New Transparency on State Boards/Commissions in Bill Headed to Gov. Brown

For immediate release:

(SACRAMENTO, CA) – The California State Legislature passed a bill authored by Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), Chair of the Assembly Democratic Caucus, requiring state boards and commissions to publicly report itemized vote records for each action they take as a body.

Assembly Bill (AB) 2720 passed the State Assembly with a 71-0 vote following a 35-0 vote in the State Senate earlier this month.  It now heads to Governor Jerry Brown for his signature or veto.

“State boards and commissions have enormous power and this bill will help the public ensure that they act responsibly,” said Ting.  “Appointed members of these bodies must take ownership of every vote they cast.  They shouldn’t be able to hide in plain sight when tough decisions are made.  The inside baseball has to stop.  By signing this bill, Governor Jerry Brown can ensure more openness and accountability for our state government.”

“AB 2720 would prevent anonymous voting by large agencies and would improve the ability of the public and others who monitor legislative meetings of state agencies to be certain of how members vote on an issue,” said Jim Ewert, General Counsel of the California Newspaper Publishers Association in a letter supporting Ting’s legislation.

Current law requires that the meetings of state boards and commission are open to the public.  However, there is no requirement that actions taken by state boards and commissions are publicly reported or that votes for each action taken at public meetings by individual board members or commissioners are publicly recorded.  Consequently, there is great variation in how much information state boards and commissions provide about their decisions.  In many instances, there is no public record for how members of these bodies vote.

Some powerful state boards do not meet the standard of Ting’s AB 2720.

  • The California High Speed Rail Board oversees the expenditure billions of dollars to build high speed rail.  On its website, there are detailed transcripts of its meetings and archival video.  The vote counts in meeting minutes only list a count, not the individual votes of its 9-member board.
  • The California Air Resources Board implements California’s multibillion dollar cap and trade program among other climate activities.  It has detailed meeting transcripts and archival video on its website.  The body takes actions through voice votes and, while abstentions or recusals are recorded, there is no itemized listing of how its 11-member board votes.
  • The Medical Board of California, which oversees licensing for physicians, inconsistently reports how votes are taken.  Sometimes it simply reports vote outcomes in its meeting minutes and the votes of its 15-member board are not disclosed.

AB 2720 is supported by the California Newspaper Publishers Association and the California Taxpayers Association.  Further information is available at www.leginfo.ca.gov.

Contact: Anthony Matthews, tel. (916) 319-2019, anthony.matthews@asm.ca.gov