Philadelphia Delays Enforcing New Lobbying Law; Next Meeting August 17

On July 7, 2011, Philadelphia’s City Government Board of Ethics held a special meeting to deal with Philadelphia’s new lobbying registration and disclosure law, which was to take effect on July 1, 2011. At the meeting, the Board adopted a Resolution to postpone enforcement of the new law, until the final regulations (with any amendments) are approved. The earliest that can happen is 30 days after the next public meeting, which is scheduled for August 17, 2011; but may take even longer.

We know that the original proposed lobbying regulations were flawed. You can read my criticism in my 6/21/10 blog article (updated 6/21/11) entitled Philadelphia’s New Lobbying Law Silences Grassroots Advocacy.  The Philadelphia Bar Association, the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, Philadelphia’s Committee of Seventy and even Common Cause of Pennsylvania acknowledged the need to amend the draft regulations.  That said, we still don’t know how the Ethics Board plans to fix it.  As far as I am aware, amendments have not yet been posted.

The point is that lobbying laws that are vague, complicated, or costly to comply with, chill advocacy rights for small businesses, charities and average taxpayers. How much will compliance with the new regulation cost you or your organization? Tell Philadelphia’s Ethics Board and City Council members how the new lobbying regulations will impact you. THERE IS STILL MUCH THEY HAVEN’T HEARD.

HERE ARE MY SOLUTIONS:  (1) raise the registration and reporting threshold to $5,000 per reporting period; (2) lower the registration fee to $100; (3) simplify requirements for tracking communications and expenses; (4) lower the penalties to $50 per late day (maximum $2,000);  and (5) reduce the ban on lobbying from 5 years to 2 years.

Remember, IT’S YOUR RIGHT to petition city hall, to talk to your local government official and to engage in grassroots advocacy!

For details about Philadelphia’s new law, its consequences for nonprofit organizations, small businesses and individual advocates, read my 6/21/10 article (updated 6/21/11) entitled Philadelphia’s New Lobbying Law Silences Grassroots Advocacy. Your comments are welcome.

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THREE QUESTIONS FOR PENNSYLVANIA’S CANDIDATES

The Scranton Times Tribune ran a news story today (10/18/10) entitled “Nonprofits fear winter coupled with high unemployment.” Leaders of nonprofits and charities in Northeast Pennsylvania announced that the coming winter coupled with growing unemployment will push the limits of their organizations. That they lack money and capacity to meet the needs of their communities is not a matter of poor management. These are sophisticated organizations. It’s the economy. Pennsylvania’s social safety net is in serious jeopardy, because unemployment is rising, new jobs are not being created, and personal wealth is barely growing for Pennsylvanians- if at all.

2010 is a critical election year in Pennsylvania. Our Governor, Lieutenant Governor, 26 State Senators, and all 203 State Representatives are up for election, as well as Pennsylvania’s 19 Congressional seats. At stake is nothing less than majority control in Harrisburg and perhaps in Washington too. At the top of ticket, Pennsylvania is a battleground for the US Senate seat formerly held by Arlen Specter. The two candidates are Joe Sestak (D) and Pat Toomey (R) and by some accounts, are racing neck-and-neck.

With only 9 days until the November 2 general election, Pennsylvanians have decisions to make — big decisions with big consequences. Whether the issue is the economy, foreign trade, the social safety net, or campaign finance reform, the candidates have positions. Some have posted their positions on their websites; others have not. One thing they all have in common. They have not provided details on HOW THEY PLAN TO ACHIEVE THEIR GOALS. Without a plan, their goals are just empty campaign promises. So the real question is…. IF YOU ASK THEM HOW THEY PLAN TO ACHIEVE THEIR GOALS, WILL THEY TELL YOU?

That’s exactly what I did. I asked them. I have spent the past 6 years identifying socio-economic problems, and working with partners (building coalitions) to develop solutions and implement those solutions. Drawing from this experience, I drafted the three questions pasted below. I have shared it with them and will continue to share it with as many people as is possible… until I get a response. Then I will post their responses so we will all know whether they really have a plan or whether it’s all hype.

SO PLEASE READ THE THREE QUESTIONS BELOW. Feel free to SEND THE QUESTIONS TO YOUR LAWMAKERS. Between tourism, nonprofits and manufacturing, we can identify solutions to improve one-third of Pennsylvania’s economy– or at least know where the candidates stand.

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(1) MANUFACTURING SECTOR

In 2008, manufacturing accounted for 14% of the Pennsylvania’s total GDP (down from 21% in 1997). In 2009, manufactured goods accounted for more than 90% of Pennsylvania’s exports (down from 95% in 2002). China is our third largest export market (up from 16th in 1999). Currently, manufacturing accounts for just 10% of Pennsylvania’s total workforce (down 40% since 1990). During this same time (20 years), overall nonfarm employment in PA increased by 8%.

Some say it would be impossible to restore Pennsylvania’s manufacturing capacity. Others say that if we do not rebuild our factories, Pennsylvania’s economy will never recover. Considering that 600,000 Pennsylvanians are unemployed, I believe that restoring Pennsylvania’s factories is critical to Pennsylvania’s future.

