The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is considering formally opposing new state rules that would increase the power of election watchdogs.

A bill is currently pending in Sacramento (AB1306) that would increase the jurisdiction of the Fair Political Practices Commission and provide the FPPC with new enforcement authorization for regulating local governments. A draft letter to be discussed at the April 23 Supervisors’ meeting said the bill should be reconsidered as it has “significant jurisdictional, due process, redundancy and enforcement concerns.”

State law currently outlaws the use of public funds for campaign purposes. However, the FPPC does not have authority to pursue public agencies for violating those rules. Instead, the FPPC can only require disclosure of campaign spending. While disclosure of an expense is evidence of violating spending rules, responsibility for enforcing those spending limits falls to District Attorney’s and the state Attorney General.

In January of this year, the FPPC began discussions of expanding their authority to bring all election related enforcement under their banner after an internal report found little to no enforcement of the public spending prohibition. While the Commission has not taken a position on the specifically proposed legislation, the organization has said enhanced rules would give the FPPC more enforcement authority.

Such legislation would likely give the Enforcement Division the authority to bring an administrative or civil action on behalf of the Commission against public agencies and public officials who authorize the expenditure of public funds for campaign activities,” said a letter sent by the FPPC to lawmakers.

In its draft letter, the Board of Supervisors say new rules are unnecessary as enforcement mechanisms are already in place.

There are several reasons why these bills are unnecessary and should be opposed,” reads the letter. “First, these issues are currently the subject of litigation between the California State Association of Counties, California School Boards Association and the FPPC. This litigation should be resolved before any new legislation is considered. Secondly, the proposed administrative due process outlined in the bills is insufficient to protect the accused. Unlike the Attorney General and the District Attorney who have years of specialized investigative training, the FPPC personnel lack the expertise as trained investigators, as well as the resources to take on this additional work-load.”

Two state lawmakers initially proposed bills to expand the FPPC’s powers however, AB1306 is currently the only bill still active. Assemblymember Cristina Garcia is the sponsor of AB1306. Garcia represents the 58th Assembly District including the cities of Montebello, Pico Rivera, Commerce, Bell Gardens, Downey, Norwalk, Bellflower, Cerritos and Artesia.

“The rules should apply to everyone,” said Garcia in a statement. “I’m all for giving the FPPC more teeth to bite down on those who misuse taxpayer resources.  It’s quite convenient that the campaign laws enforceable by the FPPC didn’t include public officials or public entities within our own government entities. The FPPC noticed this gap in their enforcement ability and   this bill now sends a clear message that California won’t tolerate public agencies, or elected officials, spending taxpayer dollars on campaign activities and is stepping up penalties because of it.”

The Board of Supervisors will meet on Tuesday, April 23 starting at 9:30 a.m. in the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration at 500 West Temple Street. Meetings are also streamed online at http://bos.lacounty.gov/

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