House Speaker-elect to launch Lobbyist Act
SAN JUAN — House Speaker-elect Carlos “Johnny” Méndez told Caribbean Business he will push for the approval of a Lobbyist Registry Act in the Legislature.
His intention is for citizens to know the interest groups behind each presented legislative measure, as well as the lobbyists behind a bill and who pays to push for approval.
If the measure isn’t approved in the next Legislative Assembly, which begins in 2017, Méndez would sign an administrative order from the House presidency that establishes some controls and requirements for lobbyists in the legislative branch, he said.
“There isn’t a lobbying law. I filed the measure [in this Legislative Assembly]. I will file it again [when the next administration, which begins in January]. I will push for it, but in case it isn’t approved, at least the House of Representatives will specify in its ruling what this bill includes,” the new House speaker said in an interview with Caribbean Business.
The representative explained it is a bill that aims for “transparency,” since he believes “the people of Puerto Rico deserve to know who pushes which measures and how much they are paying to whom to push that measure.”
Although his plans are scheduled for the next Legislative Assembly, the legislator had presented in Jan. 2, 2013, House Bill 120 to “create the Lobbyist Registry of the Government of Puerto Rico” to establish public policy on lobbying, regulate that profession and enact penalties.
In addition to defining the profession and how the registry should be effected, the measure decreed a series of reports that should be presented periodically and penalties in the event the law is broken, which will be cataloged as a third-degree felony.
The bill was referred in Jan. 17, 2013, to the House Public Safety Commission and to the Development of Initiatives against Crime and Corruption, and garnered a public hearing on Oct. 23, yet remains shelved and wasn’t incorporated in the measures to be considered in the special legislative session convened by Gov. Alejandro García Padilla.
Ruling and Ethics Code to be strengthened
The incoming speaker confirmed he will make changes to the entity’s ruling and the ethics code that governs representatives, especially regarding the way ethical complaints are investigated.
Even though he acknowledged the current House ruling is “very strict,” Méndez said “what has to change is the philosophy” of those who form the Citizen Panel of the House’s Ethics Commission, so as to “have the capacity to evaluate bills on their just perspective and present clear instructions to people that come to file a complaint.”
Among the changes he mentioned is composing the Citizen Panel of three people independent from the House who are affiliated to different political parties.
Regarding diets and legislators’ vehicles, eliminated early on during the current administration, he said “there is no turning back on that.”
Méndez was one of the legislators who filed a complaint against former Speaker Jaime Perelló after a public fraud scheme carried out under his presidency in which a contract was granted irregularly to 3Comm Global, owned by convicted former Popular Democratic Party fundraiser Anaudi Hernández Pérez. The complaint was reportedly dismissed for lacking basic presentation requirements.