California - Jeff Mitchell: Bill would increase transparency

AGORA moderator's picture

A Southern California-based member of the California Legislature has launched an important bill that, if ultimately passed intact, will strengthen the financial disclosure requirements of elected officials.

For years now those of us who have reported on the filings of state Form 700 have just rolled our eyes and shaken our heads at how completely undemanding and lax the form is in compelling local, county and state officials to tell us the actual nature of their personal financial affairs.

Without such knowledge we would never know when our electeds are acting in the best interests of themselves or their friends and not of the public.

To date, the California Legislature has managed to keep the state Fair Political Practices Commission a budget-starved, emaciated waif of an agency. So for a member of the Assembly to actually write a bill that would beef up disclosure — well, it’s just not something you see or hear of everyday.

So sincere kudos to state Assemblyman Mike Gatto for writing and filing Assembly Bill 10 on Monday.

The Glendale Democrat said his bill will toughen and modernize Form 700.

“Increased transparency is essential to protecting public resources, preventing corruption, and restoring public trust,” Gatto said in a prepared statement. “This legislation will bring disclosure requirements into the 21st century. These reforms will shed light on business dealings of political insiders and give Californian’s greater access to the information they deserve.”

If Gatto’s legislation makes it through committee and if it gets to the floor for a vote and if it actually gets on the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown, the legislation would change Form 700 in four basic ways. It would:

• Clarify the reporting ranges for investments, property and income to be less broad and more specific, providing taxpayers a better picture of the financial interests of an elected official;

• Require elected officials to disclose who their business partners are;

• Require elected officials to disclose what exactly their businesses do; and

• Require elected officials to report the number of times they excused themselves from a vote because of a conflict of interest.

As AB10 moves the through the legislative sausage maker, I will keep you posted on its progress. Let’s all cross our fingers that we’ll be able to still recognize it on the flipside.

SOURCE: The Californian, December 1st, 2014,