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Capitol Roundup: Gift Crackdown Bill Moves Forward

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(Sacramento, CA)
Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Gifts from lobbyists to lawmakers are already sharply limited - but gifts from employers of lobbyists aren't.  This bill, from Republican Senator Sam Blakeslee, would tighten those strings - and also bans some specific gifts, like tickets to sporting events and theme parks.

Blakeslee: "There's, I think, general public distaste, and there's a belief that our salaries are sufficient - especially with per diem - to handle many of the incidentals that go along with our job."

But one Senator wondered how to ensure that legislators could still attend high school theater shows and football games without running afoul of the law.  And another said voters can judge for themselves what gifts are acceptable - and vote lawmakers who abuse the perks out of office.  Still, the bill passed 4-to-0, with one abstention.

Meanwhile, the same Senate committee also approved another Blakeslee bill - this one, to set up a "Do Not Robocall" list for voters who don't want to receive automated telephone calls from candidates or campaigns.



Online voter registration may soon be allowed in California.  A Senate committee approved a measure Tuesday that would let citizens register through their county elections department's website.

The bill's author, San Francisco Democrat Leland Yee, says elections officials would use a voter's signature from the DMV to verify information.  Officials could compare that signature to the voter's signature at a polling place.

Yee: "Hopefully through that, you'll have a secure system but also an efficient system and hopefully through that, increase people's participation in our Democratic process."

Republicans opposed the bill, raising concerns about fraudulent registrations and online security.

The bill faces one more committee test before moving to the Senate floor.  If it becomes law, Californians could register to vote online for next year's presidential primary and general elections.



A bill that would prevent advertisers from monitoring what California computer users do online has passed through its first state Senate committee.

Jamie Court with the advocacy group "Consumer Watchdog" says internet companies collect, store and sell far too much personal information.

Court: "We should have the right to hit a button on our browsers that says, 'Do not track me.'  And that signal should be respected by the companies in California who give us information."

Critics include high-tech companies and the California Chamber of Commerce.  They say the bill is far too broadly worded and would hurt the state's internet sector - one of the fastest-growing parts of the economy.  They also believe it's not necessary, since most major web browser companies are already developing opt-out technology.

The bill passed with only Democratic votes and next moves to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

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