Lodi's Assemblywoman, Alyson Huber, D-El Dorado Hills, has introduced two bills into the Assembly to give voters more information about campaign finance and lobbying efforts.
Huber introduced Assembly bills 1181 and 1274 near the end of February but said in a statement that they were in honor of "Sunshine Week," which promotes openness in government.
Assembly Bill 1181 would require all state candidate committees, ballot measure committees and slate mail organizations to list their contributors online with the Secretary of State's office.
Current law requires campaign statements to be filed online only if the total amount of contributions is $50,000 or more. State lobbying groups are only required to file statements online if the total of payments, expenses, contributions or other items is $5,000 or more in a calendar quarter.
"Government shouldn't be done in the dark, plain and simple," Huber said in a statement. "We have the ability to make more information available online than ever before, yet our current system serves insiders more than it does everyday Californians. These bills will ensure simple access to the most basic information regarding campaign contributions and who is being paid to lobby on what issues."
Assembly Bill 1274 would require the Secretary of State to develop an online directory of all lobbying interests seeking to influence each proposed law. This list would be updated quarterly. Users could simply click on a bill or law to see what parties had campaigned for or against the legislation.
Huber contends that while the information is already public, to get an understanding of all the interests working on a piece of legislation one would have to scan through countless lobbying reports. Huber proposes a stream-lined, "one-click" system.
Allen Davenport, lobbyist for the Service Employees International Union, said he doesn't see an issue with Huber's bill.
"The more people who know, the better," he said after noting that all lobbying actions are already a matter of public record. Peter Scheer, executive director of the California First Amendment Coalition, said he was unfamiliar with the specifics of Huber's proposal but welcomed anything that enabled people to have more insights into their elected leaders and the people who lobby them.
"We always support legislative changes that provide voters with better access to more complete and timely info about campaign contributions and who's contributing and to whom and the activities of lobbyists," he said.
Sunshine Week at a glanceOrganized by the American Society of Newspaper Editors and funded through a grant by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation of Miami, Sunshine Week, which runs from March 15-21, is designed to promote the public's right to information and to help ensure open government at all levels.
The name stems from bringing to light, or the sun, government information.
This year's main event was a survey of the availability of information online. Journalists participating in the survey attempted to find 20 different type of documents online. These included such documents as death certificates, financial disclosures, nursing home inspection reports and environmental citations. Texas was the only state to provide information online for all the 20 categories. California provided information for 12 of the categories and Mississippi provides the least information online with only four of the categories.
"Digital technologies can be a great catalyst for democracy, but the state of access today is quite uneven," said Charles N. Davis, executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition, in a statement on the Sunshine Week survey. "The future of Freedom of Information is online access, and states have a long way to go to fulfill the promise of electronic self-governance."