year's bill is a vast improvement over previous versions, although there is still uncertainty in whether this bill will do what the Legislature hopes.
The principal concern remains the bill's definition of “lobbying” as it could be construed to cover many aspects of standard land use practice, despite the revised text. Creating the concept of “municipal lobbying” opens the door to regulation of the very sorts of activities small town residents cherish, i.e. speaking your mind to a local official. The definition could eventually require both land use lawyers and other professionals who appear before local boards (such as surveyors, engineers, and soil scientists) to register as “lobbyists” simply by virtue of their representation of a land use applicant before local authorities.
Christine S. Horrigan, Government Director, League of Women Voters of Connecticut: This bill sets forth some long overdue reforms by requiring municipal lobbyists to register with the OSE and wear badges while lobbying.
NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:
Reported by: Jared W. Kupiec