Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday signed a handful of bills designed to promote government transparency, and vetoed one that would have required more training for people who manage finances for political campaigns.
Brown signed three bills sponsored by the state's Fair Political Practices Commission:
Assembly Bill 409 by Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, D-Fullerton, creates an electronic filing system for public officials who report annual statements of economic interest, known as Form 700s. The new online system will replace an old paper system, allowing greater ability for the public to review the financial interests of hundreds of thousands of government officials in California.
Assembly Bill 552 by Assemblyman Paul Fong, D-Cupertino, gives the FPPC greater authority to collect the fines it levies on people who violate laws governing political campaigns, fundraising, lobbying, and conflicts of interest for public officials by asking a court for a judgment to collect an unpaid penalty.
Assembly Bill 1090, also by Fong, allows the FPPC to give advice on a category of conflict-of-interest laws that previously was under the authority of criminal prosecutors. Under the bill, government officials who have questions about Government Code section 1090, which deals with conflicts of interests in government contracts, may seek written or telephone advice from the FPPC.
Three other bills sponsored by the FPPC this year did not make it out of the Legislature.
The Commission's chairwoman, Ann Ravel, said the bills Brown signed will improve government transparency. The creation of an online database of statements of economic interest will "revolutionize the ability to hold public officials accountable across the state," Ravel said in a statement.
Brown vetoed Senate Bill 3 by Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, which sought a number of changes to California's campaign finance laws. It would have required that a campaign treasurer complete an online training course, and that the secretary of state complete a study of the technological changes necessary to create a more robust online system for filing campaign finance reports.
"There is no doubt the current system -- widely viewed as outdated and cumbersome -- needs upgrading," Brown wrote in his veto message.
He wrote that he was directing state officials to come up with "recommendations on the best way to improve campaign disclosure."
The bill was sponsored by California Common Cause. The group sent out a message saying that even though Brown vetoed the bill, he took "a step forward to improving transparency in our elections" by acknowledging flaws in the current system and directing officials to suggest improvements.
"This action would not have been taken without the pressure from the Legislature, voters, and organizations like Common Cause and the League of Women Voters of California who worked together across party lines to pass Senate Bill 3," wrote Common Cause spokesman Phillip Ung.
PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown prepares to sign a bill on Sept. 16, 2011, near his office in Sacramento. The Sacramento Bee/ Hector Amezcua.