Santa Monica City Hall (Daniel Archuleta daniela@www.smdp.com)

First it was too hot, then too cold, but staff is hoping their third attempt to regulate local lobbyists will be just right.

Council will hear the latest version of a lobbying ordinance at a special meeting scheduled for March 1. As proposed, the new rule attempts to balance previous comments that the rules were at first too complicated, then too simple.

The first attempt at a lobbying rule came to council in July of 2015. Those rules were synthesized from more than a dozen other cities and contained registration requirements, disclosure rules and prohibitions on deceptive behavior. Council rejected the proposal and asked for a simpler rule, possibly based on nearby municipalities such as West Hollywood.

Staff returned in October of 2015 with a streamlined set of rules modeled after nearby cities. However, residents and local watchdog organizations criticized the second draft for being too weak. Council rejected the rules and provided direction to expand certain provisions.

Councilwoman Sue Himmelrich described the previous version as not ready for prime time but said the third version looks much better.

“I believe this is more along the lines of what I wanted to see, that it captures more rather than less,” she said.

As currently proposed the rules have three significant revisions.

“First, the definition of ‘Lobbyist’ has been expanded to include anyone who receives economic consideration for communicating with any official or employee of the City for the purpose of influencing a legislation or administrative action,” said the staff report.

Prior versions had limited the definition to individuals communicating with “any elected official, officer or employee of the City for the purpose of influencing a legislative or administrative action.”

The second change strengthens registration and reporting rules. Lobbyists must register with the city, disclose their clients and update their registration in formation within 10 days of any change.

“This new language will, among other things, effectively require Lobbyists to promptly report new clients and new projects for existing clients,” said the staff report.

Staff recommends retaining an annual registration requirement while incorporating the 10-day update rules.

The third significant change defines the level of gift and expenditure that must be disclosed. Any expense or give over $20 must be reported.

“This requirement could cover activities ranging from, for example, buying a meal for an official to preparing a mailer intended to influence Council’s vote on a proposed development project,” said the staff report.

Himmelrich said she wants the rules to include guidelines for staff as well as elected officials. According to the staff report, Council has the authority to dictate staff behavior with lobbyists independently from the proposed lobbying ordinance.

“Finally, staff continues to recommend addressing Council disclosures of contacts with Lobbyists through the Council Rules and disclosures of staff’s contacts with Lobbyists through an Administrative Instruction. Direction on these matters could be given to staff in conjunction with Council’s consideration of the attached ordinance. Additionally, staff continues to recommend selecting an effective date for the ordinance that is at least several months distant to allow time for community education and staff preparation for implementation,” said the report.

City Council will meet on Tuesday, March 1 at 5:30 p.m. in City Hall, 1685 Main St.

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