Monday, December 6, 2010 | Democratic State Sen. Lou Correa introduced a bill today that mandates lobbyist registration at all levels of local government and in doing so is attempting to push reforms through Sacramento that the Orange County supervisors have twice failed to achieve.

“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, who introduced the bill amidst all the swearing-in ceremonies that went on this afternoon at the state Capitol.

“And a great way to start is transparency in government.”

The legislation, SB31, would require any local government in California seeking state grant funds to have a functioning lobbyist registration program, said Correa, who represents central Orange Orange County.

Correa said he expects hearings soon, most likely in the Local Government Committee. Based on what he’s already heard in Orange County, Correa said he expects a good debate.

Lobby registration has been a hot topic in Orange County in recent months. Reform measures have twice gone before the Board of Supervisors, and twice they have been voted down.

Both Los Angeles and San Diego counties have lobbyist registration. And a recent Orange County grand jury report criticized the lack of any registration locally.

Former State Sen. Joe Dunn (who also serves as chairman of the board for Voice of OC) partnered with the Orange County Employees Association earlier this year to support ballot language that would require lobbyist registration and reporting of ex-parte communications at the county level.

County supervisors rejected that approach as well as proposals sponsored by Supervisors Bill Campbell, Pat Bates and Shawn Nelson.

To date, no supervisor has been able to craft a winning solution. With the prospects of a ballot initiative looming, or other action such as Correa’s legislation, some supervisors — such as Campbell — publicly said they wanted to design their own registration approach before it was imposed.

Virtually all sides privately acknowledge that since the corruption scandal in the Los Angeles County city of Bell, things like lobbyist registration have become popular with the public.

“Lou heard the people,” OCEA spokeswoman Jennifer Muir said today. “Nine out of 10 taxpayers we polled want this.”

Correa said the debate in Orange County influenced his thinking.

“After listening to the debate, I said to myself, ‘We do need registration,” Correa said. “Not only at the county, but everywhere. It makes sense. It’s good government.”

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