California legislative trip not entirely transparent

Japan, Portugal, Switzerland — these are just a few many places far away Where California legislators travel at the expense of interest groups and nonprofits. To ensure transparency, legislators are required to submit a trip report to the Fair Political Practices Committee each year.

On the other hand, what about the group that pays for the trip? Not so much.

As a political reporter for CalMatters Alexei Kosev data journalist and Jeremiah Kimmelman Please explain, in seven years since the enactment of state law It has asked travel organizers to disclose major donors who travel with elected officials. Only two organizations submitted reports.

Non-profit organizations (often funded by corporations, unions, and industry associations working with legislative and state agencies) may voluntarily share lists of donors. However, it is not necessary to disclose how much money was received from whom.

Former state senator Jerry Hill, who drafted the original bill, said it created conditions that he thought could be easily met by major travel organizers, forcing them to release more information to the public.

  • Travel gifts totaling more than $10,000 in a given year or at least $5,000 to one government official.
  • Travel costs associated with elected officers account for at least one-third of the organization’s total expenses.

but when Alexei and Jeremiah reached out The remaining 14 of the 16 organizations that met the initial criteria were asked why they did not disclose the major donors who participated in the trip. on a particular form, they received different reasons. Some claimed that they did not meet the second requirement to submit the form. Some said they were exempt. Others did not react at all.

two organizations, California Environmental and Economic Foundation and the independent voter projectwhich Hill specifically cites as the inspiration for the 2015 law, both told CalMatters they never met the one-third of total cost threshold.

  • hillto Mr. CalMatters: “It’s frustrating. It’s the law and it should be obeyed. And it’s disappointing that some people have found all sorts of reasons not to obey the law.”

The Fair Political Practices Commission, the watchdog group responsible for enforcing the law, cannot say whether the organization is failing to comply. The commission has not clarified potentially ambiguous language in its rules and, although no complaints have been filed, it only investigates questions when it receives complaints.

  • Jay WillengaA spokesperson for the commission said in an email: “In my experience, most people dealing with this issue are sophisticated or wise enough to follow the rules and hire legal counsel to make sure they follow the rules.”

Note: These trips are legal. Legislators can accept an unlimited number of free trips as long as the trip is related to a policy issue or they plan to attend a speech or panel discussion.

Further public information: CalMatters Data Journalist Jeremiah Kimmelman has built a database of economic benefit forms that legislators must submit. You can look up information about their financial assets, gifts they received, paid travel, and more. see the data here.


Additional CalMatters Honors: California News Publishers Association announced on wednesday CalMatters Reporter Rachel Becker ranked #2 for environmental coverage in 2022 among the state’s largest digital news sites. Her story on water issues or the judge called “A roadmap to solving some of our most vexing problems.”

CalMattersreporter Kristen Huang won 3rd place in health insurance ranking,including The story of the surge in syphilis prevalence.and CalMatters reporter Mikhail Zinstein and University Journalism Network Fellow Michelle La Haque won #3 for youth and education coverage in order to Series on Low Graduation Rates for Black Students at California State University.


The big day when 1,000 bills are collected

A man throwing banknotes full into a wheelbarrow. On Suspense File Day, California legislators repealed dozens of bills.
Illustrated by Ann Welnikov, CalMatters. iStock

Legislative bills can be shelved at any time during the session in a variety of ways. But today, many banknotes will soon become invalid.

That’s right, it’s “Suspense File” time.

There are over 600 measures Submitted to Congressional Appropriations Committeeand about 420 more Fate is in the hands of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The commission conducts final financial reviews of bills that cost the state more than can be ignored before they go to vote in each house. A similar process will take place with the bill passed by the other House in August.

Most of the bills will overcome today’s challenges and continue the legislative process. At this point in our last session, Out of about 1,000 people, more than 700 survived the next day.. But it is possible, or possible. some important bills will be ignored.

The CalMatters team will monitor the hearing and report back on the results.So please check again today.

Wednesday, Democratic Senator. Laura Smallwood-Cuevas Member of Congress from Los Angeles Brian Mayenshine From San Diego, labor advocates and grocery store and pharmacy workers joined to push a series of bills in the Capitol. Two of them await their fate in Suspense Files.

After the grocery giant Kroger & Albertsons Grocery employees announced a multibillion-dollar merger in October, according to one analysis. $300 million a year in wages will be lost. In response, lawmakers introduced legislation to expand the rights of grocery store workers.

  • AB647 If a company takes over control of a store through a merger, it will be required to hire from that store’s employee list for 90 days up to a maximum of 120 days.
  • AB853 Grocery stores and pharmaceutical retailers will be required to give the Attorney General 180 days’ notice before finalizing proposed mergers.

Prison closures interrupt classes for inmates

David Zemp stands on the sidewalk near a street in Lancaster on May 10, 2023. Mr. Zemp, a former prisoner, is currently preparing to graduate from college courses he took while incarcerated. Photo credit: Larry Valenzuela, CalMatters/CatchLight Local
Ex-convict David Zemp prepares to graduate from college courses in Lancaster, May 10, 2023. Photo: Larry Valenzuela, CalMatters/CatchLight Local

In an effort to rebuild California’s prisons, Governor Gavin Newsom said: declared a moratorium on executions Announces intent to transform San Quentin State Penitentiary enter a rehabilitation center. Meanwhile, the California Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections close some prisons while downsizing other things.

But for more than 1,500 California prisoners, The closure disrupted college educationtheir future is still uncertain.

More by CalMatters’ Community College Reporter Adam Ekerman, Inmates who enter college not only get a degree, but also benefit from saving time from prison terms.prison education reduce recidivism.

Inmates affected by the closure may be transferred to new prisons, but the courses and credits available may not match the classes they were taking, and some students may fall short of completing their degree. there is Then you may get incomplete results or drop outs.

In a statement to CalMattersciting the Department of Corrections, said it was working to prevent “academic confusion.” Rising Scholars Network Initiative. But the ministry also said it was the responsibility of community colleges to ensure that student credits were transferred, and states could help “as needed.”

Community colleges argued that there was no coordination system in place to communicate with each other about a student’s transfer, and that privacy laws required students’ written consent before they could communicate with each other. ing.

The president of Palo Verde University said the transfer would have a devastating effect on students. The university expects to lose about 520 students, or 10% of its student population, when a nearby prison closes in 2025.

  • Don Wallace: “Even those who aren’t incarcerated, when they have to change from one college to another, or move from a community college to a four-year college, that’s the point where people quit.”


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