State Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, introduced a new Senate bill Monday, asking for improved transparency in state agencies.
“Local governments have open subcommittee meetings, because of the Brown Act, but state agencies use the Bagley-Keene Act to say they are not required to open up their subcommittee meetings,” Wilk said Wednesday. “That’s not right.”
In introducing his first bill for the newest legislative session, Wilk said that Senate Bill 53 is also his latest effort to increase transparency at the state agency subcommittee level and give more access to constituents seeking to sit in on meetings for commissions such as the High Speed Rail Authority.
The California High Speed Rail Authority (HSRA) paid $600 million in cost overruns for beginning construction five years ago in the Central Valley before securing the land and making key plans, and expects to require as much as $1.6 billion more, according to a report published on Nov. 15 by State Auditor Elaine Howle.
“The scathing audit of the High Speed Rail Authority last month underscores how far off track an agency can go when there is not appropriate transparency,” said Wilk in a statement released Monday. “Transparency equals accountability and in the case of the bullet train, the lack of transparency has cost the taxpayers billions of dollars. This has to stop.”
Wilk added that SB 53 would close a loophole in current state law that allows multi-member committees, like the High Speed Rail Authority, to consist of no more than two members, allowing them to avoid open meeting requirements and public scrutiny.
The state senator said he was inspired to author legislation after a constituent of his was barred at the door for an HSRA meeting.
“The more transparency the better,” said Wilk, adding that the increased amount of transparency and accessibility to members of the public “actually helps the subcommittees.”
Wilk said he had tried to introduce initiatives such as SB 53 during his time in the Assembly, and they made it all the way to the governor’s desk both times, only to be vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown.
“We have a new governor coming into office in January. It is my hope Gov. (Gavin) Newsom will be supportive of requiring our government to conduct its business in a visible and transparent manner,” said Wilk. “The Legislature unanimously passed both of my previous bills and I expect it will be supportive of ensuring the public be included in meetings that directly affect them.”
The bill may be acted upon on or after Jan. 10, after which time it can be introduced to the floor of the Senate pending approval by individual legislative subcommittees.