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September 28, 2011

Testimony of Chancellor Rudolph Garcia Before the Committee on Law and Government - 9/28/11

Good morning Chairman Greenlee and members of the Committee on Law and Government.

My name is Rudy Garcia and I'm the Chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association. I am joined today by Ken Shear, our Executive Director. As Chancellor, I am the primary spokesperson for approximately 13,000 Philadelphia lawyers and judges.

The Philadelphia Bar Association is the oldest association of lawyers in the United States. For centuries, we've promoted justice, professional excellence and respect for the rule of law. In addition to serving our members and the courts, we also consider public service to be a core part of our mission. For example, through the organizations we support and about 3,000 volunteers at private firms, Philadelphia lawyers handle 50,000 cases a year for free, for people struggling with poverty, abuse and discrimination.

We also speak out on issues affecting the law or our profession, as we did when the Philadelphia Board of Ethics proposed its first draft of regulations on the City's lobbying ordinance.

Since then, we have met with various staff members of both the Board and City Council, to further explain our concerns and to suggest potential solutions. This collaborative process has led to substantial changes to the regulations, and today's consideration of proposed amendments to the ordinance. In combination, these changes are a tremendous improvement over the previous versions.

The most important issues from our standpoint have been resolved in a way that makes sense for everyone. For example, it is now clear that the ordinance does not cover the practice of law or routine contacts with city government, as opposed to actual lobbying. So I'm here today to support the proposed amendments, and to thank you for addressing our concerns.

In particular I would like to acknowledge Sophie Bryan, of Councilman Green's office, Derek Green, of Councilwoman Tasco's office, and Shane Creamer, Evan Meyer and Nedda Massar, at the Ethics Board, all of whom worked very hard to get this right. They did not always agree with us, but we always felt that our suggestions were fairly considered, and they also came up with many great solutions of their own.

In our view, this process was city government at its best. Everyone worked together constructively to make this a better law. As revised, it will serve the intended purpose without all the unintended negative consequences.

We hope our input was helpful and we invite you to call upon us again if we can assist you in any other way.

If you have any questions, I will be glad to answer them.

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