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New York Governor’s Budget Proposal Could Result in Major Expansion of State’s Lobbying Law

Significant Impact on Interactions with Local Governments

On Feb. 20, 2015, the Governor of New York State announced a series of ethics reforms as part of his budget proposal amendments. Most of the proposed statutory changes pertain to new disclosure obligations for public officials who maintain outside employment, and penalties for failure to comply. However, the proposal also includes a notable change to the New York State Lobbying Act that could significantly affect individuals and entities who interact with local governments throughout the State.

Expanded Application of Lobbying Act

The Governor has proposed redefining the Lobbying Act’s definition of municipality to cover all governmental subdivisions with a population greater than 5,000, and school districts of any size. If the proposal is adopted as part of the budget, effective immediately, any individual or entity that expends more than $5,000 attempting to influence legislation, regulation, procurement, or certain other enumerated activities by a local government with a population of more than 5,000, or any of those actions by a school district, will be required to register with and disclose the activity to State Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE).

Current Application of Lobbying Act to Local Governments

Current law defines “lobbying” or “lobbying activities” to include attempts to influence:

  • the passage or defeat of any local law, ordinance, resolution, or regulation by any municipality or subdivision thereof;

  • the adoption, issuance, rescission, modification or terms of an executive order issued by the chief executive officer of a municipality;

  • the adoption or rejection of any rule, regulation, or resolution having the force and effect of a local law, ordinance, resolution, or regulation;

  • any determination by a municipal officer and employee with regards to a governmental procurement; or

  • the outcome of any rate making proceeding by any municipality or subdivision thereof.

However, these activities are only considered lobbying – potentially triggering registration obligations with JCOPE – if it occurs: (i) in a local government with a population of more than 50,000 individuals (covering most counties, 13 cities, 21 towns and one village), (ii) before an industrial development agency in one of those jurisdictions with a population of more than 50,000, (iii) public authorities, or (iv) public corporations. Additionally, the law expressly excludes school districts. Thus, under current law, there is no requirement that persons or entities seeking to influence the legislative, regulatory, or procurement process in the hundreds of political subdivisions with 50,000 residents or less, or school districts, register as a lobbyist or disclose the activity.

Proposal Creating Obligation to Register and Report Interactions with Local Governments

Changing the definition of municipality could have a major impact on businesses and consultants, as well as the local government officials with whom they interact. Activities that traditionally were not considered “lobbying” would suddenly trigger registration obligations, and interactions with countless local political subdivisions would have to be disclosed to the State. This will mean new compliance obligations for consultants and their clients, and new insight into certain municipal officials’ activities.

©2020 Greenberg Traurig, LLP. All rights reserved. National Law Review, Volume V, Number 69

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About this Author

Mark Glaser, Governmental Affairs Attorney, Greenberg Traurig, New York State Assembly counsel, telecommunications company law, public finance lawyer
Shareholder

Mark F. Glaser represents businesses and individuals with respect to governmental ethics and compliance, legislative issues, governmental procurement practices, competitive bidding requirements, and manufactured housing. He routinely helps his clients navigate increasingly complex regulatory, compliance, and ethics requirements, including providing representation before New York State and New York City ethics and lobbying regulators. Mark’s practice also includes work in connection with racing and gaming law and regulation. He is a frequent lecturer on lobbying laws,...

518-689-1413
Joshua Oppenherimer, Greenberg Traurig Law Firm, Albany, Government Policy Attorney
Shareholder

Joshua L. Oppenheimer focuses his practice on New York State governmental affairs and issues relating to governmental ethics, lobbying laws and campaign finance. He represents clients before the New York State legislative and executive branches, focusing on legislation and regulation involving health, environmental, labor, and transportation policy, as well as racing and gaming issues.

Josh also has wide-ranging experience advising clients on compliance with the complex federal, state and local laws that govern political activity, lobbying, and general interactions between government and the private sector. Josh counsels companies, trade associations, nonprofit organizations, political parties, political committees, candidates, and public office holders, on compliance with laws regarding campaign finance, elections, ethics, and lobbying. He works with clients to form and administer political action, candidate, and independent expenditure committees, and has the unique experience of aiding in the creation and ensuring the continued existence of a statewide political party. Josh also regularly works with lobbying firms, public affairs companies, and other advocacy groups to navigate the labyrinth of laws pertaining to contacts with government, public disclosure of lobbying activity, and gifts to public officials. He also assists clients with New York ballot access issues.

518-689-1459