Lobbyists roaming the corridors in City Hall will soon have to stand up and be counted, after City Council approved legislation yesterday requiring them to register with the city and file public reports on their expenditures.
Council yesterday also passed several ethics bills that deal with campaign-finance rules and government reform. But it did not act on controversial legislation that would allow city employees to engage in political activity in their off-hours, as ward leaders, party committeemen or campaign workers.
Councilwoman Marian Tasco said Council would continue to work with the Board of Ethics and other civic groups on reforms to the political-activity rules, currently interpreted to mean that off-duty employees can't wear campaign buttons or put candidate bumper stickers on their cars.
"We do not want to move forward and act in haste and repent in leisure," Tasco said.
Council also approved bills that would loosen the city's restrictions on campaign contributions, allowing candidates to raise money for post-election expenditures and campaign-related litigation, independent of their regular campaign organizations. That would permit multiple contributions from donors who would otherwise top the city's annual contribution limits - now $2,600 per year for individuals and $10,600 a year for political-action committees.
The city's failure to regulate lobbying activity was identified last year as a major problem by the city's Task Force on Ethics and Campaign Finance Reform, a nine-member panel appointed by city officials and leading civic groups.
The lobbyist law, which goes into effect July 1, 2011, will be administered by the Board of Ethics, which will detail lobbyist disclosures online. But Executive Director Shane Creamer said they would need funding to build and maintain the database.
In other news:
* Mayor Nutter vetoed legislation that would require the city to pay policing costs for parades and other special events. Nutter said, in a letter to Council, that the city couldn't afford those expenses.
The bill's sponsor, Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez, said that would be meeting with parade organizers and the Nutter administration Monday to see if a compromise could be reached - but if not, she stressed that she had the votes to override the veto.
Nutter announced in 2008 that the city would start charging for police and sanitation costs related to special events, due to financial constraints. It was a controversial announcement, particularly to the city's ethnic parades like the St. Patrick's Day and Puerto Rican Day parades.
Quinones-Sanchez said a compromise might be a three-way split of event costs among the city, organizers and the new nonprofit created by U.S. Rep. Bob Brady to help pay parade costs.
That fund - the Greater Philadelphia Traditions Fund - was awarded $500,000 by philanthropist H.F "Gerry" Lenfest this week. It will provide aid to the Mummers and ethnic parades and festivals.
Philadelphia is not alone in looking to recoup some parade and festival costs.