Update on the Lobbyist Registration and Regulation Ordinance
The October 2018 Lobbyist Registration and Regulation Ordinance for the City of Boston means to promote transparency in government but has a lot of professionals worried.
Last October, Mayor Walsh signed a new ordinance that requires lobbyists, lobbying entities, and clients of lobbying services to register with Boston’s City Clerk and to submit quarterly reports. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the Federal Government also require lobbyists to register and report lobbying activities, but Boston’s ordinance casts a much wider net.
The law firm Foley Hoag, retained by NAIOP, recently suggested making legislative amendments to the ordinance to address concerns. Both AIA Massachusetts and the BSA, along with other nonprofits and small businesses, signed onto this letter, which called out key concerns for the AEC community and allied professions:
- Lack of a de minimis threshold or exception for incidental lobbying activity. Both the state and federal lobbying ordinances only apply when lobbying makes up a significant part of the work either in time or compensation. Without this exception, an individual will be required to register as a lobbyist if they engage in only a single covered communication, and an organization is required to register as a lobbying entity if only a single employee must register as a lobbyist.
- Applies to technical experts. The ordinance will require many scientists, engineers, architects, and other technical experts to register as lobbyists for participating in meetings in which their role is to provide factual information and technical analysis to city officials. This concern comes into play for our members in the many non-public meetings that take place during the development review process with the City of Boston.
- Quarterly reporting requirements. The ordinance requires lobbyists, lobbying entities, and clients to make quarterly disclosures to the City Clerk’s office. Quarterly reporting presents a significant administrative burden to both registered parties and the City and so the letter suggests a semi-annual reporting requirement, consistent with what is required by the state.
The Foley Hoag recommendations, along with a proposed letter to Mayor Walsh, was recently discussed at the July 17, 2019 open meeting of the Boston Lobbying Commission. Though the Commission does not have the power to mandate legislative changes, City Clerk Maureen Feeney expressed support for the idea that the City Council might take it up for discussion.
At that meeting, the coalition established action items including
- Scheduling a meeting with the City of Boston's legal department to share concerns and review draft regulations that will be promulgated in November
- Arranging meetings with City Councilors followed by outreach to Mayor Walsh
The BSA is not in a position to offer a legal opinion on whether an individual or entity is required to register, but we are actively participating in efforts to amend and clarify these regulations.
Read Foley Hoag's overview of the ordinance.
For more information about the ordinance and what it might mean for you, contact John Nunnari, executive director, AIA Massachusetts at [email protected] or Jenny Effron, BSA policy director at [email protected] .
The BSA's executive director, Eric White, and The Boston Society of Architects/AIA are registered as a lobbyist and lobbying entity respectively, in the City of Boston. AIA Massachusetts is a lobbying entity in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.