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Final vote on lobby ordinance today

Thursday, September 22, 2016 by Jo Clifton

City Council Member Leslie Pool told her colleagues during Tuesday’s work session that all those who had objected to the proposed lobby reform ordinance were now satisfied with the changes. According to Fred Lewis, an attorney who has been helping Pool and Mayor Steve Adler with the proposal, the new ordinance “will provide real transparency” around compensated lobbyists’ communications with Council and staff. In addition to the changes Council approved last November, fees will be reduced from $300 per individual lobbyist to $100 per person or entity registrant, plus $50 for each employee registrant of an entity that files. Nonprofit agencies that have 501(c)(3) status will pay only $25, according to the current iteration of the new ordinance. However, Pool explained that the city is doing a cost-of-service study to determine how much money the Office of the City Clerk will be spending to comply with the new ordinance. Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo objected to the fee reduction, and Pool said she would be willing to change that when Council considers the item on Thursday. However, since the new ordinance will not take effect until next June, after the cost-of-service study has been completed, the amount of the fee chosen on Thursday seems less important. Pool told the Austin Monitor that under the city charter, the city is not allowed to make a profit. Over the years, money from lobby registration has gone into the Fair Campaign Finance Fund, which is distributed among Council candidates who abide by certain regulations. However, it seems likely that Council will decide to put General Fund money into that fund, while paying salaries and other expenses in the city clerk’s office associated with lobby registration from lobby registration fees.

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