Steinberg, Lara and De León Announce Package of Bills to Upgrade Public Service Accountability Rules

March 06, 2014

(Sacramento) – California Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) and Senator Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) today announced The California Accountability in Public Service, or CAPS Act – a package of three bills aimed at increasing transparency and accountability in political practices, including banning gifts from lobbyists.

“To move our state forward and effectively conduct the business of the people of California, we need to increase accountability and transparency in politics,” said Senator Ricardo Lara. “The CAPS Act will ban all gifts from lobbyists, establish a quarterly disclosure period, cut by more than half the annual dollar limit on allowable gifts and ban fundraisers at lobbyist’s homes. This legislation represents a new day in accountability for our state government and is one of the most significant proposals to change political practices in decades.”

The CAPS Act is comprised of the following three bills:

SB 1441 (Lara, Steinberg, Corbett, De León, Hill, Monning, Roth, and Torres) – Banning Fundraisers at Lobbyist’s Homes – Currently, the Political Reform Act provides for a $500 home hospitality exception for fundraisers, where the first $500 does not count as a contribution. The value of all goods provided, regardless of source, counts towards the $500 and can cause confusion and conflict. SB 1441 would ban all fundraisers from taking place at lobbyist’s homes.

SB 1442 (Lara, Steinberg, Corbett, De León, Hill, Monning, Roth, and Torres) – Quarterly Filing System – Transparency is one key to restoring public trust in government. The current campaign filing system does not provide enough timely disclosure of campaign activity and the number of reports required makes it more difficult for the public to access the information. SB 1442 would replace semi-annual statements with quarterly filing reports – doubling the amount of disclosure currently provided to the public. It’ll keep the 24 hour reporting for contributions over $1,000 in the 90-day pre-election period, keep pre-election report closest to the election and reduce total amount of statements to four, making compliance easier and more transparent.

SB 1443 (De León, Steinberg, Lara, Corbett, Hill, Monning, Roth, and Torres) – Gift Limit Reduction and Gift Ban – The Political Reform Act mandates the FPPC to adjust the gift limit every odd-numbered year to reflect changes in inflation in accordance with increases in the Consumer Price Index. In 1990, the gift limit was set at $250. Currently, the gift limit has increased to $440. SB 1443 establishes a limit of $200 for the amount of permitted gifts and give FPPC authority to increase limits. This bill will also ban all gifts from lobbyists (eliminating the current allowance of $10 per month) and prohibit specific gifts to state officials and designated employees, including all:

  • Spa services & golf
  • Theme park & recreational trips
  • Concerts & professional entertainment
  • Professional sporting events
  • Cash & gift cards

“These bills are some of the most significant reforms to ethics laws in 20 years. The Commission supports greater disclosure and increased transparency for all public officials. We have, and will continue to work with the Legislature on these major improvements to governmental ethics,” said Gary Winuk, Chief of Enforcement, Fair Political Practices Commission.

Senate pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg formulated the Senate Working Group on Ethics, led by Senator Ricardo Lara, to examine legislative and campaign finance best practices in other states, with an intent to discuss and prepare a package of reforms that strengthen California laws.

The Working Group on Ethics consists of Senators Lara, De León, Corbett, Hill, Monning, Roth, and Torres.

“Year after year, concerns are raised about some political practices currently permitted under state law. The good legislative work we produce is only as strong as the people’s perception and trust in their state legislature,” Steinberg said. “The CAPS legislation will significantly strengthen the Political Reform Act.”

“Integrity in this process is absolutely critical. I hope this comprehensive package will help restore the public's confidence in its elected officials,” said Senator Kevin de León.

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