Pressed to release Assembly members’ spending records, Speaker John Perez has snapped right into action and… appointed a task force.
Perez, D-Los Angeles, today named Assembly Rules Committee Chairwoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, to head a legislative records task force that will “review the status, rules and procedures governing legislative records.” That task force will be charged with rolling out a reform proposal by the start of next year’s session.
“I believe that updating our policies to reflect the 21st century world we live in is a vital step toward that effort,” Perez said. “How taxpayer dollars are expended is public information, and it is our job to ensure that the public has access to it. Currently, at my direction, all Assembly staff salaries are available on a publicly accessible web site, and we release audits of the Assembly budget annually.”
But at least one Democrat isn’t waiting for the task force’s recommendations.
Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-La Cañada Flintridge, announced today he has introduced an amendment to the Standing Rules of the Assembly calling for all Assembly financial records to be made public.
“Californians deserve the respect of the legislature by having access to how their money is being spent,” he said in a news release. “We have used the better part of this legislative year legislating good practices in cities such as Bell and Vernon. We need to lead by example and not shroud our budgets in secrecy.”
Portantino also is looking for “fairness in budgeting for all members’ office expenses and precludes leadership from either rewarding or punishing a member for voting their conscience” – a topic that’s been on his mind lately.
“Unfortunately, leadership needs to be brought into the sunshine kicking and screaming,” he said. “Under HR20, the adoption of members’ budgets would be done in an open and public hearing instead of behind closed doors. Not only will members’ budgets be made available, but, all Assembly leadership, committee, caucuses and all administrative budgets for the Assembly will have to be disclosed in comprehensive detail. It is outrageous, unacceptable and wrong to keep the public in the dark when it comes to spending their money.”
Read the full text of Perez’ statement, after the jump…
“Members, I’d like to welcome each of you back from spending time in your districts. I hope you had a productive few weeks meeting with your constituents. Today, I rise to make a brief announcement.
“From the day I was elected Speaker, I have talked about the importance of open government. This is an issue that continues to be of paramount importance to me today.
“As Speaker, it is my duty to carry out the policies and procedures of the Assembly as established in our internal rules, statutes and the state constitution. It is also my duty to lead this Chamber forward when those policies need to be updated. That time has come.
“Members from both parties have expressed concerns to me about making Assembly expenditures more accessible. To that effect, I am announcing that Rules Chair Nancy Skinner will lead a task force to review the statutes, rules and procedures governing legislative records.
“Ms. Skinner will have a proposal to unveil by the beginning of next year’s session. I believe that updating our policies to reflect the 21st century world we live in is a vital step toward that effort.
“How taxpayer dollars are expended is public information, and it is our job to ensure that the public has access to it. Currently, at my direction, all Assembly staff salaries are available on a publicly accessible web site, and we release audits of the Assembly budget annually.
“The Task Force, under Rules Chair Nancy Skinner will review our current statutes, rules and procedures, and I look forward to hearing their recommendations and conclusions.
“We have difficult work ahead of us in the next few weeks, and certainly, the efforts to restore health to our struggling economy and create new jobs will continue to be our primary focus for both this year of the session and next. Thank you.”