Local Agency Sunshine Bills Avoid Fiscal Limbo

The fate of an appropriations committee's "suspense file," where legislative bills go to die because they're judged too costly, was avoided this week by two key Senate measures—one to allow voters to insulate the Brown Act from a  frequent threat of unenforceability, and another to require local agencies with websites to post local officials' expense reimbursements and all local agencies to disclose a wide variety of compensation data.

As reported today in the California Newspaper Publishers Association's Legislative Bulletin:

The Senate Appropriations Committee yesterday removed two bills backed by CNPA from its suspense calendar, allowing both to be considered by the full Senate as early as next week.  Legislation is initially placed on the committee’s suspense calendar if its estimated costs to the state exceed $50,000.  According to President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), the committee initially held bills totaling about $1 billion in new state spending, and, at the end of the day, released to the floor legislation totaling about $6 million in new spending.

The committee approved SCA 7 by Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco), which would, if it obtains a two-thirds vote of the Legislature, present the voters with a chance to amend the state Constitution to prevent the continual suspension of the Ralph M. Brown Act in the budget process. SCA 7 has already received unanimous approval of both the Senate Judiciary Committee and Senate Committee on Elections and Constitutional Amendments.  CNPA is the sponsor of the bill.

The committee also released SB 46 by Sen. Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana), which would require certain public officials to file “compensation forms” and require the filed information to be open for public inspection and copying.  The bill would require agencies with Internet web sites to post the information contained on the disclosure form and the agency’s written policy for the reimbursement of expenses, if applicable.  SB 46 would require officials to disclose the public agency's cost for the public official's annual salary or stipend; the agency's cost to provide benefits to the public official, including but not limited to, deferred compensation or defined benefit plans; the agency's expense reimbursement payments to the public official; the agency's cost to provide the public official with any other monetary or non-monetary perquisites; and, the date on which the official completed ethics training required by law, if applicable. 

Like its unsuccessful predecessor last year (SB 501 – Correa), the bill is a response to the City of Bell scandal.

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