Facebooking and Tweeting are about to become official legislative business.
Lawmakers and designated aides could post social media comments as part of their official, paid duties under a new policy approved unanimously Monday by the Assembly Rules Committee.
The policy, targeting Facebook, Twitter and other social media websites, is expected to be considered in coming weeks by the Senate Rules Committee. It does not require a floor vote.
Most lawmakers currently maintain personal or campaign pages on Facebook, but they and their aides maintain them by using private equipment in their private time. Taxpayers have not picked up the tab - but they will soon, perhaps.
The new policy does not require legislators to have their own Assembly-authorized Facebook page, but it allows them to -- and provides guidelines and restrictions for their operation.
Some details are lacking: The policy does not list criteria for deeming a comment inappropriate and deleting it, for example, saying only that the issue will be addressed by the Legislature's attorneys and Rules Committees.
Assembly administrator Jon Waldie said the 80-member house will authorize websites for members only if Facebook ensures that such pages contain no advertising. Members of Congress already have pages without ads, he said.
Senate secretary Greg Schmidt said he would like to see final details worked out before the Senate Rules Committee takes a vote.
Assemblyman Curt Hagman, a Chino Hills Republican, applauded the social media policy as recognition that times have changed and that lawmakers no longer communicate exclusively through phones and letters.
"It's everywhere now," Hagman said of Facebook and Twitter. "It's the best way to communicate with voters, and it doesn't cost any money. Those who want to listen, can."
Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, said that "it makes sense to me to try in a prudent way to allow members to communicate with their constituents by the means that constituents use."
Dickinson said he does not worry that social media sites will be used frivolously by legislative aides.
"I suppose that maybe somebody asked, when the Internet became more in common use, whether that would be used frivolously. No, I'm not worried about (Facebook) being used frivolously as long as people are responsible - which I think they will be."
The new policy would limit a lawmaker's official social media site to legislative business, would require training for aides who operate such sites, would permit only the posting of comments about legislative matters, and would not allow campaigning or a link to a campaign website.
In the Assembly, Waldie said, the concept is to allow each officeholder to designate one aide to handle social media duties.
Senate and Assembly Rules Committee could monitor Facebook sites to ensure compliance of the new policy. Offenders could be punished by the Legislature, though specific disciplinary measures have not yet been identified.
The policy warns lawmakers and their aides to be mindful that posts can backfire and are not easy to erase from public memory.
"It is very simple to post content and comments that may be rapidly disseminated," the policy says. "Once material is posted, however, it is nearly impossible to erase it from existence."
* Updated at 3:30 p.m. Monday to say that the Senate Rules Committee is expected to take up the policy in coming weeks, but not Wednesday.