California Assemblyman Anthony Portantino (pictured; D-La Cañada Flintridge) has won committee approval for his bill to give employees in the Legislature the same protections afforded to other state workers when they report waste, fraud and abuse. Assembly Bill 1378 will give legislators and their employees protection from retaliation for reporting "improper governmental activity." The bill provides criminal and civil liability for violations. In a recent amendment, the bill limits the right to pursue civil remedies to employees, not legislators themselves. The Sacramento Bee reports that Assemblyman Portantino suffered retaliation himself after we was the lone Democrat to vote against a budget bill. The Speaker slashed the budget for his office staff. Thus, when Assemblyman Portantino agreed to the amendment to limit civil claims to employees only, he was giving up his own rights for the sake of his employees. The outcome: a committee vote on January 10 with 10 votes in favor and no opposition. Congratulations!
UPDATE: On January 19, 2012, the Sacramento Bee reported that A.B. 1378 died in the Assembly’s Appropriations Committee. The bill did not get the required motion and second required for consideration. The State Auditor said that the bill would cost about $400,000 a year, and would put the Auditor’s office in the position of investigating its own "client." It is hard to see how the anti-retaliation provision would interfere with the "independence" of her office. And if the anti-retaliation provision ends up costing the State money, it would probably be a result of liability for actual retaliation — showing that there is a problem to be addressed. It is not unheard of, though, for a bill for transparency and against corruption and retaliation, gets buried through a procedure that does not require legislators to generate a record of who voted yes and who voted no. Hopefully, California voters will call on members of the Appropriations Committee to explain why they did not make the required motion and second to advance A.B. 1378.