Committee kills Blakeslee’s Gift Reform bill
May 6, 2010
A bill drafted by Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee (R-San Luis Obispo] to close a loophole allowing lobbyists to circumvent limits on gifts to legislators was killed by committee on Tuesday.
In 1974, the voters of California passed the Political Reform Act which puts a $10 a month limit on lobbyist gifts to legislators. However, the loophole Blakeslee was attempting to close allows the lobbyist’s employers to provide gifts of up to $420 per year.
Blakeslee has been pushing this reform measure since 2008.
“This is obviously very disappointing,” said Blakeslee. “At a time that families are struggling to provide for the basics, Sacramento legislators are fighting to protect their special interest gifts. I can’t think of a worse message for Sacramento to be sending to the public right now.”
Committee members lodged their objected to the bill, with claims that new restrictions on gifts are unnecessary. They rejected concerns that gifts such as concert and football tickets influence legislators.
“It is difficult to defend the legislative value of tickets to rock concerts, golf tickets and day spas,” said Blakeslee. “The appearance to the public of such gifts is deeply corrosive to the public trust.”
In one of his first acts after his inauguration, President Obama signed an executive order requiring all executive appointees to sign an agreement that would prevent them from accepting gifts from lobbyists or lobbying organizations. The federal order was designed to prevent those with special interests before an agency from contributing gifts.
“Legislators do not require gifts in order to perform their jobs,” said Blakeslee. “The public has provided legislators with per diem payments to cover meals, office budgets that cover legislative travel, and annual salaries that provide ample resources to cover any legitimate expenses. Legislators should not receive special treatment from those with business before the Legislature.”
In 2008, Blakeslee authored a similar bill, AB 2795, which also sought to close the same gift loophole. The measure was shot down by a procedural motion without a vote by the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
Public approval of California legislators is at a near record low of 13 percent.