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Lucy Dunn, president and CEO, OC Business Council  

Click for Lucy Dunn's Bio

Monday, November 29, 2010
Obamacare: facts vs. hype
Lobbying 101: I say 'squirrel'
With the travesty in mismanagement at the city of Bell, Sacramento budget disasters, government regulations choking business at every level of our lives, under-funded public pensions and a sluggish economy that – shocking – can’t seem to recover, we now hear the words: “And what we need is more transparency in government!” Sheesh.

Frankly, what we need is LESS government, LESS regulation, LESS red tape, but I digress.

Recently the O.C. Grand Jury decided that O.C. needed an ordinance regulating lobbyists because “everyone else has it; why shouldn’t we.” Well, sure. We have about 15 honest-to-goodness professional O.C. “lobbyists” in the traditional definition of the word: those who promote or secure the passage of legislation by persuading public officials. In Los Angeles and San Diego – bastions of transparency and good government – they have formal lobbying ordinances requiring registration and reporting of all lobbying activities.

In Orange County, Supervisor Bill Campbell recognized that we are rather unique with our onerous TINCUP gift bans and political contribution reporting, so he proposed testing a rather limited lobbying ordinance, which OCBC supported. Professional lobbyists would register and report on who their clients were. Simple. It could always be expanded if needed but was an OK first start for a county that didn’t have a lobbying ordinance. And a small fee (surprise!) would be paid by the lobbyist registering.

It shockingly failed to win support from the rest of the O.C. supervisors for a variety of reasons, most of which were that it wasn’t all-encompassing enough! Let’s include everybody.

So, Supervisors Bates and Nelson proposed an outrageously expansive ordinance that would have taken those 15 lobbyists and added 12,000 O.C. nonprofit organizations, landowners, utilities, unions, building trades, small-business owners, residents – frankly almost everyone in Orange County would have qualified to report as a lobbyist under their proposal if you had anything to do with a “public official.” Not an “elected public official.” Any “public official.” If you wanted to remodel your kitchen and your contractor asked the county planning for your permit in three days instead of five, for example, you and your contractor would have had to register as lobbyists! Think of the expanded fee base here.

Fortunately, this didn’t pass muster with the other supervisors and the drafting of an appropriate ordinance has been sent to county counsel and the county CEO for consideration, and is set to be brought back in 60 days.

Now enter, stage left, Sen. Lou Correa with his very first bill – on the state’s failed economy? On jobs creation? On regulatory relief? No. On requiring all local government agencies to have a lobbying ordinances: SB 31. Not just Orange County, but water districts, school districts, sanitation districts, flood control districts and transportation agencies. Everyone gets the fun of drafting an ordinance, folks registering, reporting, paying and government collecting fees.

"At a time when the state is facing tough economic times, this is when you really have to look at how you're doing business and think about doing things in a better way," said Correa. "And a great way to start is transparency in government."

Really? I guess working on the stuff that would put folks back to work is just beyond comprehension. It’s so politically correct to go after lobbyists. Well, lobbyists didn’t cause the problems in Bell, or the O.C. bankruptcy or vote in so many California regulations that we are at the bottom of the list of “business-friendly” states in the union.

I say “SQUIRREL.” Californiasquirrel.com. What do you think?