Friday, March 24, 2023
Opinion Page: L.A.’s labor unions are major political influencers. Why shouldn’t they be considered lobbyists?
For years, Los Angeles’ rules regulating lobbying have been squishy, and many would-be lobbyists have been able to avoid registering with the Ethics Commission and revealing their efforts to influence policy. The City Council is now considering tightening those rules in a long overdue update to the city’s Municipal Lobbying Ordinance, and most of the changes are big improvements that will increase transparency.
But there are still areas of concern, including a last-minute change proposed by council President Paul Krekorian that would, for the first time, explicitly exempt union employees from having to register as lobbyists. Currently, union employees are supposed to register as lobbyists if they spend 30 hours in three months advocating to city staff and elected officials on issues other than collective bargaining agreements with the city. Employees of unions representing construction workers, carpenters and hotel workers have registered as lobbyists this year.
Instead, under the proposal, union employees would fall into a new category of paid advocate called a “nonprofit filer” that would have fewer restrictions and disclosure requirements than a lobbyist or lobbying firm. Under the proposal, any charitable nonprofit or union with an employee paid at least $5,000 a year to lobby city officials or departments would have to file quarterly reports with the Ethics Commission disclosing the employee name, what he or she advocated for and the official or department lobbied. That is similar to what lobbyists have to report.
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