California Should Reduce Legislature to Part-Time

Photo courtesy Franco Folini, flickr

Photo courtesy Franco Folini, flickr

When the Legislature finally adjourned at the end of August, it again screamed the need for a return to part-time operations. The “reform” of the late 1960s that imposed a full-time gathering of busybodies in the Capitol was one of the state’s biggest mistakes.

Misguided voters passed Proposition 1A in 1966, the same year they put Ronald Reagan in the governor’s chair. The first thing the new full-timers did was pass a massive tax increase. Reagan had campaigned against any tax increase. He broke that pledge and signed $1 billion in higher taxes, equivalent to something like $20 billion more today, the highest state tax increase in history.

Fast-forward to 2016 and the Legislature passed one absurd bill after another, many supposedly “helping” the poor, but actually hurting them. The farm worker overtime bill has been covered by my colleagues and I here at Fox and Hounds.

Another one was the cap-and-trade deal, as reported in the Los Angeles Times, which would “spend $900 million on programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions …. The money will go toward subsidies for electric cars, new park space and pedestrian-friendly affordable housing. California’s 4-year old cap-and-trade program raises money from businesses that purchase permits to pollute.”

Supposedly the “program” dedicates the money toward such allegedly pollution-reducing actions. But in government, all money is fungible. With legislative legerdemain, it would be possible to switch the $900 million to pay, for example, for some of the $250 billion in the state’s unfunded pension and medical care liabilities.

It also is absurd to think the state can reduce “greenhouse gas emissions” when, according to the Guardian, “1,500 new coal plants are in construction or planning stages around the world,” although only half might be built. “However, 84GW of plants (about 85 stations) were built in 2015 and new plants are being commissioned at five times the rate that old plants, such as those in the UK, are being retired.”

The electric car subsidies largely go to rich Tesla drivers, with the cost picked up by poor people forced to drive long distances in old cars because housing is cheaper away from the expensive, job-rich areas along the coast.

New parks might be nice, but why not let localities decide that? And how will the money be spent? Remember the parks scandal where the director, as AP reported, “sat on nearly $54 million in surplus money for years while parks were threatened with closure over budget cuts”?

But the most absurd part of the cap-and-trade flim-flam was “pedestrian-friendly affordable housing.” Where will poor people park their cars? Once again: Because coastal areas are prohibitively expensive, poor people either bunch up in homes, often illegally; live far from jobs and drive long distances; or sleep on park benches.

If the “pedestrian-friendly affordable housing” is erected in coastal areas, and the homes are nice, that’ll be another manipulation of housing prices – which always means overall higher prices. Take New York City – please. Massive subletting has led to spying on tenants. One supervisor just was fired for refusing to spy.

If the Rotten Apple just would end all rent control, money would flow in to build new apartments, the greater supply then would reduce overall prices. Oh, and rent control there was a “temporary” expedient during World War II. City politicians haven’t heard that Hitler blew his brains out 71 years ago.

Back to the part-time Legislature. An initiative last was advanced in 2012, but never made it to the ballot. And before that, in 2009, an analysis by Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor found, “Potential annual state savings of tens of millions of dollars.”

As they say in Hollywood: Time for a reboot. Ideal time: November 2018 ballot.

Longtime California journalist John Seiler’s email is: writejohnseiler@gmail.com

This piece was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Taxpayers to Pay Even More as Usual Legislative Allies Vote for Tax Hikes

tax signAs the final day of the legislative session dawned last week, taxpayers were cautiously optimistic. After all, we had already stopped the most direct threats to Proposition 13. Those included Senate Constitutional Amendment 5, which would have weakened the rules regarding how some properties are valued for tax purposes and Assembly Constitutional Amendment 8, lowering the two thirds vote at the local level for taxes and bonds. Another success was notched by derailing an eleventh hour effort to make it much easier to raise property fees by broadly redefining sewer service to include storm water runoff programs. While seemingly arcane, this would have exposed California homeowners to billions of dollars in new property levies without direct approval.

As for more debt, taxpayers should be pleased that two multi-billion dollar bond packages, on parks and affordable housing, failed to clear the Legislature.

