BILL ANALYSIS SENATE LOCAL GOVERNMENT COMMITTEE Senator Dave Cox, Chair BILL NO: AB 1399 HEARING: 6/16/10 AUTHOR: Anderson FISCAL: No VERSION: 3/17/10 CONSULTANT: Weinberger LOCAL OFFICIALS' VEHICLES Background and Existing Law The California Constitution prohibits government from making any gift of public money or thing of value to any individual. State law prohibits any elected state or local officers, employees, or consultants from using or permitting others to use public resources for a campaign activity, or personal or other purposes which are not authorized by law. If a local agency reimburses members of its legislative body for expenses, it must adopt a written policy on the duties for which members may receive compensation. If a local agency provides any type of compensation to a member of its legislative body, all members of the legislative body and its designated employees must receive two hours of ethics training every two years. (AB 1234, Salinas, 2005). In response to news reports about a county supervisor's sister who, as a full-time unpaid volunteer with her brother's office, received free use of a county car with taxpayer-funded gasoline included, AB 1399's author wants to prohibit public officials' immediate family members from using public vehicles or credit cards. Proposed Law Assembly Bill 1399 prohibits, except in the case of a medical emergency, a city or county official, whether elected or appointed, from making available to an immediate family member: A publicly-funded vehicle owned or operated by the local agency that the local officials represents, or A credit card issued by the local agency that the local official represents. AB 1399 -- 3/17/10 -- Page 2 AB 1399 defines "immediate family member" as a spouse, child, in-law, parent, or sibling of the local official. The bill's provisions do not apply to a local official if the legislative body of the local agency that the local official represents has adopted an ordinance, resolution, or other measure that prohibits the same conduct that the bill prohibits. Comments 1. A higher standard . When a public official allows an immediate family member to use a public vehicle and credit card, regardless of whether the resources are only used to conduct public business, it raises concerns about nepotism and the use of public resources for personal benefit. A Riverside County Supervisor's sister reportedly earned hundreds of thousands of dollars from his campaign for political consulting and professional services while also enjoying free use of a county car and taxpayer-funded gasoline by working as an unpaid volunteer in the supervisor's office. Although allowing a county volunteer to use a public car and gasoline to conduct county business does not violate state law, some critics believe this arrangement violated higher ethical standards that elected officials ought to meet. AB 1399 holds elected county officials to a higher standard by prohibiting their family members from using public vehicles and credit cards for any purpose other than a medical emergency. 2. Unintended consequences . AB 1399 is narrowly written to reflect the facts of the Riverside County case. This specificity creates at least four unintended consequences: Because the bill's prohibition applies only to city and county officials, AB 1399 allows special district officials to engage in the prohibited behavior. Because the bill applies only to elected and appointed officials, AB 1399 allows city or county employees to engage in the prohibited behavior. Because the bill applies only to a local official's spouse, children, in-laws, parents, or siblings, AB 1399 allows a domestic partner, unrelated paid campaign worker, business partner, or campaign donor, to use public vehicles and credit cards while volunteering with the public official's office. AB 1399 -- 3/17/10 -- Page 3 Because the bill applies only to public vehicles and credit cards, AB 1399 allows a local official to let any volunteer use publicly funded office space, phones, computers, faxes, copiers, tools, and equipment, regardless of the volunteer's relationship to the local official. The Committee may wish to consider whether, by narrowly prohibiting a few activities that could create perceptions of favoritism, AB 1399 implicitly authorizes many other arrangements that raise similar concerns. 3. Prevent favoritism . The Riverside County case demonstrates that, by serving as unpaid volunteers, public officials' family members, campaign workers, or both, may be able to use public resources that are not available to others. Regardless of whether public resources are used exclusively for public purposes, some volunteers should not be able to use public resources simply because of family or financial connections to a public official. A broad prohibition could prevent this type of favoritism. The Committee may wish to consider amending AB 1399 to prohibit a local official's immediate family members, or any individual who has been paid from a campaign account controlled by the public official, from volunteering for the local agency that the local official represents. Assembly Actions Assembly Local Government Committee: 5-0 Assembly Floor: 66-0 Support and Opposition (6/10/10) Support : California Taxpayer Protection Committee, La Mesa Taxpayers Association, California Conference of Machinists, California Conference of Amalgamated Transit Union, California Teamsters Public Affairs Council, Engineers and Scientists of California, IFPTE, Local 20, Professional and Technical Engineers, IFPTE, Local 21, UNITE HERE!, International Longshore and Warehouse Union, United Food & Commercial Workers Western States Council, Helix Water District, Ramona Springs Municipal Water District, Deer Springs Fire Protections district, San Gorgonio Pass Water Agency, Yucaipa-Calimesa Joint Unified School District, El Cajon Mayor Mark Lewis, El Cajon Mayor Pro Tem Bill Wells, Indian Wells Mayor Larry Spicer, Lemon Grove City AB 1399 -- 3/17/10 -- Page 4 Councilmember Mary England, Ramona Unified School District Board President Roger Dohm, Padre Dam Municipal Water District Director James Maletic, Grossmont Union High School District Board President Rob Shield, Grossmont Healthcare District director James Stieringer, Lakeside Water District Director Frank Hilliker, Daniel Neirinckx, Jamul Dulzura Community Planning Group, Lakeside Union high School District Superintendent Stephen Halfaker, La Mesa-Spring Valley School District Trustee Rick Winet, Beaumont Cherry Valley Water District President Blair Ball, Borrego Springs Fire District Chairman Martin Orenyak, Lakeside Water District Superintendent Brett Sanders, Borrego Water District General Manager Richard Williamson, Tierrasanta Community Council. Opposition : Unknown.