Proposition R Changes Include Significant Amendments to City's Lobbying Laws

Last November, voters in the City of Los Angeles adopted Proposition R, which extended term limits for City Councilmembers from two 4-year terms to three 4-year terms. Proposition R also amended several City laws concerning lobbying, ethics, and campaign finance. All provisions of Proposition R were effective as of January 15, 2007.

Threshold for Lobbyist Qualification Has Changed

Proposition R re-defined when an individual must register as a lobbyist. Previously, a lobbyist was an individual who received or earned $4,000 in compensation in a calendar quarter for lobbying the City of Los Angeles. Effective January 15, a "lobbyist" is an individual who is compensated to spend 30 or more hours engaged in lobbying activities during any consecutive three-month period. "Lobbyist activities," which is a term defined in the Municipal Lobbying Ordinance, covers a range of activities.

The new law also requires a "lobbying firm" to register if that person or entity receives or earns at least $1,000 in compensation for engaging in lobbying activities during any consecutive three-month period. Previously, lobbying firms were required to register when they received or earned at least $4,000 in a calendar quarter.

This new law could require more individuals to register, because a compensation threshold is no longer specified. Instead, it is the activity of lobbying alone that can trigger registration, so long as it is A) compensated and B) reaches 30 hours.

Lobbyist Contributions Are Now Banned

As amended by Proposition R, City law now bans registered lobbyists (and anyone who is required to register as a lobbyist) and lobbying firms from giving any contribution to a City candidate or official if that lobbyist is registered to lobby that official. It also bans City candidates and officials from soliciting or accepting any contribution from a lobbyist or lobbying firm who is registered to lobby them. While lobbyist fundraising is not banned, lobbyists and lobbying firms may no longer make contributions to committees that are controlled by a City candidate or officeholder, including City campaign committees, officeholder committees, and legal defense funds.

Lobbyist Gifts Are Now Banned

A lobbyist or lobbying firm may not make gifts in any amount to a City official when the lobbyist or lobbying firm is a "restricted source" to that official. Generally, a restricted source is any person who is doing or seeking to do business with your agency; is a registered lobbyist or lobbyist employer seeking to influence your agency; has attempted to influence you on any matter, even if not a registered lobbying entity; or a party to any matter involving a license, permit, or other entitlement for use pending before you currently or in the last nine months. This definition is broader for high-level officials and filers.

Bidders Required to Be Familiar with Lobbying Law

Anyone who bids on a contract with the City must submit with the bid a form certifying that the bidder will comply with the City's lobbying ordinance if the bidder qualifies as a lobbying entity. To help implement this requirement, each City department must now provide a copy of the lobbying ordinance with every solicitation for bids or proposals.

Post-City Service Lobbying Rules Also Changed

For two years after leaving City service, elected officials may not lobby a City agency on behalf of another person for compensation. The one-year ban for other City officials continues to apply. Prior to Proposition R, an elected City official could not receive compensation to lobby any City agency for one year after leaving City service.

Other Changes to the Law

In addition to key changes to the City's lobbying ordinance, Proposition R also changed other provisions of the City's ethics and campaign finance rules.

For example, lobbyists may not be appointed to City commissions that require their members to file financial disclosure statements under the state's Political Reform Act.

All City officials must take ethics training through the City Ethics Commission at least once every two years, and independent expenditures and campaign communications are subject to new disclosure requirements.

For more information about Proposition R changes or for help complying with the City's ethics laws, please visit our web site at http://ethics.lacity.org or call our program operations group for assistance at (213) 978-1960.

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