Now for the bad news. On the last day of session, our tax-and-spend legislature hit California consumers with a new tax on car batteries by passing AB 2153. This $1 tax on consumers will be paid at the point of sale, as will a $1 tax on manufacturers to be passed onto consumers. After 2022, the $1 tax on manufacturers is added to the consumer total increasing it to $2, and the tax is made permanent. While the revenue generated purports to deal with legitimate environmental issues regarding battery recycling facilities, thanks to AB 2153 receiving a two-thirds vote, the money can simply go into the General Fund and be used for any purpose.

Under the category of illegal as well as foolish, the Legislature authorized local municipalities to spend public money for political campaigns. Beyond the obvious argument that taxpayers should not be forced to finance campaigns with which they might disagree, Senate Bill 1107 is also in direct violation of the Political Reform Act which expressly prohibits such financing. To avoid costly litigation over the validity of SB 1107, Governor Brown could do taxpayers a favor by vetoing this bill.

Speaking of illegal, Assembly Bill 1889 seeks to spend hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars on California’s showcase boondoggle, the High Speed Rail project. The legal problem is that access to the bond proceeds is conditioned on several requirements, including partial funding from federal and private sources, speed requirements and no public subsidies for operating expenses, none of which the High Speed Rail Authority can possibly meet. Again, in the absence of Governor Brown’s veto, litigation over sale of the bonds is a certainty.

From the perspective of fiscal sanity, it is a shame that every two year legislative session in California is an exercise in trying to prevent damage to taxpayers and the economy. Rarely is there anything remotely worthwhile in the hundreds of bills passed by our esteemed political leadership: No pension reform, no education reform, no civil justice reform or tax reform. While other states run clean, effective and efficient governments, the California Legislature resembles a three ring circus more times than not.

Unfortunately, it is not getting better. In the session that just ended, even some of our allies (or so we thought) cast horrible votes in favor of tax increases. As bad as things are, this November’s election could spell disaster for California’s beleaguered taxpayers. Tax hikes at the state level require a two-thirds vote of each house and we now know that a legislator’s proclivity to raise taxes does not necessarily depend on party affiliation. For taxpayer advocates, this is going to make our job of defending ordinary citizens in the Capitol much, much harder.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.

This piece was originally published by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

Gun rights group sues over California lawmakers’ addresses

As reported by the Sacramento Bee:

A California gun rights group filed a federal lawsuit in Sacramento on Friday after the Legislature’s lawyer blocked a blog post that listed the addresses of lawmakers who recently supported gun control legislation.

Shortly after Gov. Jerry Brown signed a package of gun control measures July 1, a conservative blog posted what the author said were the home addresses of 40 legislators. The author pledged to keep the names up until lawmakers vote to repeal the laws or die.

The Office of Legislative Counsel demanded that WordPress, which hosted the blog, take down the post. The demand was based on a state law that forbids someone from posting the home address of an elected official with the intention or threat of causing great bodily harm, or if elected officials or their representatives demand that they not be published.

It was subsequently removed from the site and the author was barred from “publishing any similar content,” according to the the Firearms Policy Coalition. …

Click here to read the full article

The Good, Bad and Ugly – Impending Bills Impact Small Business

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image21552155As the Legislature reconvenes this week for its final month of business for the 2015-2016 legislative session, NFIB California reflected on victories and challenges ahead per the “The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly” bill list. Bills included in this list represent those which will have the greatest impact, either negative or positive, to our 22,000 small businesses across California.

As we enter these final four weeks of the legislative session, NFIB is prepared to hit the ground running to ensure the voice and interests of our 22,000 small business members, and their hundreds of thousands of employees, are heard regarding our remaining priority issues.

NFIB was proud to help stop a handful of ugly bills such as SB 878 (Leyva), the Predictive Scheduling Mandate, and SB 1161 (Allen), the ‘California Climate Science Truth and Accountability Act’ so far this year. However, several bad bills remain alive and we are prepared to put forth every effort to protect small business in these final weeks.

Environmental mandates, transportation taxes, protected family leave, and agricultural workers’ mandates are some of our top policy concerns as the legislature wraps up this two-year session. Given the current lack of transparency in the legislature, it is impossible to know every issue that will be brought up since bills can, and will, be gutted-and-amended without notice to the public.

AB 2757 (Gonzalez), which mandates overtime pay for agricultural employees, is a perfect example: this bill died on the Assembly Floor months ago, but has resurfaced in the form of AB 1066 without full committee scrutiny.

