Tag Archive for Capitol Safety and Security Improvements Project

What a Place! More Bills to Clean Up the California State Legislature

On Thursday, April 26, the California State Assembly’s Rules Committee will consider the third of a triad of bills from Assemblywoman Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) to reform the operations of the California State Legislature.

Assembly Bill 1946 deals with public access to records of the legislature. It would add language to the Legislative Open Records Act (Government Code Section 9070-9080) to state that this law shall be construed with a strong presumption in favor of public access to legislative records. It also states that a record that reflects the approved budget allocation for a legislator or the legislator’s office is not exempt from mandatory disclosure under the Legislative Open Records Act.

Here is my support letter for this bill, which cites the failure of the legislature to provide records indicating which legislator gave the secret unilateral directive for an “all-union workforce” to build the Capitol Safety and Security Improvements Project in 2005:

Dayton Letter in Support of Assembly Bill 1946

This 2011 report from the Pacific Research Institute (based in San Francisco) discusses problems with government compliance under the Legislative Open Records Act and Public Records Act (Ralph M. Brown Act), and it cites some of my difficulties getting public records when I was employed by Associated Builders and Contractors of California:

Bringing More Sunshine to California: How to Expand Open Government in the Golden State

Assembly Bill 1946 codifies the December 2, 2011 decision of a Sacramento County Superior Court judge in Los Angeles Times v. California Legislature. The Los Angeles Times and the Sacramento Bee – both members of the California Newspaper Publishers Association – sued the legislature to get legislative office budget records after the legislature refused the requests of Assemblyman Anthony Portantino (D-Pasadena) and various newspapers for these records.

This controversy began in July 2011 when Assemblyman Portantino claimed that his office was being unfairly deprived of extra funding for excessive office expenses because he was the only Democrat to vote against the 2011-12 state budget. (He opposed education cuts, prison realignment, and elimination of redevelopment agencies.) Portantino was upset about the possibility of having to furlough his office staff, and he tried to obtain budget records for other offices to prove that many offices besides his own spent more than their official allotment set by the Assembly Rules Committee. When the legislature finally released the records, those records indicated that Portantino spent the most on personal office staff. But a Palo Alto group called California Common Sense analyzed the records and concluded in a report that the information had been manipulated to falsely smear Portantino, whom they claimed was actually ranked 18th.

See these Los Angeles Times articles about the controversy:

Portantino Accuses Democrats of Reprisal for Budget Opposition – July 12, 2011

California Legislature Releases Members’ Spending Records – August 27, 2011

Judge Rules State Assembly Must Disclose Lawmakers’ Budget Records – December 5, 2011

Also, see this interesting commentary by Steve Greenhut in www.CalWatchdog.com:

Portantino Late Convert to Openness Issue – August 29, 2011

Also, see this Los Angeles Times article about how Democrat leaders in the legislature punish Democrat mavericks and troublesome Republicans:

State Lawmakers Toe the Line or Risk Losing Their Parking Spots – August 1, 2011

I predict that Assemblywoman Shannon Grove will soon suffer at the hands of Democrat leaders for calling for a part-time legislature and backing up her argument with her triad of three bills to reform the California State Legislature. But right now legislative leaders have to deal with Assemblyman Portantino again for introducing these three reform bills:

Assembly Committee Kills Portantino’s Whistleblower Protections for Legislative Employees – Again – April 24, 2012 Press Release

Portantino Wants Accurate Reporting of Outside Compensation for Public Officials – April 17, 2012 Press Release

Portantino’s Bill to End Special Perk for Legislator’s Vanity License Plates Passes Key Committee – April 16, 2012 Press Release

Competitive Bidding for the California State Legislature? Democrats Vote NO to That Concept

Today (April 17, 2012), the California State Assembly’s Business, Professions, and Consumer Protection Committee considered Assembly Bill 1947, a bill introduced by Assemblywoman Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) to put the contracts of the California State Legislature under the same competitive bidding laws as other state agencies and local governments.

I predicted in my post on April 15 that this committee would kill this concept, as it did in 2007 and 2009. I was right! Here’s my support letter:

Dayton Letter in Support of Assembly Bill 1947

Assemblywoman Grove did an excellent job presenting the general arguments for the bill. I then cited two anecdotes showing why competitive bidding was needed at the state legislature: the 2005 “all-union workforce” bid specification for the Capitol Safety and Security Improvements Project and the 1975 Capitol Restoration Project that resulted in a lawsuit from the Pacific Legal Foundation under its former staff attorney Ron Zumbrun. (See Department of General Services v. Superior Court (Sacramento Builders’ Exchange, Inc.) (1978) 85 Cal.App.3d 273, 147 Cal.Rptr. 422.) I also talked about best value criteria in bidding and how the legislature could authorize that for its bidding, if it chose to do so. Juli Broyles then spoke in support of the bill for my former employer, Associated Builders and Contractors of California. Finally, James W. “Jim” Ricketts of Tea Party United spoke in support of the bill, giving a voice to the millions of Californians who don’t like their tax money squandered on cronyism and corruption. He commended Assemblywoman Grove for introducing a bill to promote transparency and free market principles to the procedures of the California State Legislature.

Two of the three Republicans on the committee were not in the hearing room. Assemblyman Cameron Smyth (R-Santa Clarita) encouraged the committee to “restore just a little bit of trust” and made a motion to approve the bill. Committee chairwoman Mary Hayashi (D-Hayward) gave a routine courtesy second to allow for a vote. Committee members did not make any additional comments or ask any questions.

