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Municipal Lobbying Adds Compliance Challenges

By Bob Fisch | August 15, 2017
As we've previously written, lobbyists who work on the local level face a number of challenges. One of these challenges is the often quirky reporting requirements associated with municipal lobbying.

A new ordinance in San Jose, California, changes the city's reporting requirements for lobbyists so they must file weekly reports detailing their activity instead of the quarterly reports required under the previous law. Additionally, the new reporting period in San Jose now goes from Monday to Sunday, with the report due by the next day (Monday), but the report is only required if the lobbyist conducts activity during that week. In contrast, California state law requires lobbyists to file reports only every quarter, but lobbyists must file their quarterly reports even if they do not have any activity to report.

In Austin, Texas, previous requirements mandated lobbyists to file a report as long as they have engaged in reportable lobbying activity during the quarter. However, under a recently enacted ordinance, all lobbyists must file a quarterly report, regardless of whether they engaged in lobbying activity during that period. The filings cover all lobbying activity and compensation received from the previous quarter and must be filed by the tenth day of each month after the quarter ends. Finally, the reports must be submitted electronically to the Office of the City Clerk, as opposed to a paper form that was previously filed. Failure to do so will result in the city rejecting the report.

In addition to the new reporting requirements, several municipalities also have notable quirks in their registration calendars. In Houston, Texas, a registration expires one year from the time that the registration is filed. If a person files a registration on August 1, 2017, their registration will expire on August 1, 2018. Lobbyists are also required to file quarterly reports on a schedule determined by the registration date versus on a calendar-quarter basis. However, 160 miles west, Austin uses a different requirement for its registration calendar. The Austin registration must be renewed 10 days after the end of the quarter in which the registration expired. For example, if the registration were filed on August 8, 2017, it would need to be renewed no later than October 10, 2018. This is in addition to the quarterly reports that must be filed in Austin.

These are just some of the differences in reporting and registration requirements that occur in municipalities. If you are required to register as a lobbyist in different municipalities, it is important to check the local requirements and how to file correctly in order to avoid a fine. It is also useful to keep a calendar to make sure that you do not forget these dates. Doing so can help you remain aware of the requirements to which you must adhere.