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Media Coverage
Richmond Council Oks Law Regulating Lobbyists
January 16, 1997


Thursday, January 16, 1997
Section: news
Page: A03

RICHMOND A divided City Council voted Tuesday to regulate city lobbyists, despite last-minute pleas from business leaders who say the plan is too complicated. 

Beginning in April, lobbyists will be forced to register with the city if they spend more than $3,000 a year to influence legislation. 

Businesses would be required to report whenever they spend $50 or more to lobby a council member or other city official. 

The council voted 5-3 to give the plan its final approval. One member abstained. 

Dennis Spaniol, executive director of the West County Council of Industries, said the ordinance would be "burdensome and onerous" for local businesses. He also argued it could increase reliance on professional lobbyists as business owners look to specialists to help them comply with city rules. 

"The end result is that rather than fewer contract lobbyists, you will see the numbers only increase," Spaniol said. 

He said the plan's language is vague, and city officials and council members are unable to give a cohesive explanation of it. 

"Any time you take it to various council members you get various interpretations," Spaniol said. 

Supporters on the council strongly rejected the arguments. They said businesses won't be saddled with an array of paperwork to comply with the rules or rack up costs to enforce the plan key arguments of opponents. 

"If you're right, and I'm wrong about this, I will change my vote," Councilman Alex Evans told opponents. 

Mayor Rosemary Corbin and Vice Mayor Donna Powers said the proposal gives lobbyists a grace period of four months before they will be forced to comply. 

They argued that gives them plenty of time to sit down with the city attorney to learn the rules. 

"It gives the lobbyists running around this town making back room deals a few more months," Powers said. 

She said she wanted an even tougher measure and would bring the issue back if lobbyists find loopholes in the rules. 

Foes on the council said the proposal could produce hefty legal fees for the city and concurred with business arguments that the ordinance's language needs clarification. 

"I'm sure we'll all be taken to court," Councilman Richard Griffin said. "Passing this is going to cost an awful lot of money." 

Councilwoman Irma Anderson said she was uncomfortable with the plan because it was based on legislation passed in San Francisco. 

She said an ordinance should be specifically tailored to Richmond. 

"We need to talk about the impact on our own corporate citizens," Anderson said. 

Corbin, Powers, Evans and Councilmen Tom Butt and John Marquez voted for the plan. Nat Bates, Richard Griffin and Lesa McIntosh voted no. Anderson abstained.