NJ Assemblyman Wants More Transparency For Lobbying [AUDIO]
Unethical lobbying on the local level, especially after Superstorm Sandy, is being targeted by a Jersey Assemblyman.
Assemblyman Daniel Benson (D-14) has introduced legislation (A-3882) which pushes for greater transparency for lobbying efforts for influencing local government.
It would require lobbyists or any other government affairs agent who is looking to influence a local measure or are trying to provide a benefit or services to local officials, schools, or government; follow the same disclosure and reporting practices set up on the state wide level. Local lobbyists would have to file a notice of representation with the Elected Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) before attempting to influence local government officials.
Provisions in the bill would also cap gifts from lobbyist to local elected officials, their employees, or immediate families to 250$ annual.
"Currently local officials have to report gifts that they receive but there is no other corresponding requirement for the other side. So this will create a good system of checks and balances to make sure improper activity isn't occurring."
Benson says the legislation comes on the heels of corruption and ethics concerns in Trenton and his hometown of Hamilton as well as concern about how local professional service contracts would be chosen once the billions in Federal Sandy Relief Aid come in.
The Assemblyman says the legislation would cover contracts that aren't covered by lowest bidder provisions, as well as provide review and safeguards of how the bidding document is written.
"A taxpayer's dollar is important, whether it's a state dollar, a county dollar, or a local or a school taxpayer dollar. So it should have the same level of scrutiny regardless of where it is being spent."
Though the legislation was triggered by Sandy, Benson says the measure is all encompassing and would cover any lobbying of local officials.