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June 15, 2011

Philadelphia Bar Association Chancellor Urges Changes to Proposed City Lobbying Regulations at June 15 Hearing

Rudolph Garcia, Chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association, provided testimony today to the Philadelphia Board of Ethics urging changes to regulations interpreting Philadelphia's new lobbying ordinance. In addition to summarizing the Bar's position, he referred the Board to a 24 page letter submitted in advance, which contained more detailed comments and suggestions.

One major concern he expressed is that "the regulations intrude upon the exclusive authority of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to regulate the practice of law." He explained that lobbying is so broadly defined by the ordinance that it includes many activities regularly conducted by lawyers when representing their clients in legal matters. That is particularly problematic, he said, because the regulations require disclosures that would violate the Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct governing lawyers.

Chancellor Garcia also urged the Board to explicitly exempt both attempts to settle potential administrative actions and volunteer service by lawyers to promote legal reforms.

The comments also point to the potential burden to smaller nonprofit organizations that, under the proposed Regulation, would be subject to a $500 annual registration fee that must be paid by the organization as well as each of its "lobbyists." "Those funds will not be available to help the organization fulfill its charitable mission and the burden may stifle the organization's ability to speak out on current community issues," Garcia said.

The Association's comments also provide recommendations regarding a number of technical and organizational issues.

"The majority of our comments are directed to issues that we believe may be addressed in the final regulations by the Board of Ethics," the Chancellor said. However, we also made several suggestions "regarding needed revisions to the Lobbying Ordinance that we hope the Board of Ethics will recommend to City Council."

"The Philadelphia Bar Association urges the Ethics Board to recommend immediate amendment to the Lobbying Ordinance," the Chancellor said. "We request that the Board urge City Council to rethink these rules in a way that reflects the underlying goals they are hoping to achieve. The Association is available to assist the Ethics Board in its work in whatever way the Board deems appropriate."

Garcia expressed his appreciation to Philadelphia Board of Ethics Chair Richard C. Glazer and the other members of the Board for their ongoing efforts to implement what he called a "complicated ordinance" under "significant time pressure and with a limited budget."

Joining Garcia in providing testimony to the Board was attorney Lawrence J. Beaser, co-chair of the Association's Philadelphia Lobbying Ordinance Task Force and a major contributor to the Bar's comments.

The comments and suggestions pertain to draft Regulation No. 9 (Lobbying) that interprets Philadelphia's Lobbying Ordinance, Chapter 20-1200 of the Philadelphia Code (Bill No. 100127, approved June 16, 2010).

The full text of the Association's comments regarding proposed Regulation No. 9 (Lobbying) can be found by CLICKING HERE.

The Lobbying Ordinance can be found by CLICKING HERE.

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