Politics & Government

California bill limiting political gifts dies in state Senate committee

SACRAMENTO — A Senate committee on Thursday quietly killed a bill that would have stopped the flow of thousands of dollars' worth of gifts to state lawmakers and other elected officials.

Senate Bill 18 by Sen. Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo, would have prohibited lobbyists or the interests employing them from giving elected officials or their family members tickets to sporting events and concerts, gift cards, spa treatments, or golf, skiing or fishing trips.

State law allows each lobbyist and lobbyist employer to hand out up to $420 a year in gifts to each official. For 2010, annual disclosure statements filed by lawmakers and statewide officeholders revealed $520,000 in freebies.

Blakeslee argued that his measure was intended to ban certain gifts he considered inappropriate, unrelated to public policy and meant only to provide undue access and influence to interest groups able to afford it. Meals, travel to conferences and other types of gifts would have been permitted under the measure.

Blakeslee's bill cleared one Senate committee without a dissenting vote, but was later diverted to the Appropriations Committee suspense file, a holding place for measures estimated to cost the cash-strapped state more than $50,000 a year. The Fair Political Practices Commission, which enforces the gift law, estimated the rule would cost $201,000 to carry out.

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