(Photo Credit: LWYang/Flickr)
Each year in mid-March, Sunshine Week spotlights the fact that “government functions best when it operates in the open.”
In California, we are in the midst of what is being called “the era of reform.” Increasing transparency is at the heart of many of the positive changes that have occurred in the last several years–which CA Fwd supported–and which have eased partisan gridlock, helped reverse fiscal trends and begun a restructuring of government authority to better align with the state’s size, diversity and complexity.
The work is not done, and since it’s Sunshine Week, let’s take a quick review of some projects CA Fwd is working on right now that can help government be more transparent and help restore trust in our state and local governments.
Just this week, CA Fwd reported on support for SB 1349 which authorizes the Secretary of State to create a modern online campaign finance reporting and disclosure system. The bill represents another step forward in California’s era of reform. Rebooting California’s outdated campaign finance disclosure system has been an issue CA Fwd has been working on for some time now.
“To restore public trust in government Californians need to know who is paying for campaigns and influencing our elected officials,” said CA Fwd Leadership Council Co-chair Lenny Mendonca. “California Forward thanks Secretary Padilla and Senator Hertzberg for leading the effort on upgrading and modernizing the state’s campaign finance technology, which is a critical first step to making the data easy to access.”
CA Fwd has also been actively talking about Proposition 50, which will be on the June 2016 California ballot (in fact, it will be the only statewide proposition in June).
Prop 50 does a very simple thing: It would give the Legislature clear authority to discipline Senators or Assembly Members by suspending them without pay.
The constitutional amendment would require the Assembly or the Senate to pass a resolution declaring why the member is being suspended. And to guard against political misuse, the resolution would require the threshold of a two-thirds vote for approval.
CA Fwd is also supporting an effort to place the California Legislature Transparency Act on the November ballot.
The act would require that all legislative measures to be publicly posted online at least 72 hours before the final vote, require that all legislative hearings be video recorded and available online, and guarantee the rights of every individual to record and share recordings of public legislative meetings.
The so-called “72 hour rule” would combat the practice of “gut-and-amend,” removing the contents of a bill just before the end of a legislative session and amending it with something different than what was under public review.
“We have long promoted this idea because it reduces the ability of the special interests from having their way with the legislators at the last minute,” said Jim Mayer, CA Fwd president and CEO. “Giving legislators, their staffs and the public time to review last-minute changes in legislation is a common-sense practice that will improve governance in California.”
CA Fwd also supported the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) in its effort to build a central, online database for personal financial disclosure statements filed by government officials. Digitizing the process is expected to reduce administrative costs spent on processing and responding to requests, while simultaneously improving transparency and public accessibility.
We did some of the digital homework and supported the appropriation and look forward to its completion, hopefully some time in 2017.
Finally, but not least, CA Fwd has partnered with the FPPC, which embarked an ambitious review of the state’s historic political ethics law to make it easier to understand, comply with and enforce.
CA Fwd was created to be the link between good ideas, sound analysis and visionary recommendations and the actual enactment and implementation needed to grow jobs, promote cost-effective public services and create accountability for results. The work to change how things are done and restore trust in government continues, rain or shine.