Gov. Brown signs four new transparency bills into law

150 150 Christopher Nelson

(photo credit: Joseph Holguin)

This week Gov. Jerry Brown signed several bills into law that bolstered the state government’s transparency and accountability to its constituents.

Two came from Assemblyman Ken Cooley (D-Rancho Cordova), one from Assembly Speaker Perez (D-Los Angeles), and one from Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced). 

“These bills taken together represent a small but meaningful step toward a more accountable government. Collectively, they provide more tools to the state as far as the roles of the State Auditor and the State Controller and they increase transparency by requiring state agencies to place their reports online,” said Lenny Mendonca, senior partner at McKinsey & Company and co-chair of the California Forward leadership council.

The two from Assemblyman Cooley (AB 117 & AB 1248) were inspired by the recent accounting scandal with the California parks department which oversaw the closure of several prominent state parks all the while having $54 million hidden in their books. The two bills require more transparency of state agencies and institute both training for those who monitor them and best practices for those who audit them.

Assembly Speaker Perez’s bill (AB 1365) mandates that state and local agencies file their reports electronically, making them more easily available to the public. And finally, Assemblyman Gray’s bill (AB 1218) allows auditors to follow up on an audit’s initial findings and recommendations.

It is encouraging to see transparency related legislation getting passed and signed as the legislative session begins to wind down. With the state finally announcing a plan earlier this week to comply with the three judge panel’s mandate to move another 10,000 inmates out of state prisons and the budget appearing healthy for the first time in years, the big fish are fried. 

Though these may seem more like housekeeping than those other big ticket items, they are equally as important in terms of reacting properly and swiftly to a very public embarrassment by way of the parks department. Trust from Californians comes at a premium these days for the Legislature despite what should be considered a very productive and effective year of legislating through significant challenges.

Prioritizing transparency and accountability serve to reestablish and strengthen this trust with Californians. Modernizing state agency reporting is one small step toward embracing technology as a means to this end.

California Forward is a champion of both transparency and accountability as the cornerstones to a vibrant and responsive democracy. We maintain a comprehensive Transparency Portal that serves as a one stop shop for local level information like what Speaker Perez is asking be filed electronically. It’s a small step. Ideally, all of this information would be in one state or locally maintained repository and our portal would not even be necessary.

But until then, steps like the ones taken by those who proposed these bills and the governor when he signed them are most certainly in the right direction and deserve both recognition and applause.


Christopher Nelson

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