March 18, 2020 •

Emergency Order Extends Austin Lobbyist Quarterly Reporting Deadline

Austin City Hall - by Carol M. Highsmith

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Austin Mayor Steve Adler signed an emergency order on March 17. The order suspends all deadlines imposed by city code, ordinance, rule, or other regulation until May 1. Under Section 7 of the order, […]

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Austin Mayor Steve Adler signed an emergency order on March 17.

The order suspends all deadlines imposed by city code, ordinance, rule, or other regulation until May 1.

Under Section 7 of the order, the deadline for all lobbyist quarterly activity reports has been extended to May 1.

No late fees will be accrued for failure to file prior to May 1.

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January 26, 2018 •

Austin Lobbyists Agree to Disclose Compensation

Lobbyists in Austin have agreed to cooperate with the city and disclose how much clients pay them. Taking a lead from state and federal filing requirements, Austin began requiring lobbyists to report what they are paid last year. Seventeen lobbyists […]

Lobbyists in Austin have agreed to cooperate with the city and disclose how much clients pay them. Taking a lead from state and federal filing requirements, Austin began requiring lobbyists to report what they are paid last year.

Seventeen lobbyists registered with the city, all lawyers, asserted attorney-client privilege prohibited them from the disclosure. The city’s Ethics Review Commission was scheduled to hear ethics complaints filed against the group, but all 17 amended their reports to add the missing information.

A lobbyist who originally refused to disclose his compensation said the City Clerk accepted the form without the information and there is even space provided for an explanation as to why the compensation information was not disclosed.

Austin’s actions this week have set an example for enforcing the reporting requirements moving forward.

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October 20, 2017 •

Austin to Consider Procurement Overhaul

The Austin Financial Services Department is proposing drastic changes to the city’s anti-lobbying and procurement ordinance. The proposed changes shorten the no contact period during a bid solicitation and allow the purchasing officer to consider mitigating factors when determining if a […]

The Austin Financial Services Department is proposing drastic changes to the city’s anti-lobbying and procurement ordinance.

The proposed changes shorten the no contact period during a bid solicitation and allow the purchasing officer to consider mitigating factors when determining if a violation has occurred. The recommendations also abbreviate, clarify, and consolidate what communications and representations are permitted and prohibited during the solicitation process.

Comments and suggestions for additional proposed changes are still being accepted.

This comes after city council voted to suspend the anti-lobbying and procurement ordinance for individuals seeking waste management contracts after they struggled to find and agree upon suitable contractors.

City Council met this week to discuss the proposed changes and postponed taking action until November 9, 2017.

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April 26, 2017 •

Austin Lobbying Ordinance Effective June 1

Effective June 1, 2017, Ordinance No. 20160922-005 repealing and replacing Chapter 4-8 of the Austin City Code relating to lobbying will go into effect. Among other things, the ordinance establishes new registration requirements, changes the method of reporting, and requires […]

Austin, Texas at nightEffective June 1, 2017, Ordinance No. 20160922-005 repealing and replacing Chapter 4-8 of the Austin City Code relating to lobbying will go into effect. Among other things, the ordinance establishes new registration requirements, changes the method of reporting, and requires lobbyist compensation to be reported.

Additionally, the registration threshold will no longer hinge solely on an expenditure or compensation amount, but will also include time compensated for lobbying as a registration trigger. In a memorandum released this week, the City Clerk announced the office will create new lobbyist registration and reporting forms to be available on the its website by June 1. Existing and outdated forms will not be accepted moving forward.

Photo of the Austin skyline by Argash on Wikimedia Commons.

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March 10, 2017 •

New Austin Campaign Finance Ordinance Under Consideration

After a 2016 federal court decision blocked Austin’s blackout period restricting candidate fundraising to only during the six months preceding an election, campaign finance regulation supporters in Austin’s Ethics Review Commission are pushing a new ordinance to limit the contribution […]

Austin, Texas at nightAfter a 2016 federal court decision blocked Austin’s blackout period restricting candidate fundraising to only during the six months preceding an election, campaign finance regulation supporters in Austin’s Ethics Review Commission are pushing a new ordinance to limit the contribution period and withstand the same type of legal challenges.

As the city appeals the 2016 ruling, candidates can raise money year-round.

The proposed ordinance, created by Council Member Leslie Pool, allows candidates to raise money for a full year before an election and to continue fundraising for a for up to six months after the election to pay off campaign debts.

The drafted ordinance is under review until the Commission meets again in April and aiming for action by the City Council by June.

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February 23, 2017 •

Austin City Council Exempts Itself From Ethics Review

This month, the Austin City Council unanimously voted to exempt City Council and their staff from being subject to punishment for interference with personnel matters with a clause in the city charter aimed at preventing elected officials from pressuring city […]

Austin, Texas City HallThis month, the Austin City Council unanimously voted to exempt City Council and their staff from being subject to punishment for interference with personnel matters with a clause in the city charter aimed at preventing elected officials from pressuring city staff to go against their professional and unbiased judgment in making official decisions.

This vote came one year after City Council asked for amendments to the city code to give the City’s Ethics Review Commission authority over the interference clause which were unanimously approved in November 2016.

Under the new ordinance approved this month, allegations of City Council ethics violations will go to the Auditor and Ethics Review Commission and any issues arising under the City Charter Clause will be decided by the Council and City Manager.

