Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a trio of bills sponsored by the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC), the state’s political watchdog group, making it easier for the rest of us to police our politicians.
Assembly Bill 552, authored by Assemblyman Paul Fong (D-Cupertino), vests FPPC with more authority to collect fines it imposes on people by asking a court to collect unpaid dues. AB 1090, also by Fong, grants the FPPC authority to give advice on conflict-of-interest laws over government contracts formerly under the aegis of criminal prosecutors.
And legislation from Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva (D-Fullerton), who introduced AB 409, will require public officials to electronically file statements of economic interest—Form 700s—into an online database accessible by the public. It’s a huge improvement to the old paper system, giving reporters and the public more access to the recorded financial interests of California’s government officials.
The bill authorizes the FPPC to create its own electronic filing system to digitally store officials’ income and economic interests for the first time in state history. Public officials have to file Statements of Economic Interest (Form 700s) with the FPPC or other state and local agencies as proof that political decisions aren’t swayed by personal earnings. Keeping the forms in one centralized location will provide easier access.
“The current system of disclosure for public officials is scattershot and doesn’t provide the public the information it deserves on the economic interests of public officials,” FPPC Chair Ann Ravel said in a statement. “This landmark bill will revolutionize the ability to hold public officials accountable across the state.”
Ravel added that the FPPC plans to leverage technology so the public has greater access to governmental disclosure. The new database is already in development.