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Laws Require That Much of a Legislator's Life Is an Open Book

March 24, 1985|STEVE LAWRENCE | Associated Press

SACRAMENTO — So you think your state legislators are up to no good and you want to keep close tabs on them. There's plenty of information available if you're willing to do a little traveling or spend some money.

First of all, the 120 members of the Legislature and a host of other state officials are required to file annual financial disclosure statements listing their investments, sources of income and loans, property holdings and gifts.

The reports, which are filed each March 1 and cover the previous calendar year, must list sources of $250 or more of income, gifts worth $50 or more and property holdings or investments with at least a $1,000 value.

They must also report any honorariums--fees for speeches--of at least $50.

If a lawmaker owns at least 10% of a business, he or she must report any source of income to that business that is worth $10,000 or more a year to the legislator.

Lawmakers don't have to list their main residences, gifts from close relatives and any property holdings, income or investments outside the state, as long as the company involved doesn't do business or have any holdings in California.

The reports are filed with the Fair Political Practices Commission in Sacramento and with the clerk in the most populous county in the lawmaker's district.

If the legislator doesn't live in the most populous county, a report is also filed in his or her home county, FPPC spokeswoman Lynn Montgomery said.

Secondly, legislators must disclose any campaign contributions of $100 or more and list the name, address, occupation and employer of the contributor; the date the donation was made and how much was given.

If a donor gave an earlier donation in the same year, the report must list both the latest donation and the total amount given.

In non-election years, the campaign finance reports must be filed twice a year, by Jan. 31 and July 31. The Jan. 31 report covers the last half of the previous year. The July 31 report covers the first half of the year in question.

In election years, the filing deadlines for legislative candidates are Jan. 31, March 22, 12 days before the primary election, July 31, Sept. 22, and 12 days before the general election. Donations of $1,000 or more received after the final pre-election reporting periods, must be disclosed within 48 hours.

The campaign finance reports must be filed with the secretary of state's office in Sacramento and with the clerk of the county with the largest population in the legislator's district and in the legislator's home county, if different from the most populous county.

If you want to keep better track of how your Assembly member and senator is voting and what legislation they're carrying, there are several publications that can help.

The Senate and Assembly each publish a daily file that lists committee agendas, committee lineups and bills scheduled to be voted on by the full house.

Then there are the daily and weekly histories that keep track of the status of each bill.

A third type of publication, the daily journals, summarizes proceedings in the two houses. Both the Senate and Assembly journals list floor roll calls. The Senate Journal also prints committee roll call votes. The Assembly reports its committee roll calls in a journal appendix that comes out about every three weeks, said Chief Assembly Clerk Jim Driscoll.

The journals also list the bills introduced that day and give a brief summary of each one.

Daily files, histories, journals and copies of bills are available through the bill room, located in the basement of the Capitol. Each California resident can get up to 100 copies of different bills and publications for free each year.

That means, for example, that you can get 100 different bills or 100 daily journals for different days without charge.

But you'll have to dip into your wallet if you exceed the 100-copies limit, want to get more than one copy of the same bill or publication or want to receive the daily file, journal or history for an extended period of time.

The charge is 80 cents per copy for bills with more than 32 pages, and 20 cents per copy of thinner legislation. The daily files cost $325 a year, the daily and weekly histories $380 a year and the daily journals $210 a year. The weekly histories alone are $250 a year.

You can also have copies of your lawmaker's reports on his personal finances and campaign donations mailed to you if you don't want to trek to Sacramento or the appropriate county clerk's office. Copies cost 10 cents a page.

The campaign reports can be obtained from the secretary of state's office. The personal finance reports are available at the Fair Political Practices Commission.

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