In its current form, the City of Boston Lobbying Ordinance creates an unnecessary, unintended burden on both private firms and city officials tasked with implementation. See a copy of the letter & legal memo that an ACEC/MA-backed business coalition recently delivered to Mayor Walsh and Boston CIty Councilors.
The updates below reflect discussions and actions of the Boston Lobbying Commission as well as the coalition of associations and nonprofits with which we are working to develop clarity on the issues of whether our members' work would require them to register as lobbyists with the City of Boston. ACEC/MA is particularly concerned about the impact on design professionals working with clients and providing their professional advice on matters before city agencies.
February 19, 2020: During today’s Boston Lobbying Commission Meeting, the Commissioners discussed the feedback they have received – from our coalition, the Conference on Boston Teaching Hospitals, and the Charles River Watershed Association. They will be amending the posting, found here, to include copies of all of the comment letters received at the February 10, 2020 public hearing.
Regarding de minimus thresholds: there was a lot of discussion about whether the Boston City Council intended to exclude a de minimus threshold in the Ordinance. City Clerk Feeney stated that she believes there is room for a de minimus threshold in the regulations, and that it would address a lot of the concerns that currently exist. Chair Nabulsi requested that they be sent all the meeting minutes from the working groups regarding the various proposed lobbying ordinances so that they could read those minutes to get a sense of intent. Depending on intent, the Commission will potentially move forward with the establishment of some sort of de minimus threshold, although Chair Nabulsi was clear to say they may choose to move forward with their own language.
There was quite a bit of discussion on whether to include education and health in Section 4(3) – with the idea that with so many education interest groups in the City there will be many people abusing the inclusion of education, and that health experts may or may not be interpreted to be included in the existing “scientific” language. They may seek to resolve the ambiguity with an additional clause for Section 4(3), but they are not sure.
The head of the Mass Nonprofit Network, Jim Klocke, was able to comment on the need for increased clarity regarding “Designated” in the language “retained employed or designated” in the ordinance. The commission agreed that they may be able to address this.
They have rejected the edit that our coalition requested on page 9 of our letter (below) – they believe technical experts should never ask for approval, denial, or postponement.
Revise Section 4(4) to remove ambiguity about the instances in which a Technical Service Expert is engaged in qualified non-lobbying activity:
Qualified non-lobbying activity shall be limited to providing technical information to the Mayor, City Council, or City Employee to assist the understanding of characteristics or elements of a matter that is or may be subject to discretionary or non-discretionary decisions or administrative actions of the City.
Qualified non-lobbying activity does not include recommending or advocating for approval, denial, or postponement of a decision or administrative action.
The other item of note was a discussion about how the City Clerk should determine financial hardship for non-profit waivers. There was some discussion as to whether budget reviews, total revenue, or other markers should be used in the evaluation of whether or not actual financial hardship was incurred.
The next steps include a review of all meeting minutes for the working groups that discussed the lobbying ordinance, and a follow up meeting in March to discuss language and potentially seek opinions from the Boston Legal Department ahead of the final language release. The Commission has a tentative next meeting of Thursday, April 2 @ 10am. This is the date if they are unable to schedule a meeting in March. After that, the City Clerk will be heavily involved in the budget process with the City, so they are hoping to have everything completed quickly.
February 10, 2020: This evening the Boston Municipal Lobbying Compliance Commission held a public hearing on draft proposed regulations. Here is the link to a comment memo on these draft regulations, which includes ACEC/MA as part of the coalition. This was submitted by Jim Klocke of the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network at the public hearing, which was short.
Both Jim Klocke and Tish McMullin of COBTH (Council of Boston Teaching Hospitals) testified and thanked the commission for the work that went into the regulations.
December 3, 2019, Sammy Nabulsi, Chair of the Boston Municipal Lobbying Compliance Commission visited with ACEC/MA's Government Affairs Committee. We appreciated his time and willingness to focus on the issues of concern to design professionals.