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September 26, 2016 •

Changes to Austin, Texas, Lobbying Law Effective June 1, 2017

On September 22, an ordinance revising the lobbying law for the city of Austin, Texas, was approved by the City Council. The new law repeals and replaces Chapter 4-8 of the city’s code relating to the regulation of lobbyists. The […]

Coat_of_arms_of_Austin,_Texas.svgOn September 22, an ordinance revising the lobbying law for the city of Austin, Texas, was approved by the City Council.

The new law repeals and replaces Chapter 4-8 of the city’s code relating to the regulation of lobbyists.

The ordinance, which was to have taken take effect on January 1, 2017, was amended before passing and will now take effect on June 1, 2017.

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September 1, 2016 •

Austin, Texas Campaign Finance Disclosure Amendments Take Effect

On September 1, new provisions in the city of Austin’s campaign finance laws take effect. Ordinance No. 20160623-020 increases disclosure requirements for nonprofits and independent groups making political contributions or expenditures in excess of $500. These organizations are required to […]

Coat_of_arms_of_Austin,_Texas.svgOn September 1, new provisions in the city of Austin’s campaign finance laws take effect.

Ordinance No. 20160623-020 increases disclosure requirements for nonprofits and independent groups making political contributions or expenditures in excess of $500. These organizations are required to report the identities of who contributed to them unless the donation was directed to not be used for political purposes. Contributions for investments and commercial transactions also do not require disclosure of the contributor.

Another part of the ordinance, not effective until February 1, 2017, requires intermediaries transferring more than $500 for political campaign purposes to disclose details of the transfers, including the occupation and employer of the person making the transfer and the purpose and description of each transfer.

The coat of arms of Austin, Texas by Glasshouse on Wikimedia Commons.

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August 23, 2016 •

Austin, TX Moves Closer to New Lobbying Law

On August 18, an ordinance revising the lobbying law for the city of Austin, Texas, met with preliminary approval from the City Council. The new proposed law repeals and replaces Chapter 4-8 of the city’s code relating to the regulation […]

Austin, Texas at nightOn August 18, an ordinance revising the lobbying law for the city of Austin, Texas, met with preliminary approval from the City Council. The new proposed law repeals and replaces Chapter 4-8 of the city’s code relating to the regulation of lobbyists.

The draft ordinance was approved on a first reading only and will require at least two more approvals from the City Council to become law. The City Council is next meeting again on September 1, but the proposed ordinance is not yet on the council’s agenda for that date. The ordinance may be addressed later in the year following the adoption of the city budget in mid-September, according to the Austin Monitor.

If passed as currently drafted, the new ordinance would take effect on January 1, 2017.

Photo of the Austin, Texas skyline by Argash on Wikimedia Commons.

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July 21, 2016 •

Austin, TX Campaign Contribution Blackout Period Ruled Unconstitutional

On July 20, a federal court ruled the city of Austin’s campaign contribution blackout period unconstitutional. The blackout period allowed officeholders, candidates, and their respective committees to only accept campaign contributions during the last 180 days before an election or […]

AustinOn July 20, a federal court ruled the city of Austin’s campaign contribution blackout period unconstitutional. The blackout period allowed officeholders, candidates, and their respective committees to only accept campaign contributions during the last 180 days before an election or recall election. In Zimmerman v. City of Austin, Texas, the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas, Austin Division, concluded the law was unconstitutional under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

In addition, the court found an Austin City Charter provision designating a 90-day requirement for campaign account terminations to be unconstitutional.

District Court Judge Lee Yeakel did uphold the city’s contribution limits for mayoral and city council candidates, finding the limit a constitutional regulation of protected First Amendment activity. The ruling also found City Councilman Don Zimmerman, who originally brought the lawsuit last summer, did not have standing to challenge the aggregate limits of the total contributions a candidate can accept from sources other than natural persons eligible to vote in a postal zip code completely or partially within the Austin city limits.

Photo of Austin, Texas by Eric A. Ellison on Wikimedia Commons.

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December 21, 2015 •

Austin, TX to Reform City Lobbying and Campaign Finance Laws

On December 17, the Austin, Texas City Council voted to reform the city’s lobbying and campaign finance laws. The council approved a lobbyist reform proposal, which includes initiating changes to city ordinances relating to the regulation of lobbyists and to […]

Austin, Texas City HallOn December 17, the Austin, Texas City Council voted to reform the city’s lobbying and campaign finance laws.

The council approved a lobbyist reform proposal, which includes initiating changes to city ordinances relating to the regulation of lobbyists and to the duties and functions of the Ethics Review Commission. The council also approved a resolution regarding mandating disclosure of campaign contributions and expenditures by non-profits and other entities not currently required to disclose their funding. The city manager has been directed by the council to write these ordinances, which will then be put to a vote by the council sometime in 2016.

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December 15, 2015 •

Austin, Texas Campaign Finance Rules Challenged

On December 14, testimony was heard in a case in U.S. District Court challenging the city of Austin’s campaign finance ordinances. City councilman Don Zimmerman originally brought the lawsuit last summer alleging the city’s blackout period for fundraising and the […]

Austin, Texas at nightOn December 14, testimony was heard in a case in U.S. District Court challenging the city of Austin’s campaign finance ordinances. City councilman Don Zimmerman originally brought the lawsuit last summer alleging the city’s blackout period for fundraising and the political contribution limits are unconstitutional violations of free speech. The trial being conducted before U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel is expected to conclude this week.

Photo of Austin, Texas skyline at night by Argash on Wikimedia Commons.

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