The New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics (“JCOPE”), which oversees and regulates ethics and lobbying in New York, hosted the first in a series of roundtable discussions with the regulated community on March 8 (in Albany) and March 15 (in NYC).

The March roundtable discussions focused on the new Reportable Business Relationship (“RBR”) and Source of Funding (“SOF”) disclosure requirements, which were enacted as part of the Public Integrity Reform Act of 2011. The RBR rule requires lobbyists and entities that hire or retain lobbyists to report certain business relationships they have with NYS employees. The SOF rule requires organizations that devote substantial resources to lobbying activity in NYS to disclose their sources of funding over $5,000. The rules went into effect in August 2011 and were first incorporated in the lobbying reports that were due this past January.

During the roundtables, JCOPE elaborated on the guidance it has provided to the public to date here and here. It also agreed to post additional guidance on its website.

With respect to the RBR rule, JCOPE continued to emphasize (as it has in prior webinars and trainings) that a business arrangement or transaction only needs to be reported if a lobbyist or lobbyist employer (including the lobbyist employer’s board members and executives) knows or has a reason to know that it/he/she is transacting with a NYS employee. It is important to note that this rule also applies to business relationships with entities in which a NYS employee has a certain ownership or managerial interest.

To satisfy their obligation under the RBR rule, organizations that file lobbying reports in NYS should survey their board members and senior executives to determine if these individuals have any RBRs to report.  The organizations can then rely on these representations when filing their report. JCOPE agreed to provide more specific guidance on how organizations—particularly organizations with large boards and complex management structures—can comply with this requirement.

The SOF disclosure applies to organizations that have spent at least $50,000 in lobbying in NYS during the six or twelve months preceding the lobbying report deadline, but only if those expenditures constitute at least 3% of the organization’s total expenditures during that same time period. During the roundtable discussion, attendees provided feedback on how to make the reporting process more efficient and meaningful.

Although JCOPE has not announced any dates or topics for future roundtables, it plans to cover a host of issues within its jurisdiction, including its draft regulations on gifts and honoraria. Information about future JCOPE roundtables and how to register is available on JCOPE’s website.