Padilla and Political Reform Advocates Back Hertzberg Bill to Modernize Campaign Database
With introduction of SB 1349, proponent of the Voters’ Right to Know Act decides not to put the initiative on November ballot
SACRAMENTO – Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, unveiled legislation today to modernize California’s online database of campaign and lobbying information to make it user friendly and easy for the public to access in a timely fashion.
SB 1349 directs the state to overhaul the Secretary of State’s antiquated Cal-Access system for filing and accessing campaign finance and lobbying data. It establishes important guidelines for the project, including creating a system that is data driven, rather than form based, and adhering to prevailing standards for search and open data.
With the announcement of SB 1349, Jim Heerwagen, the proponent of the Voters’ Right to Know Act that sought to replace the current Cal-Access system as part of a package of reforms, announced his campaign would halt signature gathering and not pursue placing it on the November ballot. The legislation is also backed by Secretary of State Alex Padilla, California Common Cause, the California Business Roundtable, the California League of Women’s Voters and labor groups.
“I thank Jim Heerwagen for all his efforts to build support for this much-needed reform and for his willingness to let the Legislature tackle this instead of taking it to the ballot,” Hertzberg said. “California is long overdue to fix the Cal-Access system and provide the public with user-friendly access to campaign and lobbying information. The free flow of information is critical to citizen engagement and maintaining a healthy democracy.”
SB 1349 prescribes using cost-effective, streamlined and innovative information technology development processes to deliver an improved system faster. It calls for a system that permits future compatibility with local campaign finance data.
“The goal of Voters’ Right to Know is systematic disclosure of political money, so that voters can make informed decisions,” Heerwagen said. “This requires modernization – of lobbying and campaign finance disclosure laws – and also the Cal-Access infrastructure that tracks filings. SB 1349 gets this vital infrastructure right and finally gives Californians the tool they need for easy access to critical information on their democracy. It is an essential step on the path to making California a national leader in transparency and disclosure."
In addition to introducing the bill, Hertzberg has sent a request to the Senate Committee on Budget and Fiscal Review for $13.5 million in funding for the project. The figure comes from a report issued in January 2015 by the Government Operations Agency, which estimated that as the cost for replacing the current system.
“It is important that the public and press have quick, easy, and reliable access to campaign finance information,” Padilla said. “Unfortunately, the current Cal-Access campaign finance database is outdated, unreliable, and long overdue for a complete rebuild. I thank Senator Hertzberg and Jim Heerwagen for their efforts to create a modernized, user-friendly system to improve transparency.”
Gov. Jerry Brown has acknowledged the present system’s shortcomings. In a 2013 veto message of a previous bill (SB 3) aiming to improve the system, Brown wrote: “There is no doubt the current system – widely viewed as outdated and cumbersome – needs upgrading.” Brown rejected that bill because of a provision in it requiring online training of campaign treasurers that he called “costly and unnecessary.”
Under SB 1349, the new system would allow aggregating contributions from the same contributor through use of a unique ID system for donors, thereby providing the public with a fuller understanding of influence in state politics. The legislation recommends incorporating user-friendly features for filers, such as pre-populating data and electronic signature capability.
“When it comes to campaign and lobbying disclosures, the public has a right to know what is going on,” Hertzberg said. “This is a great example of how California government should work, with state legislators and initiative sponsors working together, whenever possible, to identify and solve pressing public problems.”
Bob Hertzberg, chair of the Senate Committee on Governance and Finance, represents nearly 1 million San Fernando Valley residents of Senate District 18, which includes part of Burbank and the following communities in Los Angeles: Arleta, Granada Hills, Hansen Dam, Lake View Terrace, Mission Hills, North Hills, North Hollywood, part of Northridge, Pacoima, Panorama City, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, part of Sun Valley, Sylmar, Toluca Lake, Valley Glen, Valley Village, Van Nuys, the City of San Fernando and Universal City. See a district map at http://sd18.senate.ca.gov/district. After serving in the Assembly from 1996-2002, including two years as Speaker, Hertzberg invested in solar, wind and electric-car projects; and worked for structural changes in government through the Think Long Committee of California. Learn more at www.senate.ca.gov/hertzberg.
MEDIA CONTACT: Andrew LaMar
Senator Robert M. Hertzberg
Capitol Building, Room 4038
Sacramento, CA 95814