More Transparency in Politics, Policy


“Transparency” may be more than just a buzzword come 2017.

Proposition 54, teed up for the November ballot, would mandate the Legislature enforce a three-day public notice before voting on any bill, eliminating back-room, late-night deals that would otherwise shrivel in the light of day. Any citizen, regulated party or reporter could review and digest legislative amendments to a bill before a final vote is taken.

But the Legislature also can advance the cause of transparency. With the Governor’s recent signature on legislation by Senator Bob Hertzberg, voters, political watchdogs and the media will have better and more useful access to political campaign finance information.

Coalition Effort

Senator Hertzberg’s SB 1349 is a product of almost two years of effort by a diverse coalition including the California Chamber of Commerce, California Business Roundtable, California Labor Federation, and Common Cause, to name but a few. The common goal of these organizations was to rejuvenate a tired and clunky data reporting system that more often frustrated public disclosure than facilitated it.

This legislation requires the Secretary of State and the Fair Political Practices Commission to modernize the Cal-Access website and portal. The Secretary is charged with transforming the site from a form-driven process, which originated literally from the old paperwork filing, to a data-driven system that will enable searching, sorting, and ease of analysis. Over time, the system will be capable of integrating campaign finance reporting for municipalities.

Executive Branch Support

The new Cal-Access portal will go live by 2019. Senator Hertzberg and the coalition worked closely with the Secretary of State and the Administration to optimize the often-conflicting goals of expeditious deployment and technology oversight. Recognizing that new technology upgrades are not free, the Governor also agreed to a budget augmentation this year for the Secretary of State to begin work on the Cal-Access overhaul.

SB 1349 was passed unanimously by the Legislature. We’ll see in November the fate of Proposition 54.

Loren Kaye is president of the California Foundation for Commerce and Education, a nonprofit think tank affiliated with the California Chamber of Commerce.