California Senate Democrats acknowledge lost public trust

SACRAMENTO -- In proposing to outlaw many gifts to lawmakers, including golf games and Lakers tickets, state Senate Democrats acknowledged Thursday that recent scandals have damaged how the public views the Legislature.

“There is no question that recent events are testing the public’s faith in how our government does its work.,” said Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens). “The hard work of the Legislature is too important to be sidetracked by issues of accountability of a few. We need to restore the public trust.”

Lara headed a working group on ethics that was appointed by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) in the wake of criminal allegations against Democratic Sens. Roderick Wright of Inglewood and Ronald S. Calderon of Montebello.

Wright was convicted of felony perjury and voter fraud for lying about living in his senate district, and Calderon was indicted for allegedly accepting nearly $100,000 in bribes.


But Steinberg said the proposed new rules go to practices that are currently legal.

"Year after year, the media and constituents raise legitimate concerns about the legal practices currently permitted under state law." Steinberg said.

The legislation would prohibit state officials from accepting gifts of spa treatments, golf games and tickets to theme parks, plays, musical concerts and sporting events. The three bills would reduce the annual gift limit for officials from $440 to $200, and bar them from receiving any gifts from lobbyists.

The measures would also prohibit lobbyists from hosting political fundraisers in their homes.

"Integrity in this process is absolutely critical," said Sen. Kevin De Leon (D-Los Angeles). "I hope this comprehensive package will help restore the public's confidence in its elected officials."