Capitol Alert

AM Alert: FPPC questions ‘ride-along’ rule

Jodi Remke, center, flanked by commissioners Patricia Wynne, left, and Eric Casher conduct business on Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014 in Sacramento, Calif. Remke is the new chair of the Fair Political Practices Commission.
Jodi Remke, center, flanked by commissioners Patricia Wynne, left, and Eric Casher conduct business on Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014 in Sacramento, Calif. Remke is the new chair of the Fair Political Practices Commission. rpench@sacbee.com

The Fair Political Practices Commission wants to stop abuse of the “ride-along” exception to state lobbying regulations.

Under current rules, subject-matter experts can attend meetings with lobbyists without having to register and submit quarterly filings to the Secretary of State. But the FPPC believes groups are taking advantage of the rule.

“Any individual can avoid registering as a lobbyist no matter how many contacts they have with public officials by simply hiring a lobbyist to go with them to those meetings,” said Galena West, the FPPC’s chief of enforcement. “We want to continue to allow people with expertise to be able to communicate with their lawmakers but tighten the exception so that it doesn’t allow for abuse by political operatives.”

Last year, the agency investigated former Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante for influencing lawmakers during ride-alongs and ultimately determined that the language in the provision was too vague to enforce.

The commission is expected to vote on changes to the regulation at its monthly meeting today. If approved, the new rules will require that the person participating in the ride-along works for the lobbyist employer and only acts as a subject matter expert on the legislative issue under discussion.

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. at the commission’s J Street headquarters.

FOREST HEALTH: It’s been a rough several months for Cal Fire, amid disclosures that some state firefighters cheated on tests, drank on the job and used state phones to connect with prostitutes. The State Personnel Board recently told Cal Fire Director Ken Pimlott to step up his leadership. And some officials have questioned how the state has handled tens of millions of dollars in revenue from a controversial fire prevention fee that seems to be putting a pinch on local departments’ finances.

Today lawmakers will scrutinize the roles of Cal Fire, the California Conservation Corps and the Wildlife Conservation Board in the state’s forest health management at a hearing of the Senate’s resources budget subcomittee. Among issues under discussion will be the governor’s budget request to appropriate $180 million over the next five years for a forest health program. The meeting starts at 9:30 a.m. in room 112 at the Capitol.

The subcommittee will focus on the state’s efforts to improve forest health, including proposed cap-and-trade investments, how the state pays for forest ecosystem services, fire prevention and fire suppression activities, and increasing costs for wildfire suppression.

PRIMARY DRAWING: The Secretary of State’s office invites you to observe a random drawing to determine the order in which names will appear on the June 7 primary ballot. While the order may seem of little importance, some suggest it might have been the difference in at least one past race. The drawing takes place at 11 a.m. at the Secretary of State’s Election Division at 1500 11th Street.

SPRING BREAK: Bon voyage, lawmakers! The Assembly and the Senate break for spring recess after today’s floor sessions.

Taryn Luna: 916-326-5545, @TarynLuna

  Comments