He indicated that the Commission voted to approve a final set of proposed regulations that are currently being reviewed to develop a small business impact statement. The Draft regulations will be posted in mid-late December and then there will be a public comment period for at least 21 days after notice of the regulations posting, plus a public hearing in the first few weeks of January when people can provide input. The Commission will then review where it needs to make changes, if necessary. They will then vote on final set of regulations and issue a fiscal impact statement, so that the City can budget for any additional staffing needed. He noted that there are certain things the Commission cannot change because of how the City Council wrote the ordinance. For example the Commission cannot change the fact that reports need to be submitted quarterly because of the way the City Council wrote and passed the ordinance. The City Council can make these sort of regulatory changes, and might in the future, but it doesn’t look like they will revise their ordinance in the near future.
People can email their own questions about their own individual work to email@example.com
The Commission plans to issue formal bulletins, such as the one above, as needed.
In general, the filing of any application for a permit is not considered to be a lobbying activity.
Attempts to influence administrative actions, excluding non-discretionary work, would be lobbying.
Any interaction with the city in the course of responding to a procurement, if pursuant to the city's actual process, including interviews, would not be considered lobbying
If a firm is trying to get a contract outside the city's contracting process, that would be considered lobbing.
If a firm is under contract to give advice to the city, that firm would be exempt from having its employees register as lobbyists for work done under that contract.
If a design professional is in a meeting with a developer as a technical advisor, the design professional needs to be careful to avoid advocating for the city to talk a particular action.
Guiding principal: If the designed professional is retained on behalf of another person or firm, compensated or uncompensated, where they are influencing or attempting to influence a city decision, the design professional would need to register as a lobbyist and the client would need to register as a lobbying entity.
When in doubt, ask the question at firstname.lastname@example.org
Late October 2019: City of Boston Municipal Lobbying Compliance Commission Issued ADVISORY OPINION 19-01 - download pdf
This advisory answers the question: An engineering and construction management firm has a contract with the City of Boston to perform engineering and/or construction management services for the City. The firm was selected by the City through a competitive procurement process. The procurement process included meetings with City officials to discuss the firm’s qualifications. The firm does not use a lobbyist to pursue contracts through the City’s procurement process. Does the Lobbying Ordinance require the firm to register as a lobbyist or lobbying entity for its communications, including meetings, with City officials during the procurement process that are required or encouraged by the City’s prescribed procurement process?
October 8, 2019 Presentation to ACEC/MA Private Sector Committee - download pdf
September 4, 2019 update: In late August, the Boston Municipal Lobbying Compliance Commission issued a Request for Information (see attached) on how it should interpret, implement and enforce the new lobbyist ordinance. Comments are due by Friday, September 6 and can be emailed to the Commission’s Chairman, Sammy Nabulsi, at email@example.com
The feedback received will help the Commission to develop a guidance document ahead of the 2020 registration deadline on December 15, 2019. Within the RFI it states that comments should be limited to “matters you believe will be helpful to the general public in understanding the requirements of the ordinance.” It also states that the “Commission is charged with interpreting the current ordinance and is not authorized to change or implement the ordinance in a way that conflicts with the ordinance’s express language.”
September 6, 2019 Update: Here is ACEC/MA's letter filed on September 6 with the Commission.
ACEC/MA members only pay the ACEC/MA member rate for registration. Check the ACEC/MA Member Directory to see if your firm is an ACEC/MA member. If your firm is an ACEC/MA member, you are a member.
Important: You must use the account, including the username and password, of the individual you wish to register.
IMPORTANT: Altering your name or contact information during registration will overwrite your record in our membership database. Please do not share your login information with anyone else.
If you have additional questions regarding registration, contact us at 617/227-5551 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Registration is processed through the ACEC/MA associated website, www.engineers.org. ACEC/MA is supported by the staff of The Engineering Center Education Trust.