Stop campaigning on taxpayers' dime
The tendency of public agencies to use taxpayers' dollars to indirectly campaign for bond measures and tax increases under the guise of providing “informational” materials, which are allowed, to the public has long been troublesome. This goes on all the time, and it creates an unfair situation in which taxpayers are forced to pay for campaigns designed to get more of their tax dollars.
Fortunately, the state Senate Judiciary Committee approved Tuesday on a 4-0 vote a measure that would limit the ability of California state and local agencies to engage in this sort of behavior.
The new bill, authored by Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, first targeted only video news releases by state agencies that advocate particular positions. The senator was concerned about the current administration producing such videos.
But Judiciary Committee Chairman Joe Dunn, D-Santa Ana, added a provision that makes it even better. The bill would ban the use of public dollars to provide “campaign-like activity to promote or advocate a position on a bond or ballot measure that has not yet qualified for the ballot,” according to the committee's analysis.
As the analysis explains, state law currently forbids the use of public resources for campaigning, but permits the provision of informational material. The bill would expand the definition of campaign activity prohibited by the law by including the terms “directly or indirectly,” which is a necessary addition. Currently, agencies seem to believe that they can engage in the most obvious campaigning provided they stop short of directly calling for a “yes” or “no” vote.
We're pleased that the committee is taking this issue seriously. We hope the full Legislature passes the Dunn-amended bill.
Public money should not be used by agencies to lobby for more taxpayers' money. Perhaps this is one area where Republicans and Democrats agree.