America needs a comprehensive plan to rebuild our domestic manufacturing capacity, starting here in Pennsylvania, and starting today. American manufacturing is critical to the long-term health of our economy, to the welfare of our people, and ultimately to the survival of our nation.

Q1: If elected to the US Senate, in what three (3) specific ways would you partner with the manufacturing sector to prevent the loss of skilled manufacturing jobs in Pennsylvania and attract new skilled manufacturing jobs to Pennsylvania?

(2) NONPROFIT SECTOR

Pennsylvania is home to nearly 58,000 501(c)(3) charitable nonprofit organizations. From hospitals, colleges, daycare centers and clinics, to soup kitchens, social service providers and foundations, Pennsylvania’s nonprofit sector employs about 600,000 FTE workers (or 11% of the workforce in PA). Together these workers earned over $21.1 billion in wages in 2003 (or 10% percent of total wages paid in Pennsylvania). For many communities, nonprofits are also an economic engine for growth and development.

Since the recession began however, Pennsylvania’s nonprofits are facing declining contributions, decreasing revenue, and losses of government and foundation funding. Resources are dwindling, but the community’s need for the services that nonprofits provide continues to grow.

Q2: If elected to the US Senate, in what three (3) specific ways would you partner with and strengthen the nonprofit sector to achieve the goals of your campaign and improve the quality of life in our Commonwealth?

(3) TRAVEL, TOURISM AND HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY

Pennsylvania tourism is the state’s second-largest industry. Together, PA hotels, amusement parks, restaurants, ski areas, stadiums, and attractions of all types, generate $28 billion in revenue each year and pay $10 billion in wages and benefits to over 400,000 workers (or about 7% of Pennsylvania’s workforce). While these are certainly impressive numbers, tourism in Pennsylvania has room to grow. Understanding what motivates people to visit PA or employers to relocate to PA, and coordinating economic development to enhance PA tourism would improve Pennsylvania’s business climate over the long term.

Q3: If elected to the US Senate, in what three (3) specific ways would you partner with the tourism industry to improve economic growth and development?

Philadelphia to scrap USS Olympia to build coral reef in New Jersey?

If you haven’t heard, the City of Philadelphia is considering scrapping a national treasure, the USS Olympia, to build a coral reef off the coast of New Jersey. The USS Olympia is one of America’s first all-steel cruisers, the oldest steel warship afloat in the world, and the last surviving veteran of the Spanish-American War (1898). It’s a one-of-a-kind national treasure on display in Philadelphia’s Independence Seaport Museum (ISM) — and now she needs $20 million for maintenance, repair, preservation, and restoration – or she will slip beneath the waves forever. The US Navy has even authorized ISM to “responsibly dispose of the Olympia.”

Philadelphia saved this vessel from scrap in 1958 and spent 5 million refurbishing her already. Now she needs another $20 million. Sound like a lot?

Consider this: The City of Philadelphia is home to 1.54 million residents (5.8 million in the metropolitan area). The City has an annual operating budget of $3.8 billion and employs 24,000 workers. In August of this year, the City announced budget cuts of more than $20 million. That said, Philadelphia also sports the highest poverty rate of America’s 10 largest cities and is infamously corrupt. This week alone, the City drew criticism for paying out perhaps millions of dollars to its executives in a perfectly legal pension scam called DROP. Meanwhile, the City is $850 million short of fully funding thousands of pensions for its rank-and-file employees. (Pension Scandal)

Now consider this. The project cost of the 2003 Liberty Bell Center was listed as $12.9 million, but was really $26.3 million including operational costs. The project cost of Philadelphia’s 2005 National Constitution Center was $185 million. This was all part of a $314 million makeover of Independence Mall.

$20 million is not a lot of money to save a national treasure. It’s equal to the cost of a facility to house one.

The USS Olympia is a treasure worth saving. Olympia served as Admiral Dewey’s flagship at the Battle of Manila Bay during the Spanish-American War in 1898. She was reactivated for World War I, patrolling off New York and participating in the allied landings in Murmansk during the Russian Civil War in 1918. Her last major mission was to return the body of the Unknown Soldier of World War I from France to his final resting place in Arlington National Cemetery in 1921. More than any other ship afloat , the USS Olympia tells the story of US emergence as a world naval power. Her majesty and modesty deserve preservation. See for yourself.

Help save the USS Olympia. Visit the Cruiser Olympia Historical Society at http://www.tcohs.org/

By David A. Ross, J.D.

Longtime PA Tourism Association President to Retire

(6/4/10) For over 20 years, Barry Wickes, served as President of the Pennsylvania Association of Tourism and Lodging (PTLA).  Barry is a tremendous advocate for both tourist destinations and hotels across Pennsylvania.  His influence extends well beyond his own organization though.  Barry brought civility and common sense to Pennsylvania’s association community through PTLA, PASAE and PACVB.  It may sound like alphabet soup, but he really touched people deeply.   Barry’s impact is incalculable.  His retirement from PTLA is a loss for Pennsylvania, but a personal win for Barry.  For 20 years, he earned his retirement each and every day. Now he will have the flexibility to choose what projects he wants to become involved with.   We wish him all the best. 

Read the article in the June 4, 2010, Central Penn Business Journal at http://www.centralpennbusiness.com/article-multiple/81933-longtime-pa-tourism-association-chief-to-move-on  

 

 

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