New bill looks to shed light on municipal lobbying in Massachusetts

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STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, FEB. 29, 2016…..Citing the influence of special interests in decisions involving millions of dollars, a state senator from Brockton has filed legislation calling for municipal lobbyists to begin disclosing their clients and compensation with clerks at city and town halls throughout Massachusetts.

If approved, the bill could shine a light on the lobbying of mayors, selectmen, city councilors, school committee members and department heads in communities where spending on government services has grown steadily over the years.

According to Sen. Michael Brady, his legislation, which the Senate referred Monday to the State Administration Committee, is modeled after the state lobbying law and establishes new categories governing municipal agents and municipal lobbying. It would require agents receiving more than $2,500 per year to disclose the nature of matters they are lobbying on, officials they have lobbied, the interests paying the agent and campaign contributions made to local officials.

Municipal lobbyists would be required to register annually and pay a fee of $100 under the bill.

A former state representative, Brady won a seat the Senate last year in a special election and the bill is the first he’s filed as a senator.

“I ran on a platform that included trust and transparency in government. I take that responsibility seriously,” Brady said in a statement.

Municipal clerks would administer disclosure requirements, with information filed under the proposed law available for public inspection, and enforcement would be handled by the Secretary of State’s office.

Rather than imposing the municipal lobbying requirements statewide, the legislation is a “local option” proposal, meaning cities and towns would have to accept the law’s provisions for it to take effect in each city and town. According to the bill’s language, local approval would occur “by vote of the City Council and approval of the Mayor or vote of Town Meeting and approval of the Board of Selectmen.”

Brady said he suspects “many” communities would agree to muni-lobbying requirements.

“We are fortunate to have a system of strong home rule in the Commonwealth where cities and towns make big decisions and have enormous influence in the quality of our lives,” Brady said. “A consequence of that is that some of those decisions affect the disposition of millions of taxpayer dollars and, right now, there isn’t a law in place that regulates how people try to influence those decisions.”

Copyright 2016 State House News Service

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