In the first half of the legislative session, we witnessed how swiftly the Legislature can ram through devastating public policy with the enactment of Senate Bill 3 (Leno), which increased the state minimum wage to $15 per hour. Therefore, our 22,000 members will be highly engaged and informed on these policy issues with a regularly updated ‘The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly’ bill list.

Currently, the list includes 39 bills total (23 active): 14 good (5 active); 7 bad (6 active); and 18 ugly (12 active). This list reflects proposals from the 2015-2016 legislative session, and as new bills are introduced or morphed into substantively new bills, this list will be updated. You can always find the current version at http://www.nfib.com/ca/gbu.

CA Executive Director, National Federation of Independent Business.

This piece was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Legislature Returns to Action in August: What to Watch For

CA-legislatureAugust is sure to be a busy month in Sacramento, as legislators fight to get their priorities passed before the legislative session ends on August 31.

While a large number of bills will be debated, there are four things to watch for:

Environment

With the political backing of new polling, Senate Bill 32 — which would extend and increase the state’s greenhouse gas emission reduction goals — is sure to reappear.

Not only is it a legacy project for the termed-out Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills — who authored the 2006 measure that this bill would extend — but it is backed by both Democratic leaders, Speaker Anthony Rendon and Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de Leon.

“A clear majority of Californians strongly support our state’s climate policies and expect their elected leaders to build on our progress battling climate change and air pollution while making investments in clean energy across our state,” de Leon said in a statement on Wednesday. “This is why the Legislature should extend our climate targets in statute by passing Senate Bill 32.”

Republicans are opposed to the measure, which leaves the power to a handful of moderate, pro-business Democrats. The bill passed the Senate in 2015, but was defeated on the Assembly floor and then granted reconsideration.

An interesting data point: 15 Assembly members didn’t vote — which is a way of voting “no” without any accountability.

Transportation

The Legislature has been in a special session on transportation since last summer to come up with a funding plan to fix the state’s crumbling roads — but with little headway. Gov. Jerry Brown estimates there are almost $6 billion worth of unfunded repairs throughout the state each year.

The dispute is largely between Democrats who have proposed additional revenues (taxes) and Republicans who believe new taxes aren’t necessary as the money already exists but has been redirected to stop budget shortfalls in other areas.

Rumor has it that Democrats will propose what could be a massive package including new revenue, like a gas tax hike, sometime next month — although, since there’s a special session, it could be introduced after the regular session ends.

Republicans are unlikely to budge, but it may not matter what they want. Republicans are in danger of ceding a supermajority to the Democrats in November. If that happens, Democrats would be able to approve new revenues without Republican support.

Of course, the required two-thirds majority wouldn’t leave much room for defections from moderate Democrats.

Overtime for farmworkers

While farmworkers do get overtime, it has a much higher threshold than other professions. A revived bill would, over time, bring the threshold in line with other professions. You may remember that this bill was defeated in June, but it has been repackaged into another bill.

Proponents argue that farmworkers shouldn’t be exempt from the same overtime and break rules as everyone else. Opponents say farmers can’t afford it, and that an industry dependent on weather and external price setting can’t be regulated the same as other professions.

It’s unclear what would be different when the next vote comes that would make business-friendly Democrats, who sided with Republicans to defeat the measure, change their votes. Election year pressure may sway some vulnerable incumbents.

Of course, the measure was only three votes shy of passage, so proponents may target the seven Assembly members who simply didn’t vote, six of whom are Democrats.

Housing

It’s widely reported that the state faces an affordable housing crisis, particularly in urban centers.

Gov. Jerry Brown has been trying to increase affordable housing supply with a plan to reduce regulatory barriers for developers trying to build low-income housing. His ideas have not been embraced by the Legislature and he faces opposition largely fromunions and environmentalists.

Meanwhile, Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, still has hopes of putting a $3 billion, low-income housing bond on the November ballot.

Legislative Democrats Gift Awards to Family, Friends

Photo courtesy Franco Folini, flickr

Photo courtesy Franco Folini, flickr

At a time when voters are increasingly believing that the system is rigged, some state legislators are making that perception worse by giving district-wide awards to their family members, critics say.

While it’s not uncommon for legislators to participate in award ceremonies recognizing constituents for their accomplishments, it’s becoming more common for those constituents to be friends and family members of the legislators.

