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A proposed state law to protect Capitol whistle-blowers from retaliation for filing a complaint of improper activity died today in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Assembly Bill 1378 was derailed after it failed to get a motion or second in the committee. Thus, no roll-call vote was taken. It previously had passed the Assembly Judiciary Committee, 10-0.

Legal protection against blowing the whistle on government corruption or wrongdoing currently applies to most employees -- including executive branch employees, California State University workers, and legislative appointees to boards and commissions.

AB 1378 would have expanded the list to include current and former legislators and legislative employees. The measure was proposed by Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-La Cañada-Flintridge.

The state auditor, whose office is responsible for receiving, evaluating and investigating whistleblower complaints, estimated that AB 1378 would increase costs by about $400,000 annually.

State Auditor Elaine Howle opposed the bill in a letter sent Thursday to Portantino and the Appropriations Committee. She said it would undermine and erode the independence of her office to handle investigations allegations involving the Legislature, which directs much of her staff's audit work, approves its budget, and has sole authority to remove her from office.

"The bottom line is that we cannnot and should not investigate our client -- the Legislature," she wrote.

By dying without reaching the Assembly floor, AB 1378 does not leave a trail of votes that incumbents might have to defend in upcoming elections. All 80 Assembly seats are on the ballot this year.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This post was updated at 4:07 p.m. to clarify that the measure also would have applied to legislators. It also was updated at 5:11 p.m. to note that the state auditor opposed AB 1378.



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