Senate approves bill for National Guard oversight

The Senate on Wednesday unanimously approved legislation to give the governor the power to appoint an independent inspector general to oversee the California Military Department.

Senate Bill 921, by Democratic Sens. Ted Lieu and Lou Correa, comes in the wake of an ongoing Sacramento Bee investigation that has uncovered examples of fraud and mismanagement within the California National Guard.

In addition to replacing the department's internal inspector general with an independent watchdog, SB 921 would provide protections for whistle-blowers, mandate a toll-free number for reporting alleged abuses and require that the independent inspector general continues to investigate allegations of misconduct.

"The National Guard has had systemic breakdowns in different parts of its organization. One of the reasons for this is Guard members who are scared or unwilling to come forward when they see the illegal, inappropriate behavior. A more independent inspector general plus additional whistle-blower protections would mitigate that problem," Lieu, of Torrance, said in an interview.

The bill, which would take effect immediately, passed the Senate 32-0. It now heads to the Assembly for consideration.