California Common Cause’s Key Pro-Democracy Bills Head to Newsom’s Desk

SB 1439 and SB 459 passed the Legislature with bi-partisan support

Sacramento, CA – Two key pro-democracy bills sponsored by California Common Cause have passed through the Legislature and now head to the governor’s desk to be signed into law. SB 1439 helps end pay-to-play politics at the local level and SB 459 requires more transparency from well-funded special interests when they lobby state leaders during peak periods of the legislative process.

“Californians need to know that their politicians are working for them – not special interests,” said Jonathan Mehta Stein, California Common Cause’s Executive Director. “These bills are simple, common sense solutions that hold our elected leaders at every level accountable and strengthen our democracy.”

Expanding existing California laws, the bipartisan SB 1439 helps end pay-to-play scandals in our local politics. Specifically, the bill prohibits anyone seeking a contract, permit, or license from local governments from making major campaign contributions to the officials deciding on that business while that business is pending and for one year after. This strengthens a provision known as the “Levine Act,” by ensuring the law applies to all local elected officials, who are currently exempt from this rule.

“Everyone has a right to know who is spending exorbitant amounts of money influencing the laws and local decisions, like permitting and contracts, that shape their everyday lives,” said Laurel Brodzinsky, California Common Cause’s Legislative Director. “SB 1439 and SB 459 ensure elected officials are voting in the best interest of their constituents.”

SB 459 improves California’s lobbying reporting by providing more timely and useful information about the money special interests are spending on lobbyists at the state legislature’s peak period. Currently, reporting on lobbying activity at the end of the legislative session is only publicly available after the session is over and votes have been taken, leaving no time for transparency to the press or the public. SB 459 provides critical information about who is “lobbying up” at the 11th hour in real time, while that information is still useful. Additionally, the bill requires groups trying to exert influence over legislation and lawmakers via “issue advertisements” (“Tell your Senator to vote yes on SB XXX!”) to put their names on those advertisements for the first time.

SB 1439 and SB 459 are simple, straightforward, and bipartisan steps that, when signed into law, will directly put power back in the hands of California voters. Both bills received bipartisan votes when passing the State Legislature on the last day of the 2022 session.