The proposal comes against a backdrop of renewed focus on ethics
in the legislature of the most populous U.S. state after California
state Senator Ron Calderon was indicted on corruption charges last
month, and fellow state Senator Roderick Wright was convicted of
voter fraud and perjury.
The criminal proceedings add to concerns that surfaced earlier this
year when the California Fair Political Practices Commission sent
warning letters to elected officials saying fundraising parties
thrown for several lawmakers and the governor by a prominent
lobbyist were in fact illegal.
"The good legislative work that we do is only as good as the
public's perception and trust in the legislature," Senate Democratic
leader Darrell Steinberg told a news conference, announcing the
The legislation proposed on Thursday would ban elected officials in
California from accepting any gifts from lobbyists and would reduce
the value of gifts that could be accepted from other sources. It
would also ban fundraisers at lobbyists' homes.
The proposal would also expressly forbid officials from accepting
certain types of gifts that have nothing to do with lawmaking,
including tickets for theme parks and professional sporting events,
spa and golf trips or cash and gift cards from anyone, whether or
not that person is a lobbyist.
A spokesman for Republican leader Bob Huff said the reforms seemed
appropriate, but that his party had not been included in the process
of developing them and so had not yet examined the proposed language
Calderon, part of a decades-old California political dynasty,
surrendered to authorities last week to face two dozen counts of
bribery, fraud, money laundering and conspiracy. On Monday, he said
he would take a leave of absence from the legislature while court
proceedings resulting from a federal corruption indictment take
place in Los Angeles.
A week earlier, Senator Roderick Wright also took a leave of absence
linked to his conviction in January on eight counts of voter fraud
and perjury after prosecutors said he did not live in the Southern
California district that he sought to represent in the Senate.
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Wright has asked the judge in his trial to reject the jury's
verdict, saying California's law on where lawmakers must live is too
Both men will be paid while on leave. But the absence of the two
lawmakers means that Democrats have effectively lost their
two-thirds majority in the state Senate, necessary to raise taxes,
sell bonds or put certain measures before voters.
However, because they are leave and have not been expelled or forced
to resign from the Senate, it would theoretically be possible for
one or the other to return for key votes.
Steinberg, who granted paid leaves of absence to both men and has
refused to consider a Republican motion to expel them, has promised
that this will not happen, calling the idea ridiculous and
Several Republicans, deeply skeptical that Democrats will not bring
the two back, have tried twice to call for the expulsion of the two
But Steinberg, who controls what legislation gets to the Senate
floor, used a procedural move to send their resolution to the rules
committee, which he chairs. The proposal was quashed a second time
on Wednesday, when Steinberg declined to bring it up in the
(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and G. Crosse)
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