Gov. Brown Signs Legislation to Modernize California’s Online Campaign Database
SB 1349 overhauls Cal-Access to make campaign and lobbying disclosures quick and easy to find online
SACRAMENTO – Gov. Jerry Brown today signed legislation by Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, to modernize California’s online database of campaign and lobbying information.
SB 1349 directs the state to overhaul the Secretary of State’s antiquated Cal-Access system for filing and accessing campaign finance and lobbying data. It establishes important guidelines for the project, including creating a system that is data driven, rather than form based, and adhering to prevailing standards for search and open data.
The bill is supported by a broad coalition that includes California Common Cause, the California Business Roundtable, the League of Women Voters of California, the California Labor Federation and Secretary of State Alex Padilla.
“This legislation helps put California’s government where it should be – at the forefront of using technology to provide transparency,” Hertzberg said. “SB 1349 modernizes California’s database so campaign and lobbying disclosures are quick and easy for everyone to access immediately.”
The legislation prescribes using cost-effective, streamlined and innovative information technology development processes to deliver an improved system faster. It calls for a system that permits future compatibility with local campaign finance data.
The bill is also backed by Jim Heerwagen, the main proponent of the Voters’ Right to Know Act, an initiative circulated earlier this year that sought to replace the current Cal-Access system as part of a package of reforms. Heerwagen announced in March that he would suspend signature gathering for the initiative and instead support SB 1349.
Under SB 1349, the new system would allow aggregating contributions from the same contributor through use of a unique ID system for donors, thereby providing the public with a fuller understanding of influence in state politics. The legislation recommends incorporating user-friendly features for filers, such as pre-populating data and electronic signature capability.
The bill does not include funding for the project. Rather, Hertzberg sought funding through the budget process. The 2015-16 state budget includes $1.8 million for the Secretary of State’s office to work on overhauling Cal-Access.
“A system built in the era of pagers is overdue for a rebuild,” Padilla said. “Replacing Cal-Access will improve campaign finance transparency and help voters make informed choices at the ballot box. Thank you Senator Hertzberg for championing this effort all the way to the finish line, and thank you Governor Brown for signing this important legislation.”
Kathay Feng, the executive director of California Common Cause, said the bill is a giant step forward.
"Governor Brown's signature on SB 1349 will fast forward California into the 21st century, where voters and campaigns can finally access campaign finance information in a quick and easy way," Feng said.
Helen Hutchison, president of the League of Women Voters of California, said SB 1349 would be a big help for voters.
“This bill is the first step to providing Californians with a user-friendly and modern system, making searches of campaign and lobbyist spending far more transparent,” Hutchison said. “The public has a right to know who is using money to influence our government, and SB 1349 will make that information accessible to all.”
Robert Lapsley, president of the California Business Roundtable, also praised the governor’s action.
"Thanks to the leadership of Governor Brown, Secretary of State Alex Padilla and Senator Bob Hertzberg, SB 1349 will make the state a national leader in public transparency on lobbying data and campaign contributions to elected officials," Lapsley said.
SB 1349 was endorsed by several newspapers. In June, the Los Angeles Times urged legislators to pass the bill and the governor to sign it “so that voters don’t have to wait until another presidential primary for a campaign finance database that has all the things they need to assess candidates and ballot measures in the era of big money.”
Contact: Andrew LaMar, (916) 651-4018, Andrew.LaMar [at] sen.ca.gov
Elizabeth Leslie, (916) 442-7215, eleslie [at] lwvc.org