Orange County Supervisor Shawn Nelson today is racing against an afternoon deadline to get his own version of lobby reform on next week’s Board of Supervisors agenda.
Nelson said his proposal is the result of his taking notes from the supervisors’ last meeting, at which a reform measure offered up by Supervisor Bill Campbell was rejected.
Campbell proposed a basic quarterly registry in which advocates who earned more than $1,000 a month would sign up. The idea, Campbell said, was to give taxpayers knowledge of who influences county supervisors by enabling a comparison of registered lobbyists and campaign contributions.
However, a majority of Campbell’s colleagues — including Nelson — killed that idea. Nelson said he’s trying to pick up the ball from where it was left last week.
When asked why Orange County needs lobbyist registration, Nelson replied: “I’m not convinced we do. But it strikes me that there’s a public perception that we need some kind of transparency about people who come to influence the board.”
Indeed, the Orange County Employees Association and former state Sen. Joe Dunn (who is also chairman of the board for Voice of OC) have publicly advocated for registration. There’s even been talk about a ballot initiative.
“Since Orange County supervisors rejected lobbying reform last week, we’ve certainly heard from a lot of people who have become interested in lobby reform for Orange County,” OCEA communications director Jennifer Muir said. “We’re happy that Supervisor Nelson is one of them.”
Nelson said Orange County taxpayers long ago limited influence at the county level by enacting the campaign finance ordinance known as TINCUP (which limits the amount any one donor can give a candidate to $1,600) as well as a gift ban.
“The real root of any problems has already been resolved,” Nelson said. “You can’t give any of us a bowl of oatmeal without disclosing it.”
Nelson’s ordinance, he said, follows the same format as Campbell’s but requires only an annual registration. Nelson defines lobbying as “any effort by an individual to affect the decision-making process of the board on behalf of anyone other than themselves.”
“Our lobbying definition, at least as I’ve proposed it, deals with activity,” Nelson said. “And that’s it.”
Registration should be once a year and straightforward, Nelson said. “We can put it online, or I’d even suggest a sign-in sheet. Let’s make it as simple as possible. That’s good government.”
— NORBERTO SANTANA, JR.