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Cuomo expands lobbying oversight to localities

While most of the attention of the just-passed package of ethics laws has focused on tighter disclosure requirements for lawmakers and the exceptions they gave themselves, it also greatly expands state oversight of municipal lobbying.

The provision has gained importance as state policy matters bleed into localities. In 2014, casino developers and their opponents spent thousands of dollars on grass-roots campaigns to push city and town officials to offer the necessary approvals for their projects and in recent years, several small towns became battlegrounds over local ordinances to ban natural gas hydrofracking. A similar requirement for local approval will be required when the state awards licenses for growing and distributing medicinal marijuana.

New York's lobbying law requires anyone who spends more than $5,000 in an attempt to influence any local law or ordinance, or any pending procurement action, to register its activities with the state's Joint Commission on Public Ethics. The law had applied to government entities with more than 50,000 people; that threshold was decreased to 5,000 people and was expanded to include school districts of any size.

In a memo to clients this week, Mark Glaser and Joshua Oppenheimer of Greenberg Traurig wrote that the change signals a “significant shift in policy.”

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