The Ethics Commission is continuing to revise its proposal to overhaul Long Beach’s lobbying disclosure law, something it plans to eventually present to the City Council, which will have the final say over any changes.

The commission met Wednesday at the Billie Jean King Main Library in Downtown to discuss its most recent draft of changes governing who has to disclose meeting with city officials and attempts to influence policy, but the commission was again met with concerns from nonprofit leaders whose organizations might be included under the new rules.

Griselda Suarez, the executive director of the Long Beach Arts Council, which helps support artists in the city, said she supports the commission’s goal of increasing transparency, but she said the proposed changes could force her organization to cut off contact with city officials out of fear of violating the law.

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“It would be absolutely detrimental to the arts council, other nonprofits and public discourse in general,” Suarez told the commission.

Suarez and others said the ethics commission’s proposal could lead to a “chilling effect” among the nonprofit community if not revised.

Long Beach’s 14-year-old lobbyist disclosure law was intended to give a picture of how lobbyists were influencing city decisions. It requires paid lobbyists to register with the city and report when they talk to elected officials and city staff about projects, but nonprofits, neighborhood organizations and others are currently exempt.

Over the course of the past two years, the ethics commission has been working on recommendations to strengthen the lobbying law, which has been roundly criticized as being weak and riddled with loopholes.

The commission has said it wants more detailed and timely disclosures about lobbying, and it’s so far signaled it wants to repeal a blanket exemption currently given to nonprofits.

Some changes the commission discussed include:

  • Making nonprofits with operating revenue of over $1 million disclose their contacts with city officials
  • Making any group or person who meets with a city official three times in a month report on what happened
  • Increasing how often lobbying reports must be filed
  • Requiring city officials to make their calendars public and reveal any materials or presentations given to them by lobbyists
  • Cleaning up the current law’s language to clarify that city employee unions are exempt from the lobbying rules but other labor organizations are not

As an example of why nonprofits should not be exempt from the rules, Commissioner Barbara Pollack pointed to one such group’s recent challenges of two Downtown housing projects. She said that there was no way to know if they were also lobbying behind the scenes to try to block the projects, which included some affordable units. (The council denied both appeals earlier this month.)

“As a resident, I would like to know if influences were brought to bear,” Pollack said.

Commissioner Raul Anorve read a long prepared statement where he echoed the concerns nonprofits have shared with the commission about not having enough resources to comply with the proposed changes, which he said could hinder their work in the community.

“They don’t do this for personal gain, financial gain or profit and they shouldn’t be treated like paid lobbyists,” Anorve said.

The commission said it would return the issue to a committee for revisions. A new draft of the proposal likely won’t be released until May, according to the commission.

Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or @JasonRuiz_LB on Twitter.