In March, members of the Legislature honored women from their districts to be Woman of the Year: Assemblyman Luis Alejo picked his mother. In May, Assemblywoman Nora Campos selected as Small Business of the Year a brand new political strategy firm both her brother and her longtime political consultant work for, which had also held fundraisers for her. And just a few weeks ago, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez picked her boyfriend, Nathan Fletcher, a former state legislator, to be Veteran of the Year.

“These ‘awards’ are a generally cost-free technique for buying some goodwill in the community,” said John J. Pitney, Jr., a Roy P. Crocker professor of politics at Claremont McKenna College. “Generally, they are harmless, but when lawmakers give them to their relatives, friends and squeezes, they just contribute to the sense that the political system is rigged.”

“We already have a surplus of cynicism, and this nonsense makes it worse,” Pitney said.

Hurts the association

This was the first year Campos, a San Jose Democrat, chose to participate in the Small Business of the Year award, selecting Voler Strategic Advisors, which had been in business less than one year and does not have a working website.

The same month the award was given, Voler held a fundraiser for Campos’ Senate campaign — Campos is challenging Sen. Jim Beall, a fellow San Jose Democrat.

“This is absolutely not the spirit of the award,” said Samantha Toccoli, legislative coordinator for the California Small Business Association, one of the groups in charge of the program.

California Small Business Day was created by an Assembly resolution in 2000. Toccoli said she was unaware of any familial relationship between Campos and Voler and added that the organization is run by volunteers who have no way of efficiently vetting every honoree.

“I would hope that this reflects on the legislator and not the integrity or intention of our organization and the 25 other organizations that host the event,” Toccoli said.

A Campos spokesperson countered that the award was technically given to Voler’s owner, not Campos’ brother, Xavier, who is a senior vice president, or her longtime political consultant and former communications director, Rolando Bonilla, who is Voler’s chief strategy officer.

Look no further

For Alejo, a Watsonville Democrat, it’s his last year in the Legislature, having been termed out and elected to the Monterey County Board of Supervisors — he said he “could not think of anyone better” for the award than his mother, Maria Luisa Alejo Covarrubias.

“I wanted to honor my mother during my last year in the state Assembly,” Alejo said in a statement at the time. “Our mothers are our first teachers and made us who we are today. My mother has done so much for my family and for our local communities, and I could not think of anyone better for this year’s Woman of the Year for Assembly District 30.”

Alejo did not respond to requests for comment.

Cronyism?

Because Gonzalez’s boyfriend is a former legislator, her awarding Fletcher was more conspicuous than the two prior examples. On Instagram, Fletcher said: “Honored to be chosen as Veteran of the Year by my Assemblywoman:)”

San Diego Republicans blasted Gonzalez, a San Diego Democrat, for choosing her boyfriend, which she defended on Facebook by highlighting Fletcher’s work with veterans, by denouncing the attacks as partisan and by blaming the media. She pointed out that others, including Republicans, had done the same.

“It is well known that Nathan and I are in a committed relationship, but there is a long line of assemblymembers who have picked husbands, wives, fathers, mothers and other relatives for recognition,” Gonzalez wrote. “Never once has it been questioned.”

Not who it is but how it looks

But the question isn’t so much whether Fletcher or any of the others are deserving of the awards, it’s a question of what message these actions send to the public, which is already weary from the perception of widespread double standards and cronyism.

“These examples reflect poorly on the Legislature,” said David Wolfe, legislative director for the right-leaning Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. “We need to ask if the awards program as a whole is in the best interest of California taxpayers.”

“If the Legislature truly desires to honor [taxpayers] it should rededicate the hours that they currently spend on pomp and circumstance shows like these and instead focus on fixing real problems, like our state’s $500 billion unfunded pension liability,” Wolfe said.

Lax leadership?

So far, the three incidents are isolated to Assembly Democrats and it’s unclear if Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood — who waited more than two months to take action against a committee chairman accused of domestic violence and under a temporary and then three-year restraining order — will ask fellow legislators to abstain from taking actions that give the appearance of cronyism.

Rendon did not respond to requests for comment.

This piece was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Are Environmentalists Losing Influence in Legislature?

kevin de leon 2California environmentalists have long been one of the most powerful forces in the Legislature. But in 2015, the centerpiece of the green agenda — a provision in a broader measure that would have mandated a 50 percent reduction in gasoline use in the state by 2030 — stalled in the Legislature despite heavy prodding from Gov. Jerry Brown and appeals from then-Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, and Senate President Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles. The development was such a break from the norm that it won heavy coverage from The New York Times, which called it “a major setback for environmental advocates in California.”

