Governor Brown on Tuesday signed three bills sponsored by the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) giving the FPPC additional powers and promoting transparency in government.

The first, AB 1090 by Assemblymember Paul Fong (D-Cupertino), authorizes the FPPC to provide written or telephonic advice on potential 1090 conflicts and to enforce 1090 violations. Section 1090 concerns conflicts of interest in contracts. Currently, all official section 1090 advice is given by the Attorney General. AB 1090 grants the FPPC power to enforce 1090 violations through either an administrative process or through civil courts.  1090 violations are currently only prosecuted criminally. AB 1090 will take effect on January 1, 2014.

FPPC Chair Ann Ravel stated in a press release, “Public officials will now have expanded access to timely advice on how to comply with the 1090 conflict rules. . . . The FPPC’s mission is to make sure public officials have easy access to the advice and resources they need to comply with the law.”

The second bill, AB 409, by Assemblymember Sharon Quirk-Silva (D-Fullerton) allows the FPPC to develop a system for electronic filing of officials’ statements of economic interests (Form 700s). The online system is intended to increase transparency in government and to provide a central electronic repository for all officials filing with the FPPC. The bill also provides that agencies whose officials do not normally file with the FPPC may designate the FPPC as their filing officer (instead of, for example, a local clerk). This would permit the FPPC to receive Form 700s that might not otherwise be filed with it and to post those publicly. AB 409 was an urgency measure that took immediate effect in order to permit the FPPC to develop the online system as soon as possible. According to the FPPC, it has already begun working on the electronic system. Once the system is developed, this supplemental electronic filing will be voluntary.

Finally, AB 552, also by Assemblymember Paul Fong, permits the FPPC to collect fines by asking a court for a judgment to collect an unpaid penalty. The FPPC levies fines for violations relating to conflicts of interest, Form 700 disclosures and reporting, lobbying, and political campaigns and fundraising. Under the new law, the FPPC would be permitted to apply to the clerk of a court for a judgment on FPPC fines and penalties without separately needing to file a civil lawsuit in superior court. AB 552 will take effect on January 1, 2014.

For further information about the new FPPC legislations, see Best Best & Krieger’s AB 1090 and AB 409 legal alerts.

Image courtesy of Flickr by jshyun.