New City of Boston Lobbying Ordinance—Applicability to Real Estate, Design, and Construction Firms

New City of Boston Lobbying Ordinance—Applicability to Real Estate, Design, and Construction Firms

Beginning April 16, 2019, lobbyists and their clients doing business with city of Boston officials need to register under a new lobbying ordinance passed by the City Council and signed into law by Mayor Walsh in October 2018. The new regulations contain a broad definition of ‘lobbying activities’ that trigger the registration requirements for individuals that may not traditionally consider themselves in the lobbying business.

The city of Boston ordinance is based on the updated Massachusetts legislative and executive agent lobbying statutes passed into law in 2009. Under the new city ordinance, lobbyists, lobbying entities, and lobbying clients need to register with the city clerk’s office if they engage in ‘lobbying activities’ defined to mean any attempt to influence any of the following:

  1. any legislative action made by the City Council or any member thereof with respect to the introduction, passage, defeat, or substance of any local legislation or resolution;
  2. any administrative action made by the Mayor to support, oppose, approve, or disapprove any local legislation or resolution, whether or not such legislation or resolution has been introduced in the City Council;
  3. any decision or administrative action made by an employee of the city with respect to the procurement of goods, services or construction, including the preparation or contract specifications, or the solicitation, award or administration of a contract, or with respect to the solicitation, award, or administration of a grant, loan, or agreement involving the disbursement of public monies;
  4. any decision made by the Mayor, the City Council, or city employee with respect to the approval, denial, or postponement of a decision concerning the development of real property or zoning, including zoning approval;
  5. any legislative or administrative action concerning the adoption, defeat or postponement of a standard, rate, rule or regulation promulgated pursuant to any local or special law; the adoption or rejection of a policy position.

Activities intended to influence decisions relating to real estate development, procurement of design and construction services, preparation of contract specifications, and the solicitation or administration of contracts could require developers, design consultants, project managers, and other A/E/C industry consultants to register as lobbyists and/or lobbying clients. Although the ordinance contains an extensive list of activities exempt from the definition of ‘lobbying activities,’ the applicability of the ordinance to these sectors could potentially be far-reaching. The City may offer guidance or clarification on the meaning of the ordinance and how it should be interpreted by the community but, as of the time of this post, no such guidance was available.

For those subject to the ordinance, registration will need to be completed annually. Lobbyists will also need to file sworn quarterly summary reports of lobbying activities. Failure to comply with the requirements of the ordinance may result in penalties of up to $300 per day for each violation and suspension from engaging in lobbying activities with the City.