Now there’s a fresh sign that environmentalists’ clout may be on the wane. De Leon has stunned green groups by endorsing a moderate incumbent — Assemblywoman Cheryl Brown, D-San Bernardino — who opposed the push for a sharp cut in gasoline use over another prominent Inland Empire Democrat, attorney Eloise Gomez Reyes. As Calwatchdog reported earlier this year, Brown was indirectly blasted by one of de Leon’s leadership team, Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino, who said she was backing Brown’s opponent because “she was a principled human being.”

In a strange twist, the document making the rounds in media circles showing de Leon’s endorsement of Brown contends that Leyva and all his fellow Senate Democratic leaders agree with him.

“I support Eloise Reyes. Period. Somehow the pro tem must have misunderstood my position, although I thought I was quite clear,” Leyva told The Los Angeles Times.

Whatever the logistical problems with de Leon’s endorsement, it amounts to a striking rejection of environmentalists’ argument that they know Brown’s district better than she does. This view was voiced again this week by one of Reyes’ consultants, Leo Briones, who told the Times, “Cheryl Brown can have every special interest and every Sacramento politician … but she still is a legislator that does not represent progressive values or her district when it comes to issues of working families, of consumers, of guns and public safety and the environment.”

Green official: Brown a ‘nice person,’ bad lawmaker

This argument was offered by a high-profile environmentalist in a January Sacramento Bee story that rubbed some minority lawmakers the wrong way:

“There’s no doubt Ms. Brown, who’s a very nice person, has not been representing her constituents when it comes to environmental issues, particularly clean-air issues,” Sierra Club California director Kathryn Phillips told the Bee. “She’s collected too much money from the oil industry and let that guide too many of her votes.”

As Calwatchdog reported then …

Phillips, who works out of Sacramento, is a white UC Berkeley graduate who used to work for the Environmental Defense Fund. Brown, who turns 72 next week, has been a fixture in the Inland Empire African-American political establishment for more than three decades. She co-founded a weekly publication that focuses on black issues in 1980 and has worked on a wide variety of African-American causes in western San Bernardino County.

Assemblyman Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, D-Los Angeles, told the Bee he didn’t care for how environmentalists were treating his fellow African-American lawmaker. “I think it’s a tone-deaf approach. … The environmental community, and the broader environmental coalition, needs to figure out whether or not it’s going to be a collaborator and … work with black California on policy, and shared political goals, or if it will be an adversary.”

Ridley-Thomas is a vocal supporter of de Leon’s efforts to have a Superfund-type cleanup of the Exide battery plant in Vernon.

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com

CA Senate Votes 28-8 to Exempt Itself from California Gun Laws

The California state senate agrees with Charlie Rangel that they “deserve” to own guns but the citizens do not.

They voted 28-8 to exempt themselves from the gun-control laws that apply to the rest of the California.

You think maybe this will cause Californians to rise up? NOPE! It happened 5 years ago and since California has passed a plethora of other gun laws…that only apply to citizens.

Yes, you heard me right! The exemption was created in 2011 and the California legislature has passed a number of gun laws since. Pretty easy when you are passing bills that do not apply to you!

It is not the only special privileges California legislators provide themselves!

They do not pay red light camera bills or for gasoline!

How does it all happen so easily in California? The …

Click here to read the full story http://joeforamerica.com/2016/06/california-senate-votes-28-8-exempt-california-gun-laws/

Local Voices Unwelcome As State Promotes Affordable Housing

affordable housingFrom 2011 through the first quarter of 2014, more building permits for single-family homes were issued in the city of Houston than in the entire state of California.

That might be one reason that in April, the median selling price of a single-family home in Houston was $217,000 while in California it was $509,100.

There is widespread agreement that housing affordability in California is a problem, but there’s less agreement on what to do about it. Still, we should be able to agree that whatever is done ought to be transparent, publicly debated by the elected officials who represent us.

But that’s not what’s happening. Instead, Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders are working on a backroom deal to “streamline” the approval of residential housing projects by cutting local voices out of the process.

Under this deal, any “attached housing” development that meets local zoning requirements could be built without local review of the project’s impact on traffic, parking, local businesses, the environment or the neighborhood, as long as 20 percent of its units were designated as affordable housing.

