State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson announced she plans to introduce a bill banning any private communication between lobbyists and members of the California Coastal Commission — known as “‘ex-parte’ communications” — as a way to counter “the perception of backroom deal making.” Jackson said the Coastal Commission vote six weeks ago to terminate executive director Charles Lester without explanation — despite a massive outpouring of public support on Lester’s behalf — has precipitated serious political blowback and intense public distrust.
According to Jackson, her bill — SB 1190 — would require any deliberations by the commission to take place on the dais and in the public eye. Her bill would also ban members of the commission from privately lobbying staff to alter their reports. The commission has been subject to intense political and economic pressures, as it regulates 1,100 miles of some of the most coveted real estate on the planet.
Lester’s firing unleashed an outpouring of outrage, particularly among environmental activists, about the undue influence of lobbyists. Currently state law does not designate developer agents lobbying coastal commissioners as “lobbyists,” meaning they do not have to register as such or divulge any expenditures made on behalf of certain projects.
Another proposed reform would legally define such activities as lobbying. Another proposal would impose a one-year buffer between the time a coastal commissioner stepped down and could begin “lobbying” his or her former colleagues. Most of these bills require a two-thirds majority because they amend the state’s fair political practices law. Because Jackson’s bill does not, it would need only a simple majority to win approval.