Legislation to Modernize State’s Campaign Database Passes Committee

SB 1349 overhauls Cal-Access to make campaign and lobbying disclosures quick and easy to find online

April 5, 2016

SACRAMENTO – Legislation by Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, to modernize California’s online database of campaign and lobbying information today was passed by the Senate Elections and Constitutional Amendments Committee.

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.

The bill is supported by a broad coalition that includes Secretary of State Alex Padilla, California Common Cause, the California Business Roundtable, the California League of Women Voters and the California Labor Federation.

“The free flow of information is critical to citizen engagement and maintaining a healthy democracy,” Hertzberg said. “SB 1349 modernizes California’s database so campaign and lobbying disclosures are quick and easy for everyone to access online.”

The legislation 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.

“If voters are to make fully-informed decisions, they must have a clear view of money being spent to influence state government,” Padilla said. “Unfortunately, the current Cal-ACCESS campaign finance database is built on outdated technology and must be replaced. SB 1349 will help the Secretary of State’s office modernize campaign finance and lobbying transparency.”

The bill is also backed by Jim Heerwagen, the main proponent of the Voters’ Right to Know Act, an initiative circulated earlier this year that sought to replace the current Cal-Access system as part of a package of reforms. Heerwagen announced last month he would suspend signature gathering for the initiative and instead support SB 1349.

Hertzberg has requested $13.5 million from the Senate Committee on Budget and Fiscal Review to fund the project.

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.

Gov. Jerry Brown has acknowledged the present system’s shortcomings. In a 2013 message vetoing a previous bill (SB 3) because of an unrelated provision, 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,” but at the same time he directed his Government Operations Agency to provide recommendations to modernize Cal-Access.  The agency’s 2015 report included the $13.5 million estimate to replace Cal-Access.

SB 1349 passed on a bipartisan 4-0 vote and moves next to the Senate Appropriations Committee.


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.

Communications Director
Senator Robert M. Hertzberg
Capitol Building, Room 4038
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 651-4018

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