For developments located within one-half mile of a “major transit stop,” even fewer affordable units would trigger the “streamlined” approval. Just 10 percent would be enough to get pre-clearance to build a project like the 3,990-unit “urban village” planned for the former Rocketdyne site in Canoga Park.

No local review would be allowed.

This enormous change of policy is about to be slipped through the legislative process with a trick that prevents committee hearings, debate, amendments, and public notice. It will be written on one of the “spot bills” that was passed earlier in the legislative session.

Spot bills are blank pieces of legislation. They are empty, blank, with nothing written on them except a bill number and the words, “A bill related to the budget.”

Later, when a backroom deal is made, staffers pull out one of the spot bills and write the new law on it. Then the “amended” bill is brought back to the floor of each house for an up-or-down vote.

No hearings, no debate, no amendments, no public notice.

These formerly blank spot bills are called “budget trailer bills,” because they’re passed after lawmakers vote on the budget.

Trailer bills have become such an established part of business as usual in Sacramento that “trailer bill language” is posted on the website of the California Department of Finance. The “Streamlined Affordable Housing Approvals” draft is proposed trailer bill 707, if you’d like to read it. Of course, it may be changed in private negotiations. We won’t actually know what’s in the law until it passes.

Why is this even legal?

Who knows, but if the “Streamlined Affordable Housing Approvals” law is passed, whatever is in our zoning codes is the last word on what can or cannot be built in our neighborhoods.

That’s why it’s important to keep an eye on Mayor Eric Garcetti’s effort to update the zoning of every neighborhood in Los Angeles. We are in the midst of a “comprehensive revision” of the entire city’s zoning. The project is called “re:code LA.”

Haven’t heard of it?

Did you miss the “Listening Session: San Fernando Valley” meeting at the Van Nuys City Hall Council Chambers on July 9, 2013?

How about the “Regional Forum” at the Granada Hills Community Center on March 15, 2014? Surely you were at the “Public Forum: South Valley” at the Marvin Braude Constituent Service Center in Van Nuys on Saturday, April 2, from 9:00 a.m. to noon.

No?

The only way re:code LA could have a lower profile is if it was in the federal witness protection program.

But this “comprehensive revision” of L.A.’s zoning is the public’s last chance to have input on housing projects, because what the governor is writing on a piece of already-passed blank legislation will allow construction of huge residential developments, thickly clustered along a future transit corridor, without any local review at all. The projects need only be compliant with local zoning and include a bit of affordable housing.

It’s all too clever by half. The public deserves better than this.

olumnist for the Los Angeles Daily News and Southern California News Group

This piece was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Sacramento ethics law getting long-due overhaul

Image converted using ifftoany

After 42 years of regulating the state’s political ethics, with countless updates and tweaks, the Political Reform Act is due for an overhaul — and stakeholders are set to begin the process next week.

On Thursday, July 14, Fair Political Practices Commission Chair Jodi Remke and John Mayer, president and CEO of California Forward (a government and political reform advocacy group), will host a webinar to kick off the first of two rounds of public participation to create a comprehensive overhaul of the act.

Incumbents and candidates complain of an overly complicated system. The FPPC receives between 15,000-to-20,000 requests every year for advice from candidates and public officials.

Numerous legislative and voter-approved updates have left an “overly complex, cumbersome and sometimes contradictory” law, Remke said.

“This process is designed to simplify and streamline the act without weakening it or losing any accountability,” Remke said.

Law students at UC Berkeley and UC Davis have also contributed to the process by reviewing the law and making recommendations to the FPPC. And California Forward will help raise public awareness of the coalition’s efforts.

The Political Reform Act was passed in 1974, just two months before President Richard Nixon resigned over the Watergate scandal, with the protracted scandal highlighting the need for political ethics legislation.

The law created the FPPC and regulated campaign finance, among other things. The original ballot summary is here:

“Requires reports of receipts and expenditures in campaigns for state and local offices and ballot measures. Limits expenditures for statewide candidates and measures. Prohibits public officials from participating in governmental decisions affecting their ‘financial interests.’ Requires disclosure of certain assets and income by certain public officials. Requires ‘Lobbyists’ to register and file reports showing receipts and expenditures in lobbying activities. Creates fair political practices commission. Revises ballot pamphlet requirements. Provides criminal and civil sanctions for violations. Enacts and repeals statutes on other miscellaneous and above matters.”

This piece was originally published by CalWatchdog.com