On a 4-1 vote, Assembly Bill 1947 was rejected. Voting NO were Mary Hayashi (D-Hayward), Mike Eng (D-Alhambra), Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), and Fiona Ma (D-San Francisco).

Voting YES was Cameron Smyth (R-Santa Clarita).

Not present to vote were Vice-Chairman Bill Berryhill (R-Stockton), Curt Hagman (R-Chino Hills), Michael Allen (D-Santa Rosa), and Betsy Butler (D-El Segundo).

A few people in the fully-occupied hearing room audibly snickered when the bill was voted down without any arguments made against it.

California Legislative Committee to Again Consider Putting Legislature Under Same Fair Contracting Laws as Other State Agencies

UPDATE: The committee analysis for Assembly Bill 1947 has been issued, and the Dayton Public Policy Institute (a project of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC) is the sole party in the universe that bothered (or dared?) to submit a comment. I’ll be at the committee meeting tomorrow to testify as a witness. Perhaps there will even be some committee members there besides the chairperson to hear it.

Assemblywoman Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) has introduced a package of three bills (Assembly Bill 1946, Assembly Bill 1947, and Assembly Bill 1948) that would eliminate some of the special privileges of the California State Legislature. I call these bills the “Glass Houses” package because they reveal how the state legislature hypocritically enacts laws to control the activities of businesses and government entities, but makes sure to exempt itself from those same laws.

On Tuesday, April 17, the Assembly Business, Professions & Consumer Protection Committee will meet at 9:00 a.m. in Room 447 of the Capitol and at that hearing will consider Assembly Bill 1947. This bill changes state law to require the California State Legislature to bid its contracts under fair and open competitive bidding, for the purpose of stimulating competition in a manner conducive to sound fiscal practices and for eliminating favoritism, fraud, and corruption. AB 1947 also creates transparency in the development and execution of bid specifications, so that the legislature is accountable to the people for its policy decisions concerning contracts funded by the people. A preliminary fact sheet explaining this bill, the need for this bill, and the inspiration for this bill is here:

Assembly Bill 1947 – Preliminary Fact Sheet

My letter in support of Assembly Bill 1947 is here:

Dayton Letter in Support of Assembly Bill 1947

Posted NEW on April 16: Assembly Business, Professions, and Consumer Protection Committee Analysis of Assembly Bill 1947

To express your support for Assembly Bill 1947, go to Shannon Grove’s My Legislation, select “AB 1947 – Competitive Bidding for Legislative Contracts” – and then select Support/Oppose AB 1947.

What Are the Chances of Assembly Bill 1947 Becoming Law?

Based on past history, the Democrat leadership will NOT let this bill pass out of committee.

In a shameful vote on April 23, 2007, the Assembly Business and Professions Committee rejected Assembly Bill 1070, a bill introduced by Assemblyman Paul Cook (R-Yucaipa) that would have subjected the state legislature to the same competitive bidding requirements as state agencies and local governments in California. One Democrat, Assemblywoman Wilmer Amina Carter (D-Rialto), joined committee Republicans to vote in support of the bill, reportedly because she recognized the historic legacy of racial discrimination in awarding government contracts.

A freshman legislator at the time, Assemblyman Cook learned through frustrating experience about how Democrat legislative leaders control their fiefdom. The Legislative Counsel’s office, which drafts bills, included an unnecessary provision in the bill that Cook could not manage to get removed despite his efforts. The Democrat committee analyst used the provision as the basis for an argument against the bill. Even though Assemblyman Cook received no letters of opposition, and not a single speaker at the committee hearing testified against the bill, the bill was rejected without comments.

Following the vote, the May 11, 2007 Orange County Register published a column by the newspaper’s “Capitol Watchdog” Brian Joseph entitled “Committee Quashes Contract Rules: Bill Would Have Required Legislature to Follow Fair Play Rules in Awarding its Projects.” The column reported on the committee rejection of Assembly Bill 1070. It also reported that in 2005 an unknown person or persons in the legislature unilaterally decided to insert a provision in bid specifications for the Capitol Safety and Security Improvements Project to require all contractors to use an “all-union workforce.” Such a requirement would not be allowed under the state’s competitive bidding laws, but the state legislature has exempted itself from those laws.

The column also referred to a court case – The Zumbrun Law Firm v. California Legislature – in which the legislature was accused of illegally using that union-only bidding requirement and also accused of illegally withholding documents from the public that would reveal which legislator initiated this behind-the-scenes bidding scheme. That lawsuit lost in Sacramento County Superior Court in 2006 and lost on appeal in the California Third District Court of Appeals in 2008. The California Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal. The courts ruled that the legislature could indeed and was indeed exempt from the State Contracts Act when bidding construction contracts.

In 2009, Assemblyman Curt Hagman (R-Chino Hills) introduced Assembly Bill 641, which would have required the legislature to abide by competitive bidding laws. The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association sponsored the bill in response to the two court decisions in The Zumbrun Law Firm v. California Legislature. The Assembly Business and Professions Committee defeated Assembly Bill 641 on a party-line vote (Republicans in support; Democrats opposed).

Will the third time be the charm for competitive bidding? The California State Legislature may want to heed the advice of Benjamin Franklin in Poor Richard’s Almanack:

Don’t throw Stones at your Neighbours’, if your own Windows are Glass.